November 13, 2011

Enough about the wait for the hundredth

It's just another statistic in a career full of them. And worrying about it won't make it come any sooner

All right, everyone, he's not having fun himself, you know.

It's bloody 2005 all over again. When room service carries in his dinner or housekeeping changes the sheets and towels, they all give him sheepish, respectful smiles and mention just one thing. Hello, sir, wishing you the best, sir, to get "it". Please, sir, soon. Then there's the liftman, the receptionist, the bus driver, the gateman, the dressing-room attendant. Then you, me, the boss, the rookie, mummy, daddy, uncle, auntie, grandparents, gym instructor, chaiwallah, all asking him to deliver the hundred as if it were a pizza that could reach your door in 30 minutes.

Now you know why he wears those giant headphones.

In 2005, it was about the 35th Test century. When it was done, he said he had been "glad and relieved… I could then start enjoying the game again". Until then, the same old room-service-housekeeping-liftman-general-public-entreaty. From No. 34, it took five Tests and seven innings to get to 35.

Only five Tests, you're thinking. Only seven innings. What about this excruciating torture now, which doesn't seems to end? It's been 14 innings, 14 , nine matches - ODIs, Tests, World Cup, England tour, Kotla, the whole fruit basket. Still we wait. And we will begin all over again in Kolkata. Best now to think of Master Shifu and find inner peace.

Waiting for the 35th took a whole year. That is how they stretched out five Tests in the pre-IPL days. So zip it. Be patient. It has only been eight months since No. 99. Be grateful that he can get this in either of two formats. Remember, he was so spent after 35 that it took 17 months, 17 innings and 10 Tests to get to No. 36, which doesn't seem like such a big deal now. It is the longest he's ever been without the reassurance of a century since he started playing for India. Once he got to No. 36, he raced away; between then and now, 15 centuries in Test, seven in ODIs, 7500-plus runs in both forms, the world's first one-day 200, a World Cup finally won.

He knows how this hundred business is done, okay? He's just approaching middle age, you know, when we all begin to creak a little. Everything takes time these days. Now stop fretting, go study, pay attention to office mundanities, spend time with the family. Take the damn hundred off your mind. He's not thinking about you, anyway. Who knows, maybe he's even not thinking about his 90s. Twenty-seven in 743 innings for India, after just five in the first 10 years of his career.

To closely study the effects of the 100th on crowd behaviour, psychologists should have gone out to all the grounds where he has played since March 13. They would have come across classic case studies in these key categories: worshippers, worriers, theoreticians, tall-poppy trimmers, poets, even, sitting next to each other, hearts beating, minds racing.

Please, God, this time, this one. I promise you I won't ever call him God again. Please, please, please.

Suppose he gets out again? Suppose he can't do it? The sun won't rise, I won't able to live.

Cross-bat? On a wicket that kept low? Refusing a single? Farming strike? Clearly the sight of that 100 caused a brain-freeze.

Serves him right, let him stew; obsessing about records. He's old, he should retire. The team comes first.

Ninety nine, no more.
O, Bradman. Incomplete.
Yet rounded off.

Now, as if we control it, like a choice between margherita or quattro formaggi, we think, what would be better - Kolkata or Mumbai?

The 100th isn't just about the score anymore; ideally it must involve a suitable, noble occasion. Which is why the Oval innings made some sweat; as if he would have gone around the ground in a lap of honour. Versus West Indies at the Kotla, it was said he had "missed" another chance - narrowly by 93 runs. The second innings 24-run "miss" had effectively controlled India's third-highest successful chase, before the 100th got in its way. Now, as if we control it, like a choice between margherita or quattro formaggi, we think, what would be better - Kolkata or Mumbai? Kolkata didn't get an India World Cup game; November 15 is the day his first Test began 22 years ago. But surely, Mumbai, his hometown.

To generate real suspense, Hitchcock believed, "you must let the audience have the information". What would he have made of this? The information here is available not only to the audience but to the central character as well. The suspense, all the same, is killing. Eden Gardens begins on Monday.

We'll let you in on a secret. When the moment comes - and it will, it will - everyone will stand up and applaud, dignified, teary, joyful. Including us, undearly unbeloved journalists. We will not, though, be scrambling.

While you were chewing fingernails and hiding behind the sofa, the media, dear reader, was getting ready. Newspapers, magazines, erm, websites, television channels. Reams have already been written about the 100th, pages designed, programme packages prepared, footage edited, voiceovers recorded, even quotes obtained. Like everyone, they are waiting too, pulled in by the allure of the 100th. This is tribute, not deceit.

At the end of the day, what's marvellously monumental about a 100th international hundred, is equally so at 99. Qualitatively the difference of that one more is really, just a number.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ganesh on November 16, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    Why dont you add bowlers wickets in both format and give them the credit. Those are the people really should get the prise not these tendulakars and we can give credit to old greats like Gavaskar, Viswanath.

  • Atul on November 16, 2011, 2:14 GMT

    Every Indian fan who says he/she does not care of this 100 is lying, including you sharada.

    We can pretend what we want to but number are important... only the once who made numbers are remembered...

    this will come when it has to, there is no need to scream about it in every inning... but then is it important?? hell yehhh.. of course it is..

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2011, 17:34 GMT

    Very well written article...I am your fan from now, "undearly unbeloved journalist" ! :-)

  • Prachi on November 15, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    I think some of the fans wants to see Sachin score his 100th 100 only to SHUT UP the media as it always hypes up everything that DOES NOT need so much attention. Most of us fans care about winning the series against WI and more importantly, abroad against Aussies than we care about Sachin's ton. I personally rather have Sachin score it now so for once I can watch him play un-pressured for the remainder of this cricketing career(not much left as we all know). I do feel he is often misunderstood because he does care more about winning the match than his personal record. I don't see Sachin going to the media to talk about his personal records, rather its you Sachin-haters that bring up the subject. Its sad to always see fans downgrade another player's contribution to the game just to upgrade their own favorite players. Even cameo's contribute to a win. Cricinfo please publish.

  • Daison on November 15, 2011, 5:30 GMT

    Really cant understand what you media people want. On one side you guys tell us viewers that keeping in mind the low attendance at the Test matches, the 100th 100 is the be "marketed" and hyped and eagerly awaited for. And when the viewers look for that you guys come back and say, "leave it alone"... Us viewers cant win either way can we? Dont blame us viewers for waiting for the 100th one. Becase if we quit waiting for such milestones, you wont be writing these (sometimes meaningless) articles as there would be nobody reading it. So stop telling us what we should be doing. We will want Sachin to reach the 100th ton and we want it now... You better want it too...

  • Srinivas on November 15, 2011, 2:46 GMT

    I won't be surprised if Sachin doesn't get that 100th 100 in this series. Sachin isn't concentrating on the match and its proceedings. He is too consumed by a personal milestone. And that's the precise reason why he is playing the same kind of wrong shot more than once. His mind isn't in the match to learn from the mistake that has been committed once in Kotla and twice in the same inning in Kolkatta. Hope he retires soon so that some honest youngster can play for the country.

  • Sankara on November 15, 2011, 1:53 GMT

    Who, me worried? You too dont worry about it Sharda!!

  • Ashok on November 14, 2011, 21:48 GMT

    Sachin got out to another bad shot in thesecond Test Day 1. After escaping an LBW to Bishoo due to another cross bat shot, he tried again & got caught. This is after his unnecessary attempt to sweep Bishoo in the first test, where he missed the ball & was adjudged LBW. So Sachin is not focussing on the game ahead and getting out. A batsmen after being set does not play such T-20 shots. Bishoo rarely bowls googlies & when he does it does not turn much. He bowls mostly leg breaks & top spinners but accurqtely & within the range of wickets.Sachin has made the same mistake thrice!. Lessons learnt should be implemented.Alegent like Sachin should know this after so many matches. If the pressure is getting on you, get your hundredth century & get it done with. Focus & do not throw away your wicket to rash strokes. You did not get your 99 centuiries playing like this.Tendulkar has got out in his 30's so many times now.

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2011, 20:10 GMT

    it is very shameful of media that they are exaggerating this topic needlessly.... sachin has scored 99 and 100th will come sooner or later...... i was so amazed to see the media remarks on 1st test v/s west indies when in 1st innings sachin got out for 7 runs and media was showing that SACHIN Misses his century....... a player who has just scored 7 runs and pathetic media is creating irrelevant hype abt it......on the contrary no KUDOS given to DRAVID who has been performing at par with him since 1996...

  • stuart on November 14, 2011, 19:56 GMT

    sachin,sachin,sachin.Get your ton and then retire so we can end this fallacy that you are a good batsman.Most over hyped ever.Dravid is best Indian batsman but not as inflated ego or average.

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