Like with all timeless works of art it is time to shut all the other senses and focus on the purity and indeed, the enormity, of what Sachin Tendulkar has achieved. So shut your eyes, blank out the noise and whisper gently, “50 Test centuries”. Enjoy the way it slips off your tongue and ask yourself if you had ever considered it possible. I hadn’t. A decade ago I wrote “would I be considered a madman if I forced the word ‘fifty’ from my lips!”
Fifty Test match centuries tests your perspective. Sometimes you look at the present and imagine the future, economists do that for a living and dreamers for a pastime, and only sometimes does it come true.
When 300 wickets were taken people thought they had seen history and were blessed, when the 34th hundred was scored, we thought this might stay for posterity.
Then Muralitharan took 800, now Tendulkar hits a 50th....will the sensex hit 50,000? Will they run a mile in under three minutes? Tendulkar is a bit like that. You think you have seen all he has to offer over 21 years and he plants his flag on another peak.
Well into his 38th year, he is playing as well as ever before and earlier this year he told an interviewer he was looking at ways to take his game to another level.
Unless our sense of perspective is sorely tested, he will be very lonely there.
His 50th has come in a land where, historically, India haven’t done too well and he himself hasn’t quite matched his feats elsewhere. It is unlikely he will tour South Africa for a Test series again (though we said that in Australia in 2007-8 when they gave him a standing ovation at every centre!!) and it is just like him to produce the big landmark there.
Briefly, in a phase when the UDRS might just have got him once, he played with everyone’s insecurity when he started prodding against Paul Harris, a good steady spinner to whom he seemed to assign a Warne-like status. Around this time his supporters were hoping he played the quicks instead; even Steyn for Harris might have been welcome. Then, he embraced the Tendulkar of his youth by charging Harris and storming into the 90s. It was a defining shot.
Then in the 90s, he sent Dhoni back and the captain ran more than two halves of the pitch. He was showing he wanted it desperately; even great hearts miss a beat!
The South Africans slowed things down, Steyn was recalled and his bootlaces took an awfully long time to do. But Tendulkar would have preferred pace on the ball and dutifully the 50th arrived.
But it could not obscure the fact that India blew it in the first innings; that only the weather can save them from defeat. For all the records it bestows on individuals, cricket remains at heart a team sport. A series win would still be a greater result.
Four are now needed for a hundred hundreds. It used to be the rarest of rare career landmarks. Tendulkar will do that in international cricket alone.
The mind will continue to boggle. We will have seen him a million times and yet we will look at him differently. Like we do today.