The stage was set, tailor-made for Sachin Tendulkar to add another batting milestone to his credit, to the hundreds he already has. On March 30, 2011, the Punjab Cricket Association stadium was to witness history as he marched confidently towards yet another historic record, one that would have stayed for long, one that would redefine the limits of cricketing excellence – the hundredth hundred.
But the halt that Saeed Ajmal that day put on the quest for the impending glory for Sachin is now fast becoming a bane. Since then, the Mumbai Maestro has come out to bat on 23 occasions (4 ODIs, 10 Tests including 19 innings) and has managed to score eight fifties.
Meanwhile, there have been six occasions when he came agonisingly close to the milestone as the country prepared to celebrate its favourite cricketing son’s big day. But it was just not to be.
It would have become a story of folklore had it come against arch-rivals – Pakistan in Mohali, that too in a World Cup semifinal and in a winning cause. But Pak skipper Shahid Afridi, who had dropped a simple chance, a few overs earlier, clinged on to a difficult one at short extra cover, off Ajmal’s off-spin.
All media houses – print or television had their special packages ready on the Maestro. But since then, the special content compiled has remained untouched. But then on Third Day of the Fourth Test of the Pataudi Trophy in Oval, deadlines were allowed to be extended as Sachin looked in sublime form and set until Tim Bresnan got one to wrap on his pads from outside the off-stump, for Rod Tucker to raise the dreaded finger and break a billion hearts.
Many thought it was destined to happen at his home. The opposition was a rather meek one. The record was his for taking. A fairytale for any cricketer to reach a zenith at his very birth place. 100 gold coins were offered, not that Sachin would have been tempted, but then this time he was just a six away.
November 25, 2011, Day Four, the Wankhede Stadium was stunned into silence as Ravi Rampaul decided to play party-pooper. A rib-high bouncer got Sachin’s bat to open up and give a dolly to Darren Sammy in second slip. A 35,000-seater stadium became a silence zone. The Master walked off, still with 30 more centuries than the next best.
Australians were more than happy to host one of their favourite Indian cricketers to reach the milestone. The Boxing Day Test was a perfect setup as Sachin was probably walking out one last time on the Aussie grounds. Melbourne was getting ready for the historic moment before Peter Siddle disturbed the timberwork on Day Two.
The Aussies were relentless again in Sydney during the second Test. This time, the Master survived the Aussie pace battery, but part-timers from skipper Michael Clarke frustrated Sachin, India, media houses and billions of his fans to no end who werewaiting to see the glorious moment.
But then which batting record hasn’t fallen to his feet? Similarly, the ton of tons will sooner or later will, for sure. May be in the ongoing fourth Test against Australia, when surprisingly it hasn’t been talked about much? It is in his destiny. As a philosopher has rightly said – “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”