The Last Word: Will this be the end for Little Master?

Legend has it that car accidents increase in India when Sachin Tendulkar is batting

In recent months his batting has left him mixing it down among the mortals but yesterday, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Sachin Tendulkar elevated himself carefully, and with a lack of fuss characteristic of the man, back to his rightful position among the immortals. It was not the innings itself – a neither-here-nor-there one-day hundred against a competent but limited Bangladesh attack – rather the bare fact that it was the 100th time he had reached three figures in international cricket. He is the first to do so and, in all probability, will be the last.

Cricket is much more than a numbers game but sometimes doing the maths is enough. Tendulkar has played 660 international matches and scored 33,740 runs. In Test matches he has scored 51 centuries; yesterday's was his 49th in the one-day game. The 100 hundreds are 29 more than Ricky Ponting, who stands at No 2 in the list, has amassed. Twenty of those tons have come against Australia, the pre-eminent team of his era. That is not to say he doesn't fill his boots when faced with lesser opponents; against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Kenya and Namibia he has collected 19 hundreds.

There is not much left to achieve. Next month he turns 39 and while his decline at the crease has not been as noticeable as that of Rahul Dravid – being repeatedly bowled in the recent series with Australia brought down The Wall – there has been an undoubted waning of his superpowers. But a waning does not have to mean an ending. If the appetite remains, he will remain until he chooses otherwise. The nervous stay on 99 extended for just over a year and now the landmark has been achieved it will be fascinating to see whether the result is a last flood of runs or the end of what has been a long road.

This is the fourth decade in which Tendulkar has played international cricket. His longevity is remarkable, especially given the weight of expectation he carries every single time he emerges through the pavilion gate. No player in history has stopped a nation like the Little Master. There is an oft-repeated claim, the veracity of which really doesn't matter as it stands as an example of the man's legend, that traffic accidents in India increase when Tendulkar is at the crease as motorists strain to catch pictures on roadside televisions or to pick up snatches of commentary.

Tendulkar is a man of few public words, and modest ones when he does speak. He stares down from poster after poster and regularly beams from millions of TVs but, for a star of his ilk, relatively little is known of him beyond his achievements at the crease. He rarely confirms or denies, or issues statements as our sporting figures are wearyingly wont to do.

There is one tale, from his early days in the Indian side – which began in 1989 when Waqar Younis drew blood on his Test debut. Tendulkar and his team-mates were taken to a bat factory and after a tour of the facilities were promised a selection of the goods. But the bats didn't come. The older players shrugged their shoulders but it got to Tendulkar. One night he sleep-walked into a team-mate's room and asked anxiously if the bats had been delivered.

Room-mates over the years have said he talks in his sleep, anxiously uttering names of bowlers who have dismissed him. This is a man, they say, who really does eat, drink and sleep cricket, and we and the great game are so much the richer for it.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road