Tendulkar scores his 100th international century

Sachin Tendulkar became the first batsman to make a 100 international centuries, getting to the milestone against Bangladesh at the Shere Bangla stadium in Mirpur at 5:05pm local time on March 16, 2012. It ended a year-long wait for one of the most discussed landmarks in cricket history, and was his first ODI hundred against Bangladesh, completing his set of centuries against every Full Member country in both Tests and ODIs.

He reached the 100th hundred in the 44th over with a nudge behind square leg, one of his favoured strokes to reach a century. Despite the huge amount of hype surrounding the landmark, which has shown little sign of abating during the prolonged wait, there was no over-the-top celebration. The helmet came off and there was a wave of the bat, he looked up at the sky, as he usually does on reaching a hundred, and he acknowledged his team-mates by raising his helmet towards the dressing room. Several of the Bangladesh fielders congratulated him, even as the decibel-level in the packed stadium reached new highs.

It was not one of Tendulkar’s most swashbuckling innings, more about efficient accumulation early on, before slowing down further as he neared the century, finally completing it off 138 deliveries. Tendulkar’s achievement might have come against one of the weaker teams and in the league game of a low-key competition, but he still had to brave a raucous and partisan crowd. Once he reached the eighties, every dot ball he faced was loudly cheered. The Bangladeshi chant expressing displeasure, Bhua bhua, also rang out from sections of the stadium as he batted.

The stadium had been less than half-full when the match started, but as Tendulkar’s innings progressed, more and more people came in and by the time he completed his hundred there weren’t too many empty seats. There were frantic phone calls from reporters in the press box, back to their bosses, discussing long-ready tribute packages and whether the innings should replace the national budget as the front-page lead.

Unusually cautious play from Tendulkar suggested the weight of the coming milestone was affecting him. The holiday crowd, excited at the prospect of a terrific “I was there” anecdote to boast about, was egged on further by an enthusiastic DJ. He belted out several local hits, and that familiar background sound at the cricket these days, the bugle, ensured the stadium was a cauldron of noise.

The Mexican wave made its way around the ground, and the bouncing fans were rarely more thrilled than in the 34th over, a maiden by Mashrafe Mortaza. First, Tendulkar had to scramble back after attempting a single to mid-off, then a solid push towards mid-on went straight to the fielder before a slash landed just short of backward point. Sensing the batsman’s discomfort, and possible nervousness, the crowd amplified the pressure with loud roars of approval after every delivery. He was nearly run out soon after, trying to pinch a single to backward point.

A lofted drive over extra cover in the 40th over and several singles took him to 99, which was when the crowd began to support Tendulkar, standing up and cheering in anticipation. Though India were past 200 with only two wickets down, Bangladesh tried to stifle Tendulkar by keeping seven fielders in the circle. The single to square leg finally brought up another mark of the longevity of the man who already has the most runs and has played the most matches in Tests and ODIs.