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Sachin- The master born to bat

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NEW DELHI, India, March 16 – Consistently brilliant, universally admired and modest to a fault, India’s Sachin Tendulkar has ruled world cricket for more than two decades with his record-shattering batting.

As the “master blaster” became the first player to score 100 international centuries on Friday, millions of adoring fans in India and abroad bowed to the man often worshipped like a demi-god in his country.

Over years of high-pressure national expectation and fierce media attention, Tendulkar, who turns 39 next month, has barely put a foot wrong, remaining the smiling, boyish figure he was when he burst on the world stage in 1989, aged 16.

His 100th international ton adds another jewel to the glittering career of cricket’s most celebrated living batsman, who holds all coveted batting records except Don Bradman’s career average of 99.94.

Tendulkar, a copybook right-hander, has played more Tests (188) and one-dayers (462) than any player in history and compiled more runs and centuries in both forms of the game than anyone else.

His 49th one-day ton — alongside 51 Test hundreds — came a year after he realised his childhood dream of being part of a World Cup-winning campaign.

Now in his 23rd year in international cricket, Tendulkar remains as passionate about the game as he was on his debut against Pakistan in November, 1989.

His batting had begun to be questioned in India, with unprecedented talk of his retirement following a disappointing recent series in Australia.

The father of two has taken a year to record his 100th ton after getting the 99th in the World Cup last March.

Tendulkar has a string of records to his name, including making the first and only double-century in one-day internationals when he made 200 not out against South Africa in Gwalior in February 2010.

The cricketing world first took notice of the child prodigy when, aged 17 and playing only his ninth Test, he hit a match-saving 119 not out against England at Old Trafford in 1990.

Tendulkar still regards that 100 as one of his best, but what followed in Australia in 1991-92 set the standard for a career as one of the modern greats.

Having scored an unbeaten 148 in the Sydney Test, Tendulkar mastered the spiteful Perth wicket to hit a brilliant 114 against an all-out pace attack.

The innings prompted veteran English writer John Woodcock to stand up in the press box and declare: “This has to be the best batsman I have ever seen… and unlike most of you I watched Bradman bat!”

Since then, Tendulkar’s longevity and string of lucrative commercial endorsements for everything from watches to cement has brought him huge wealth.

He has an insatiable love of fast cars and is rumoured to drive around the streets of Mumbai in the early hours, but his otherwise humble, family-based approach to life has meant fans still feel a close bond with him.

News late last year that he had moved into a new luxury house in Mumbai with his wife Anjali, a medical doctor, and two children, was greeted nationwide with the interest of delighted relatives.

“It’s been a privilege to play for India for so long,” Tendulkar has said. “Cricket is my passion. I think it is a gift from God that I have been able to live that passion for so many years. It’s just fantastic.”

Off the field, Tendulkar sponsors 200 under-privileged children every year through Apnalaya, a Mumbai-based NGO run by his mother-in-law, Annabel Mehta.

He has also helped raise funds for numerous causes like the crusade against cancer and the creation of basic facilities, particularly toilets for girl children, in 140 government schools across the country.

No longer keen to hold the captaincy, a role in which he did not prosper, he remains the most-prized wicket in cricket.

Fit, balanced and with hunger for more runs, retirement still seems to be far from Tendulkar’s mind.

Meanwhile, India’s prime minister Friday led the tributes to batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar who became the first player in cricketing history to score 100 international centuries.

“I join the nation in congratulating Sachin Tendulkar on his making history — a hundred centuries. He has made India proud,” Manmohan Singh said in a press release.

“Tendulkar’s long career has been a triumph of class, character and courage. I wish him many more innings and feats to continue inspiring the youth,” added the statement from the premier.

Tendulkar, who turns 39 next month, achieved the milestone with his 49th one-day century in an Asia Cup match against Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka. He has 51 Test hundreds.

International Cricket Council president Haroon Lorgat hailed Tendulkar as a true role model as he lauded his “magnificent” feat.

“He is a marvel to cricket lovers around the world and with an array of batting records, Sachin is a true role model who will undoubtedly hold a special place in cricket’s history,” Lorgat said in a statement.

Micro-blogging site Twitter was flooded with congratulatory messages that poured in from fans and officials the world over immediately after the “Master Blaster” reached the 100-run mark.

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