Dubai: Only once in his 22-year-long career had the cricket gods made Sachin Tendulkar wait more than a year between centuries. That is, of course, until he hit the 99-mark in international hundreds. While the 369-day wait between the 99th, scored against South Africa in Nagpur during the World Cup, and the 100th, against Bangladesh in Dhaka in March this year, has been well chronicled, few have pointed out that 511 days passed between Tendulkar's maiden Test ton in Manchester in 1990 and his second, at the Sydney Cricket Ground 511 days later. Of course, the media's eye was trained much less on cricket back in the early 1990s and the frenzy that accompanied Tendulkar's ascension from 99 to 100 showed the anxiety around the country over his landmark.
For the best part of the wait, Tendulkar tried to remain patient, and as long as it was humanly possible, focussed on batting well rather than on getting to three figures. He certainly did not do badly in that period of 33 international innings, and four times made 80 or more. With pressure mounting from all quarters, Tendulkar did not address the media, realising that it would be impossible to speak about the team, their success or anything else while the landmark remained elusive.
Since getting the monkey off his back, on March 16, Tendulkar has spoken many times about what that period was like, but it took a gathering of cheering fans for him to really open up. "Initially, it was not on my mind. I scored my 99th hundred against South Africa at Nagpur. After that, I played four World Cup matches and no-one spoke about it because the focus was on the World Cup," Tendulkar told a gathering in Dubai on June 9. "We won the World Cup and then the thought went around the media: 'What next, what can we now focus on?' There was a gradual build-up. I went to England and someone said I had skipped the West Indies tour because I wanted to score my 100th 100 at Lord's. I wish such things were possible, but cricket doesn't allow you to even think like that. Even after 22 years, it's still difficult."