London: Sachin Tendulkar on Thursday became the youngest cricketer in the world to play 100 Test matches when he took the field in the series-deciding final Test between India and England at the Oval. The 29-year-old batting genius, a bowler's nightmare the world over, joins an elite club of 25 cricketers who have achieved the milestone. Tendulkar reached his 'centenary Test' at the age of 29 years and 134 days, eclipsing the previous record of former Indian captain Kapil Dev who achieved the landmark at the age of 30 years and 313 days in 1989, which incidentally was the maestro's first year in Test cricket.
He also became the fourth Indian to play 100 Test matches after Sunil Gavaskar (125), Kapil Dev (131) and Dilip Vengsarkar (116). Australian Allan Border (156) has played the maximum number of Test matches followed by fellow Australian Steve Waugh with 148 so far. Considering his phenomenal track record in a game which has made him a cult figure, Tendulkar will certainly re-write many more records having shown a bigger appetite for runs in every passing year. Tendulkar has never really looked back ever since making his debut as a 16-year-old lad against Pakistan at Karachi in 1989, having accumulated as many as 8351 Test runs at a robust average of 57.99 before the start of the Oval Test.
It speaks volumes of his dominance at the highest level of the game and 16 of his 30 centuries so far have come overseas where the Indian batsmen are believed to be far more vulnerable. Playing 100 Test matches for India has always been a dream for Tendulkar as he himself acknowledged two days ahead of the crucial Oval Test and preferred to keep the momentous occasion a low-keyed one. And despite all his heroics during a remarkable 13-year-career so far, the little master has the desire to keep learning much to the discomfort of rival bowlers who have tried every trick under the hat to scuffle the Tendulkar onslaught.
"Reaching 100 Tests is special, not many have done it in India... I have learnt a lot in the last 13 years and there is still a lot more to learn," he says. With a growing fan following all over the world, Tendulkar, however, would have loved if his late father could have been around to witness the moment. "He would have been proud", he says. Besides his extraordinary talent, courage and consistency, Tendulkar has made batting entertaining without sacrificing solidity and there is not a single stroke that he has not mastered.
His batting style reminded the legendary Donald Bradman of himself during his playing days. It is the biggest tribute to his batting class. And the modest Tendulkar has never been distracted or for that matter carried away by the tendency to compare him to the Don. The comparisons came again immediately after Tendulkar overtook Bradman's record in the list of century makers during the last Test at Headingley by notching up his 30th ton. "To score a century in every third innings is something one can only dream of - so I am not comparing myself with Sir Donald Bradman," he said.
"I may have statistically surpassed Bradman but I don't think anyone should even be compared to him," Tendulkar had remarked after overtaking the Australian legend. Tendulkar, who just needs 144 runs to become the first cricketer in history to aggregate 20,000 international runs, has his own way of silencing critics who made a big issue of a string of failures in the Caribbean and the early stages of this English summer. Unperturbed by talks of his 'poor' form, Tendulkar went about his task and his stupendous 193 in the Headindley Test which played a big part in India levelling the series 1-1 sent his critics scampering for cover.
Not the kind to invite controversies, the maestro has always allowed his bat to speak. And his gift of timing goes beyond the cricket field as well. His father had been a teacher and his 100th Test coincides with Teacher's Day.