Friday 16 March 2012

Sachin Tendulkar: The Untouchable Feat

As my heartbeat begins to settle down to something resembling its regular rhythm I am eventually able to put in to writing what the cricketing world has witnessed today. Sachin Tendulkar, record breaker extraordinaire and demi-god to over one billion fanatical Indian cricket enthusiasts, became the ultimate centurion.

Tendulkar - Relief personified
One hundred international centuries; catch a breath and take a moment to absorb the magnitude of such a feat. Stupefying, isn’t it?

A shade over one year had elapsed since the ‘Little Master’ was last sighted removing his helmet, looking to the skies in gratitude and basking in the approbation of a doting nation. Today the wait was brought to an end with a clipped single beyond square leg, and as Tendulkar’s bat went up in to the air, so did a collective sigh of relief from all in the cricketing world. After all, had a Tendulkar innings passed by without mention of that Holy Grail ad infinitum?

Pressure has been a steadfast companion of Tendulkar since first making his bow in international cricket at the tender age of 16. The teenager hailing from Bombay entered international cricket amidst great fanfare of a prodigious talent, a messiah of Indian cricket ready to lead the fightback against the dominance of legendary Pakistani seamers Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram between the nations.

It is often said each time Tendulkar strides to the crease that he is “batting for a billion”, and the crushing pressure of such great expectation would have been sufficient to derail most mere mortals. Tendulkar might just be a tenuous descendent of Sir Donald Bradman, though, because he has emulated ‘The Don’ by laughing in the face of mortality, scorning the audacity of its very presence.

The Little Master was but 17 years of age when notching up the first of his century of centuries, and as the legend grew so did the expectation. Time and again he delivered. To the average international cricketer reaching three figures brings a release of pressure; a surety that their place is all but secure and a moment to bask in the ensuing plaudits. Tendulkar, as with many aspects of his career, was an exception to the rule. Century by majestic century only served to increase demand; Tendulkar’s failures have forever been more than just a personal chagrin. They have failed an adoring nation, too.

Cricket has never bore witness to as complete a batsman as Tendulkar, perhaps the peerless Bradman aside. If the rare ability to play every stroke in the manual with efficient aplomb, maintain perfect poise and balance at the crease and seamlessly switch between defence and attack has been the supercharged engine powering this inexorable run machine, the mind behind the diminutive batsman has undoubtedly provided the steering. Experts will often champion the importance of a clear mind when looking to score runs, and that Tendulkar has been able to do so despite such tribulations makes the man - and this extraordinary feat - all the more remarkable.

Retirement is looming, whether it be this year or the next for the most ruthless run scorer in the long history of cricket, and when that day comes many more eulogies will no doubt be lavished upon this most magnificent of careers. For now we should concentrate on a feat that, in my view, will echo through the ages every bit as much as Bradman’s 99.94, and for once load all of the plaudits that we can muster on to those little shoulders that have been carrying the weight of the world for the past twelve months, and the weight of India for so much longer.

Congratulations, Sachin, and may there be many more.

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