Nagpur, March 12: India may have lost their highly-anticipated World Cup 2011 match to South Africa by a whisker in the end, but fans have a rather large consolation to savour - the Little Master's 111 off 101 deliveries faced.
It may have been the only genuine bright spot in an encounter rife with wishy-washy performances from the home-side, but that doesn't detract from the significance of Sachin Tendulkar's accomplishment. With this latest feather in his cap, or one should say "jewel in his crown", Tendulkar has placed himself on the threshold of another glowing, glistening world record - completing 100 hundreds in international cricket.
Indeed, as of March 12, 2011, the batting maestro has got 99 tons under his belt - 51 in Test matches and 48 in one-dayers. As though that were not big enough a feat, 6 of those centuries now have come in World Cups.
The last two - 120 against England at Bangalore on Feb 27, 2011 and the one on Saturday versus South Africa, just serve to re-emphasize this 37-year-old's commitment to the game and to his side. As an indispensable cog in Team India's machinery, he must be however, scratching his head and wondering why his last two tons have not garnered his side victories.
He has not only been deprived of that icing on the cake, but also in a sense, the sprinkles... as both his latest centuries have been overshadowed by a better performance from an individual in the opposition. Against England, it was ultimately captain Andrew Strauss who outshone Sachin with his match-saving 158 from 145 balls while in Saturday's game versus South Africa, it was Proteas ace pacer Dale Steyn's destructive 5 wickets for 50 runs that stole the limelight. In both cases, the Little Master was even deprived of the Man of the Match awards, being left relatively empty handed after putting on such a good show.
The fact that India could not wrest victory in those two matches in which Tendulkar had lived up to expectations and excelled with the bat, perhaps indicates, rather disappointingly, that Team India is still very much dependent on Tiny Ten. It seems the only way he can ensure that India notches up a match-winning total, is not only to open and hang around till after the middle overs, but to carry his bat through the innings. With his presence and cool temperament to chaperone the later batsman, it appears unlikely that India would have undergone the batting collapse that they did at the hands of the South Africans.
Hopefully, India' niggling little issues will be solved before they go into their final group stage encounter against the West Indies next week. Sachin - the 99-ton man - more than anybody else, will be hoping so...