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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

When I first learned about English batsman Sir Jack Hobbs' feat of scoring a hundred first-class centuries after his 40th birthday, I marvelled at his tenacity.

I was actually in Scotland when I had my first opportunity to see Tendulkar bat. I'd stopped at a Dundee bar and watched a replay of Tendulkar's knock of 31, made that day in an ODI at Trent Bridge. The ease of the young man’s strokeplay worked wonders on my digestive system and I was even able to complete my meal of Haggis.

It was no surprise when just three weeks later, at the tender age of seventeen, Tendulkar scored his first Test century at Old Trafford. Now, 22 years on, he has achieved the exceptional feat of scoring a hundred international centuries, all before his 40th birthday.

The skill, the tenacity and the competitive urge still flows freely through the veins of Tendulkar.

He seemed destined to conquer the batting Mount Everest from the moment it was said about him as a yoage of seventeen, Tendulkar scored his first Test century at Old Trafford. Now, 21 years on, he has achieved the exceptional feat of scoring a hundred centuries, all before his 40th birthday and accumulated at international level.

The skill, the tenacity and the competitive urge still flows freely through the veins of Tendulkar.

The finest Test innings I’ve actually seen the little maestro play was at Chennai in 1997-98 when he won a battle with Shane Warne. Tendulkar was ready when Warne came around the wicket in the match and he immediately despatched the leg-spinner with power through and over the on-side.

This was a perfect example of the value of a counter-attack and there is no better exponent in the modern game than the mighty Mumbai midget.

According to Warne, “Tendulkar is the best and daylight's second.”

For much of the time that Tendulkar has done battle with Brian Lara for the batting crown of their era, I had the West Indian slightly ahead. I just loved the way Lara played spin, using his feet and clipping the ball into gaps the bowler didn't even know existed. There was certainly none better at playing spin than the languid left-hander. Where Tendulkar’s desire to dominate the bowlers flagged for a while as he entered his thirties, Lara played in the same style throughout his career. That impressed me, because it’s difficult for even the best to “maintain the rage” as they age. Then, along came Ricky Ponting. Being younger and starting later, Ponting surpassed the other two for a brief while and it appeared as though he’d have a chance of surpassing some of Tendulkar’s records.

Whether it was that challenge or a new fitness regime, incredibly Tendulkar found a second wind, including a renewed desire to dictate terms to the bowlers. He’s left Ponting and everyone else in his wake.

The fact that Tendulkar has handled fame so well and maintained an attacking outlook throughout is a tribute to not only his skill but also his wonderfully alert mind. Considering the length of his successful career and the fact he was able to renew his attacking desires, I would now rate Tendulkar slightly ahead of Lara and comfortably in front of a fading Ponting. And for remarkable success over such a long period, Tendulkar even has the indefatigable Hobbs covered. That's a feat of enormous skill, involving plenty of perseverance and perspiration.

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