New Delhi:India on Monday celebrated the record-breaking feats of Sachin Tendulkar after the champion batsman scored an unprecedented 50th Test century.
President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led the glowing tributes even as India faced almost certain defeat in the first cricket Test against South Africa at Centurion.
Tendulkar was unbeaten on 107 as India ended day four still 30 runs behind with two second innings wickets in hand and hoping the predicted rain on Tuesday would save them the match.
But Indians back home appeared little concerned by the team's precarious position in the Test, confirming the widely held belief that defeat did not matter as long as Tendulkar scored a century.
The 37-year-old is the most prolific batsman in history with a record 46 one-day hundreds to go with his 50 Test centuries since he entered the international arena back in 1989.
"It is an amazing achievement to play for the country for over two decades and still continue to be the team's anchor," Prime Minister Singh said.
"Sachin makes all of us so very proud."
The 50-ton feat was flashed on the front pages of leading newspapers and television channels rounded up past and present cricketers to speak on the batsman they compared to the legendary Don Bradman of Australia.
"Don of a new era" screamed the front page of the Times of India, which devoted three pages to the master's achievements under catchy headlines like "Batman Forever" and "Sachincredible".
"Legend, 50 times over", the Hindustan Times wrote on its front page, while the Indian Express headlined its story "Sachin cricket enters 51st century".
Tendulkar's consistency over a 21-year period earned high praise with former captain Sourav Ganguly calling him the "best batsman ever" ahead of the late Bradman, who retired in 1948 with a Test batting average of 99.94.
"It's an unbelievable achievement by an unbelievable cricketer," Ganguly said, adding that the man now dubbed 'Ton'dulkar by the media could still be playing beyond 40.
"Believe me, age is not a factor in this game till you are 40. He is not finished yet by any means. Cricket remains his passion."
India's South African coach Gary Kirsten, who played against Tendulkar in the 1990s, admired the batsman's commitment to the sport.
"The key to his success is his approach to the game, his humility to learn and try to do better all the time," Kirsten was quoted as saying by Indian media at Centurion.
"For him, a Test match begins two days earlier, preparing for it. He wants to face the maximum number of balls at the nets. You will not see him play a loose shot at the nets.
"He is focused all the time, he wants to do better all the time," said Kirsten.
Tendulkar has scored seven Test centuries this year, during which he also notched up the first double-century in the history of one-day cricket.
"It's been a phenomenal year for him," said Kirsten. "I think he is playing better than ever."