It is the hunger that is perhaps most remarkable about Sachin Tendulkar. Yesterday was his 442nd one-day international – in a career spread over four decades – and his best yet as he became the first player to score an international double century in the history of the limited-overs game.
Tendulkar reached the mark from the third ball of the final over of India's innings in the second one-day international against South Africa in Gwalior. The match was won by India, comfortably by 153 runs, but from the moment Tendulkar angled Charl Langeveldt behind point for a single everything else took on an almost irrelevant air. Yet again, it was all about Sachin.
"I don't know how to react to this," said Tendulkar, a notably modest man despite being on the receiving end of a nation's all-consuming adulation for over 20 years. "I would like to dedicate this double hundred to all the people of India who stood with me for the last 20 years. I really appreciate their support. This is for all the people in India."
Tendulkar turns 37 in April but shows no signs of approaching the end game. He wants to play in next year's World Cup and in the Test arena –he has played 166 of them – his form remains strong, too. He scored back-to-back centuries in the recent drawn Test series with South Africa. That took his total of Test hundreds to 47, yesterday's double was the 46th time he had reached three figures in one-days. The figures keep coming: a record 13,447 Test runs, a record 17,598 one-day runs. His strokeplay is timeless – Sir Donald Bradman famously described him as the player who most reminded the great man of himself – and his appetite tireless.
"He should aim for more," said Sunil Gavaskar, the former Indian captain. "Maybe a Test innings of 450 or an one-day international knock of 250. And then he wants to win next year's World Cup. There is a little boy in Tendulkar who wants to keep playing. That spirit keeps him going. It's absolutely incredible how he keeps going."
He was suffering towards the end of his innings yesterday with cramp, but on he went. "The ball was coming nicely on to the bat," said the "Little Master" (of understatement).
He scored his runs, exactly 200 of them, from 147 balls with 25 fours and three sixes. His second hundred occupied just 57 balls. Next best in the Indian innings of 401 for 3 was Dinesh Karthik's 79, while Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored a typically brisk 68 from 35 balls to complete a chastening day for South Africa in the field.
In a somewhat futile reply the tourists were bowled out for 248, AB de Villiers making an unbeaten 114 that on another day would have been been worth more than a footnote.
The previous highest one-day score was 194, held jointly by Saeed Anwar of Pakistan, made against India in 1997, and Charles Coventry of Zimbabwe, who reached the same mark against Bangladesh in Bulawayo last year. Tendulkar's previous highest was 186. The highest one-day score by an England player is Robin Smith's 167 against Australia in 1993.
Tendulkar, meanwhile, is to have a pavilion at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior named after him, the latest recognition of one of cricket's true greats.
"He's been a great ambassador for India and world cricket," said Rameez Raja, a former captain of Pakistan. "He is a great role model because for someone who has played for 20-odd years there isn't a single scandal against him. It shows the character of the man and he still has the passion and enthusiasm of a 10-year-old."
The last word though belongs – as ever – to Shane Warne, watching on TV and passing his thoughts on through Twitter:"Glad I'm not bowling to him today ha ha ha."
Smashin' Sachin: The record breaker
* Sachin Tendulkar has scored the most runs – 17,598 – in one-day cricket, and has also hit the most centuries (46) and fifties (93).
* In 1998, he hit 1,894 runs in a calendar year, the record for a batsman in the limited overs form of the game.
* In January, Tendulkar became the first batsman to score over 13,000 Test match runs during a game against Bangladesh. He has also hit the most centuries (47) in Test matches.