March 15, 2012

Tendulkar’s best chance to complete 100th international hundred

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sachin Tendulkar would be hoping that Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who probably loses more tosses than any other contemporary captain, calls correctly and opts to bat first in the Asia Cup tie against Bangladesh on March 16.

There’s also a distinct possibility that the Bangladesh skipper, Mushfiqur Rahim, decides to field first, after winning the toss, in anticipation of limiting the Indians and chasing down the target in quick time to improve the run-rate besides claiming the bonus point.

In the event of India batting first, Tendulkar will have greater chance of reaching the milestone that has eluded him for more than a year now. It looks ages now when he had posted his 99th international hundred against South Africa at Nagpur during the 2011 World Cup.

The form he was in during the World Cup his next hundred had looked just round the corner. It should have come during the course of the tournament that was being held in the sub-continent where the pitches were featherbeds. The bowlers were at the mercy of the batsmen and it seemed a matter of time for him to get to the most coveted of landmarks.

Who could have imagined that he would still be searching for that elusive century after having had 33 outings in the middle so far? Yes it’s a fact, not fiction, that the man who was scoring centuries at will previously would not be able to do it for so long.

More extraordinary is the fact that he has never looked out of touch in this century-less period. He has been on top of the bowling more often than not and every time he has gone past 50 there has been expectations of the milestone being reached during the next few hours.

He has scored runs but the centuries have dried, costing India many matches, particularly the Tests abroad. His inability to score hundreds derailed the team on the disastrous tours of England and Australia where his team lost all eight Test matches.

His failure to get his 100th hundred in a Test match seemed to have prompted the selectors to play him in the One-day Internationals in Australia recently where he was unable to get to the much talked about landmark despite getting enough chances.

It appears very clear that Tendulkar has gone to Bangladesh more in pursuit of his personal record rather than with the ambition of playing any significant role in letting his team defend the Asia Cup title.

He got out cheaply in the opening game against Sri Lanka where Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli complied centuries while confronting an inexperienced bowling attack on a batting-friendly pitch.

The game against Bangladesh on March 16 offers him another golden opportunity. If he misses out again then he may have to wait much longer. It is not to suggest that he doesn’t have the capability to score a century against Pakistan but the probability of doing it in such high-voltage match would be remote to say the least.

There would indeed be one more opening created for him if India do advance into the final but we all know that Tendulkar doesn’t have had the inclination to score a century in the final of a tournament.

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