Hamilton: Tendulkar may not want to talk about it, but the foremost batsman in the world today has in sight what once seemed an unachievable record - a century of centuries.
The "little master", cricket's leading run scorer, already has 85 centuries -- 42 in Tests and 43 in one day internationals -- more than anyone else in both forms of the game, and 15 more for the ultimate 100 is not beyond him.
Fast approaching his 36th birthday, there are not too many years left for Tendulkar although it's likely he will be around until the 2011 World Cup. Between now and then there is ample opportunity to complete a remarkable record.
Tendulkar has scored hundreds in his last two outings on India's current tour of New Zealand with 163 in the one-day series followed by 160 in his only bat in the first Test which India wrapped up by 10 wickets here on Saturday.
But he is reluctant to speculate on the opportunities ahead. "I wouldn't want to think about all those things," he said after his magnificent 397 minutes at the crease in the first Test. "I'm a bit superstitious. Let the others count the 100s and let me go and bat."
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has nothing but admiration for his batting cornerstone. "You can't get better than that, that's for sure," he said of Tendulkar.
"It's a pleasure to see him bat. Whenever he scores those big hundreds you can't see anything better than the way he plays those innings." Tendulkar debuted on the international stage as a baby-faced 16-year-old selected to play Pakistan in 1989.
His maiden Test century came in a match-saving innings the following year against England at Old Trafford and he has continued on to be widely regarded now as the most complete batsman of his time.
He is the only player of the current generation to be included in the dream team of Sir Donald Bradman. As for where the future 100s will come, Tendulkar has no preference for where he bats well.
"Home conditions, one is supposed to know them better than foreign conditions but eventually, after being around for a while, I know exactly when to pace myself and when to back off a bit.
"If for whatever reason Tendulkar does not reach the ultimate milestone, it may be a long time before someone does.His nearest challenger is Australian captain Ricky Ponting, two years Tendulkar's junior, and a distant second with 63 hundreds (37 in Tests, 26 in ODIs).