It wasn’t exactly a crunch game; nor was the opposition (Bangladesh) the fiercest; nor was the location (Mirpur) a locus classicus for cricket lovers. But no one will remember the place or opposition—or even the fact that India still managed to lose the match. The records will show that on March 16, 2012, Sachin Tendulkar scored his 49th one-day international century to add to the 51 tons he’d notched up in Test cricket to become the only man ever to score one hundred international hundreds. It’s a feat unlikely ever to be repeated, simply because of the years and dedication it would require.
Consider: Tendulkar played his first international game on November 15, 1989. East Germany still existed, something was brewing in Czechoslovakia, and Bad English’s When I See You Smile was number one on the U.S. pop charts. These configurations all broke up with different degrees of acrimony, but Sachin went on and on and on. Twenty-two years and change—and more specifically 462 one-day internationals, 188 Test matches, and an overwhelming 33,896 runs—later, he’s finally made it.
Now that he’s reached the milestone, what remains? He’s scored 2,000 more Test runs than his nearest playing competitor (Ricky Ponting, surely nearing the end of his career); he’s an unassailable 7000 runs ahead of his closest one-day international competitor (Jacques Kallis, also getting long in the tooth). More appositely, Ponting and Kallis have only 71 and 59 international centuries respectively. No one else comes close. Even his long-cherished goal of helping India win the World Cup came to pass last year.
What possible hunger could keep him coming to the crease again and again? Ah, answering that question is to get to the heart of the Tendulkar mystery: how someone could continue putting his body through all that pain and effort after nigh on twenty-three years. It’s unbelievable; like the man himself.