Sachin Tendulkar became the first player to score 50 centuries in cricket’s elite Test format as he led India’s resistance yesterday against South Africa.
The 37-year-old right-hander, the leading run scorer in Tests and one-day internationals, brought up his latest hundred on the fourth day of the first Test in Centurion as India battled to save the match. Tendulkar raised his bat and looked to the sky after reaching triple figures.
It’s the fourth major milestone this year for Tendulkar at the stage of his career when batsmen typically decline. He became the first player to score a double-century in a one-day international in February and six months later played in a record 169th Test. He reached an unprecedented 14,000 Test runs in October.
“He can also get 75 hundreds if he wants,” former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath said in an interview. “This is one guy who doesn’t have any problems as far as batting is concerned. Even if he is out of form, he is the only guy to come out of it as quickly as possible and be as effective as ever.”
Mumbai-born Tendulkar, who made his debut against India’s archrival Pakistan as a 16-year-old, also has the most runs, 17,598, and hundreds, 46, in one-day internationals.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting, Indian teammate Rahul Dravid and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis are the only other active players to have scored more than 10,000 Test runs.
‘Made for Cricket’
With a style based on balance, precision and anticipation, Tendulkar’s mastery of an array of shots has enabled him to accumulate runs in all conditions and in any country, earning the 5-foot-5 player the nickname “Little Master.”
“He is made for cricket,” said Srinath, who took 236 Test wickets for India. “He is a run machine.”
Tendulkar registered his first three-figure score in Tests against England in 1990 when aged 17 and made 16 Test hundreds by the age of 25. His average -- at 56.55 runs per Test innings before the current match -- is the highest by any Indian who batted at least 20 times and 14th in a list headed by Donald Bradman on 99.94.
His run-scoring feats have made him an idol at home, where cricket is the most popular sport among the India’s population of 1.2 billion. He was given the honorary rank of group captain by the Indian Air Force in June in recognition of his “glorious achievements as a cricketer and sports icon.”
Each Tendulkar innings on home soil is still met with adulation and scrutiny, according to Om Prakash Chowdhry, who has been working at New Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium for about three decades as a groundskeeper.
“People stand up when Sachin walks out to the pitch and the stadium reverberates with the chants of his name,” Chowdhry, 50, said in an interview. “And the stands empty the moment he gets out.”
Yesterday’s score in South Africa has given India a slim chance of avoiding defeat in the first Test of a three-match series. India needed at least 484 to make the home team bat again, and was at 454-8 when bad light ended play. Tendulkar is unbeaten on 107.
In notching his seventh Test century of 2010, Tendulkar moved 11 clear of Ponting atop the century-makers’ list.
While Tendulkar is 20 months older than Ponting, he’s unlikely to be retiring anytime soon, said Abbas Ali Baig, who played 10 Tests for India and managed the team at the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“I think he will still get to a century of centuries in international cricket,” Baig said in an interview. “That would be something. He’s very keen on fitness and he will maybe still go on for a while longer.”