It was in Nagpur, against South Africa in the World Cup, that Sachin Tendulkar brought up his 48th one-day international century. Coupled with 51 Test tons, it catapulted him to 99 international hundreds, leaving him one tantalising three-figure knock away from becoming the first batsman to score a hundred international hundreds.
Between then and now, the Mumbaikar has come close on a few occasions, including during the semifinal of the World Cup against Pakistan in Mohali when he made a chancy 85, and in the final Test innings of the England tour, when he struck 91 at The Oval.
However, a combination of injuries and some ordinary shot selection has forced him, and his legion of fans, to wait longer. When the first Test against the West Indies begins on Sunday, it will be Tendulkar’s first competitive game since The Oval Test, and while it might be expecting too much to ask for a century straightaway, if one man can deliver, it is the little master.
It was at the Feroze Shah Kotla, almost six years back, that Tendulkar went past Sunil Gavaskar’s record 34 Test tons in December 2005. It therefore won’t be in the realms of the fantastic to expect an encore anytime over the next five days, though that’s something which is not occupying the thoughts of either the Master or his captain.
“We'll let him get a century and then speak about it,” Mahendra Singh Dhoni said, not wanting to tempt fate. “Hopefully, he will get it here and we will speak about it on the fifth day.
“What we try to do is to be there in the present, not think too much into the future. It’s important to prepare ourselves as individuals. Of course, it is a milestone Sachin will achieve in this game or some other game. Right now, we are thinking about how to prepare for this series. Of course, when he gets it, we will celebrate with him.”
No team would like to be at the receiving end of the 100th 100, even if it will guarantee them a place in history. Darren Sammy made his intentions all too clear, though he didn’t hide his awe of the man. “Sachin, oh, he’s a great player!” the West Indian captain gushed. “But we have not come here to play any name. We have plans for him. As much as I admire him, we will definitely make it difficult to get the ton.”