What does one say about something that has never been seen before? That it is special? Yes it is, incredibly so. That it is incredible? It is that too. That it could not have happened to someone who deserved it more? Absolutely.
Two hundred not out in a one-day international, 2961 matches gone by before this. And then, given that Sachin Tendulkar is the first man in history to get to the mark in his 21st year of international cricket, with mind and body intact through astonishing pressure and responsibility, makes the feat all the more laudable.
He’s shown and proved time and again that age is absolutely no criteria to judge a player, it’s what someone does on the field of play that matters. The statistics show that this has been Sachin’s best ever international season, in Tests and one-day internationals combined. He’s been on some sort of golden run-getting spree, notching up the hundreds and more importantly, setting up wins and then winning matches for India. It’s been fascinating to watch.
Twenty years of cricket takes a huge toll on the body and Sachin’s had every injury in the book. But he’s come back from each one, stronger, fitter and mentally, as sure of himself as he’s always been. I thought the way he celebrated when he reached his 200 epitomised the man’s persona.
There was no running laps around the field, no aggressive gestures, nothing over-the-top. He did what he always does, raised both his arms, closed his eyes for a moment and quietly acknowledged that it had been done.
Of this innings itself, it wasn’t easy. South Africa have a very good all-round attack. They have quality fast bowlers and yet, he just toyed with them.
You could almost see him think, ‘where do I play the next ball?’ It was fascinating stuff. He clearly enjoyed himself on the day, is enjoying this team, and it’s all showing.
But watching Sachin play as he’s been doing, taking pleasure in the various roles he has within the set-up, that of competitor, senior professional, mentor, match-winner; watching him mesh them seamlessly, as always with rare grace, is a learning experience.
If the youngsters in the team can take even 10 per cent of what he does, they’ll be better cricketers for it. It’s nice to see an Indian on top of the one-day performances, really nice.
And at this point, the only thing left for Sachin really is Brian Lara’s mark. But I’m sure that 401* in Tests is not far around the corner. With Sachin, nothing really is impossible. Even now, at 37, his best is yet ahead.