The argument currently going on in India is not so much as to when Sachin Tendulkar will reach his 100th international century, but whether he deserves the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India) Award.
Bharat Ratna is the highest award in India, originally meant to honour achievement in politics, literature, the arts and social service.
However, the rules have been modified recently to include film actors, singers and sportsmen.
There is no question that Tendulkar deserves consideration for this honour, but some strongly feel that if a sportsman was to be given this award on 26 January – India’s Republic Day – it should be Viswanathan Anand, the four time world chess champion.
Now with the Boxing Day Test starting next Monday, the focus is once again on Tendulkar’s 100th international ton.
Since April this year, he is on verge of this unique milestone, having hit 51 Test hundreds and 48 in one-day internationals (ODIs). Since then he has come close by scoring 90s, but has missed out on reaching a century.
Will it come in the Boxing Day Melbourne Test or in Sydney, staging its 100th Test match on January 3? I can imagine Swamy Army of Indian supporters going berserk when this major unattained landmark is reached.
Not to forget the billion Indians at home.
We can realise the magnitude of the achievement by noting that the next best batsman is Australia’s Ricky Ponting who has registered 69 international centuries, a whopping 30 centuries less than Tendulkar’s!
Let us compare Tendulkar statistically with Ponting, India’s Rahul Dravid, Brian Lara of West Indies, and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis at Test level; and with Ponting and Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya in ODIs. By runs scored, these five have been the most prolific batsmen in the history of the game.
Ponting, 37, is 20 months younger than Sachin and made his Test debut six years after the Indian prodigy.
Below are the Test statistics of the Top 4 Test batsmen (as at December 25, 2011):
* Tendulkar has scored 15,183 runs at 56.02 in 184 Tests with 51 centuries (highest score 248 not out) and 63 fifties.
* Dravid has gathered 13,094 runs at 53.22 in 160 Tests with 36 centuries and 62 fifties.
* Ponting has stroked 12,656 runs at 52.2 in 158 Tests with 39 centuries (HS 257) and 58 fifties and Kallis 12,036 runs at 56.77 with 40 centuries and 55 fifties in 148 Tests.
* Lara blasted 11,953 runs at 52.88 in 131 Tests with 34 centuries (HS 400 n.o.) and 48 fifties.
Thus, in Test cricket, Tendulkar has scored 2089 more runs than the next batsman (Dravid) and 2527 runs more than Ponting. Also, he has hit 11 more centuries than the next man, Kallis, and 12 more than Ponting.
Australia’s Allan Border has registered same number of fifties as Tendulkar (63). Lara’s individual score of unbeaten 400 remains a Test record. Same with Don Bradman’s Test batting average of 99.94 in 52 Tests.
In ODIs, Tendulkar again leads with 18,111 runs at 45.16 in 453 matches with 48 centuries (HS 200 n.o.) and 95 fifties. He is followed by Ponting 13,686 runs at 42.63 in 370 ODIs with 30 tons (HS 164) and 82 fifties and Jayasuriya, 13,430 runs at 32.36 in 445 matches with 28 centuries (HS 189) and 68 fifties.
Tendulkar thus out-scores number two Ponting by 4425 runs and number three Jayasuriya by 4,681 runs in ODIs. The Indian has also recorded the most centuries (48) and most fifties (95) in ODIs. Next best is Ponting, with 18 fewer centuries and 13 fewer 50s in 83 fewer ODIs.
On February 24, 2010, Tendulkar became the first player to hit a double century in an ODI (200 not out vs. South Africa in Gwalior). Earlier this month his team mate Virender Sehwag smashed 219 runs against the West Indies at Indore.
Combining statistics at Test, ODI and Twenty20 internationals, Tendulkar is the only cricketer to break the 30,000 run barrier (33,304 runs) with 99 centuries in 638 internationals. Then come Ponting 26,743 runs with 69 centuries in 545 matches and Dravid 24,014 runs with 48 centuries in 505.
Thus the Indian maestro is a whopping 6,561 runs and 30 centuries ahead of the next most prolific batsman, Ponting, in all internationals.
From boy wonder to elder statesman, from 1989 till now, Sachin has grown in popularity, keeping his feet on the ground.
Aussie quicks Pat Cummins and James Pattinson were not even born when 16 year-old Tendulkar made his Test debut.
The Bharat Ratna award is well within his grasp.