India in SA

Little Master hungry for more

2010-12-19 20:04

Centurion - When Sachin Tendulkar started his Test career 21 years ago, he was a wide-eyed 16-year-old who had to face up to a world-class Pakistan bowling line-up which included Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Abdul Qadir and a young Waqar Younis.

He made two half-centuries for India in the four-match series and a star was born.

"It was challenging. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learned a lot," he said.

On Sunday, Tendulkar rose to yet another challenge as he tamed the two fast bowlers currently rated as the best new-ball pair in the world, South Africa's Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who were aged six and five when Tendulkar first showed that he had the skill and determination to succeed at cricket's highest level.

His innings of 107 not out on the fourth day of the first Test at SuperSport Park was a typically masterly effort, which restored Indian pride after the touring side had been outclassed in the first innings.

It also made him the first player in the history of the game to hit 50 centuries in Test matches. No other batsman has scored more than 39.

Tendulkar, 37, dedicated the innings to his late father, Ramesh.

"It was his birthday yesterday so I dedicate it to him. The first thing I thought of (on reaching the century) was him."

The Indian batting maestro said he was happy but not ecstatic.

"It's nice. I can't say I'm not happy. I'm not...I don't know how to express this. I'm happy and it is good that it has come. Hopefully it doesn't stop here."

Tendulkar is far and away the most successful batsman in the game. He has also hit a record 46 centuries in one-day internationals.

He said records on their own were not what drove him.

"I play for the love of the game. If I was chasing records I wouldn't have missed the one-day matches (against New Zealand recently). I have to pace myself carefully and I was not in top physical condition.

"I requested the board to give me a break so I could stay fresh. If I was chasing records I would not have missed those games. It's about producing quality cricket."

India were facing a crushing innings defeat before Tendulkar was joined by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a seventh wicket stand of 172. They are still likely to lose, going into the last day with only two wickets standing and still needing 30 runs to make South Africa bat again.

Asked whether it was especially satisfying to have scored a landmark century when his country really needed him, Tendulkar gave an indication of his philosophy.

"Every time I go out the country needs me," he said.

"If I go out and the score is 200 for two it's not as if it doesn't matter. Every innings I play I go out to score runs. There hasn't been an innings where I've thought, if I get out now it doesn't matter. It's extremely important to have that hunger. The hunger keeps one going and I'm glad that it's still there."

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