Not for a hundred centuries will Tendulkar be bettered
December 11, 1988, and a 15-year-old blasted his way to fame in Bombay before the Indian cricketing community, writes Logan Savory in this week's Sav's Say.
It was a kid by the name Sachin Tendulkar.
At just 15 years old he walked on to the field for his Bombay team to make his first-class debut against blokes mostly twice his age.
That is a mammoth achievement in itself – to play top-level domestic cricket in the world's most cricket-mad country at just 15.
But Tendulkar didn't just play. He dominated.
In that debut first-class match he scored a wonderful century and went on to be his team's top run-scorer that season.
From that point the Indian cricket fraternally knew they had something special on their hands, but surely few would have ever dreamed just how special this kid would turn out to be.
The next year, at just 16, he had done enough to make his international debut for India and was selected to take on Pakistan in Pakistan, in the first test of their series.
Tendulkar made only 15 in his first turn at bat –being bowled by another international debutant in the form of Waqar Younis.
The final test of that tour however, highlighted just what really makes this Indian batsman so good.
At 16 he was peppered by the Pakistan quicks to the point he was hit in the face by a bouncer.
However, he declined medical assistance and continued to bat even as blood streamed from his nose.
This in a nutshell is Sachin Tendulkar.
A talented kid who has more skills than most, yes, but underestimated is his mental game and his will to never back down from a battle.
His mental toughness is as great as any sportsperson of any era.
This guy can play perfect strokes that many others can't, but that is not the only reason he has become probably the greatest batsman to ever play the game.
Here is a story from his youth that sums up what I am trying to get at.
When he was young, Tendulkar would practice for hours on end in the nets.
If he became exhausted, his coach would put a one-rupee coin on the top of the stumps, and the bowler who dismissed Tendulkar would get the coin.
If Tendulkar got through the whole session without getting dismissed, the coach would give him the coin. Tendulkar now considers the 13 coins he won then as some of his most prized possessions.
Many other talented cricketers could take Tendulkar's lead here and adopt a similar mental approach to the way they bat, and in particular to the way they prepare for games.
The reason why I highlight this now is that Tendulkar is on the verge of achieving what I would regard as almost the unachievable.
Twenty-two years after he made his test debut, he will take to the field tonight in his 178th test when India take on England on day one in the first of four tests.
Tendulkar sits on a remarkable 99 international 100s, 51 of them have come in the test match arena and 48 in one-day-international cricket.
One more hundred and he will bring up 100 international centuries – it is hard to see any other player achieving this remarkable feat.
While Tendulkar has 99 international centuries, never has he scored one at the what is regarded the home of cricket, the Lord's ground in England.
The test match starting tonight will played at Lord's.
Just maybe another chapter is to be added to this fairytale story.
» Logan Savory is a former Southland cricket representative who was named New Zealand junior sportswriter of the year at the 2007 TP McLean journalism awards. His main rounds are cricket and rugby.
The Southland Times