SACHIN TENDULKAR stands on the brink of one of the most extraordinary feats in sport.The magical, masterful little batsman from India has hit 99 international centuries and can reach his ton of tons next week in the First Test at Lord's.
One hundred hundreds for your country is a bit like scoring 200 international goals, 150 tries or amassing 20 majors in golf or tennis.
When Tendulkar passes the astonishing milestone, it will be a tribute to his talent, hunger, longevity and desire. He has been playing for India for 22 years, untainted by scandal.
England Test captain Andrew Strauss will be trying to prevent him scoring his historic hundred but is gushing in his praise.
Strauss said: "It goes without saying that scoring 99 hundreds is a phenomenal achievement.
"He seems to be playing as well as ever. It's an example to us all. If you're hungry, there's no reason your powers should decline when you get older.
"It's the overall package with Sachin. Technically, he is fantastic and so is his mental strength because he is under so much pressure. He's also a very dignified and humble man."
Tendulkar made his India debut at 16 in 1989 and at 38 he is stronger than ever. In his last Test series against England, he scored a match-winning century in Chennai in December 2008.
Then he thanked each England player for returning to India despite the Mumbai terrorist attack a few weeks earlier.
Kevin Pietersen was England's captain that day. He said: "I watch him bat and wonder how he makes it look so easy. To cap it all, he is a true gentleman."
England's best chance might be to unleash 6ft 8in fast bowler Chris Tremlett against the 5ft 5in little master. Former England skipper Michael Vaughan insisted: "Tremlett bowled well against Sachin in 2007 and he is a much better bowler now.
"England might go aggressive and test him with a few short balls though even that tactic doesn't normally affect him."
Tendulkar has never scored a Test century at Lord's and says he is not anxious about his imminent landmark.
He said: "I'm not thinking of records. If I enhance my enjoyment then, naturally, the standard of play becomes higher. If I play well, things can happen. I don't need to go chasing them."