It's here at last. After a year of keeping India waiting, Sachin Tendulkar has scored his 100th international ton. An entire nation heaved a collective sigh and uncrossed its fingers.
The 100th Sachin ton came against Bangladesh during the fourth match of the Asia Cup on Friday. Immediately after, he quipped that he had shed "50 kilos". The weight of the expectations of millions no doubt. "Enjoy the game and chase your dreams. Dreams do come true," said cricket's most prolific run-getter, denying that he was ever under pressure to get here. "When I scored my 99th hundred nobody spoke about it. The 100th hundred was a media creation. I was not bothered," he said. (Read what Sachin had to say; also see: Sachin and his 100 tons)
But it mattered to his fans. And today, anyone who hesitantly tried to take away from the colossal achievement by pointing out that Sachin's ton of tons came against minnows Bangladesh, was batted down sharply by ten other people. There is celebration in the air; #sachin is trending at number 1 worldwide on Twitter, pushed there no doubt by the hundreds and thousands of Indians now saying, "Thank You Sachin Tendulkar." (Also see: Tendulkar's greatest achievements in pics)
Calm at the crease, Sachin took his time getting to the milestone. No one else was breathing. Especially at 99. First a Suresh Raina single took him to the non-batting end as an over ended. Ten runs came off that over before Sachin got strike. He played two balls for no runs and the over changed again. No one exhaled. So it was Raina on strike again, who took a single on the third ball to give strike to Sachin. The stadium roared. Shakib Al Hasan, now a firm part of history, came in to bowl and Sachin took a single to score his ton of tons.
Then the quintessential Sachin moment. He took off his helmet, looked at his bat, then heavenwards. He then kissed his helmet.
Sachin has scored 51 hundreds in Tests and 49 in ODIs. It took him 188 Tests and 462 ODIs to get to this landmark. Tendulkar, who is now 38-years-old, made his debut at the age of 16 in 1989.
Today, Sachin added another 14 runs to his ton before Mashrafe Mortaza managed to send him back. But this dismissal did not matter. The world was waiting to fete him.
One of the first to congratulate him was the Prime Minister of India. Then actors, politicians, singers. Mamata Banerjee has suggested Sachin be awarded the Bharat Ratna. Amitabh Bachchan noted that now "India breathes normally", Narendra Modi hailed a "moment of pride," and the reticent Lata Mangeshkar congratulated her fellow Mumbaikar.
Industrialist Anand Mahindra who had been tweeting commentary on the Union Budget all morning, changed track with, "Sachin proved the Budget that mattered was his budgeted score.. Bravo, to an authentic legend." Political dissonance, disappointment with the Budget was all forgotten in one moment of shared joy. (Full list of celeb tweets in pics)
Sachin's former team-mate Sourav Ganguly said Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international ton is a "terrific achievement which should be enjoyed as it will not be matched in the future ever." Ganguly has witnessed many of Sachin's historic landmarks from close quarters. Ganguly was at the other end of the crease when the master blaster achieved milestones like breaking Sunil Gavaskar's (34) record of most Test 100's and surpassing Brian Lara (11,953) as the highest run-getter in Tests. (Your message for your champion: Congratulate Sachin)
Cricketers the world over are now falling over themselves to recount their outings with the man who has defined world cricket for two decades.
Fittingly, or perhaps sensing that history could be made today, a huge crowd had gathered at the Shere Bangla National Stadium to witness the master blaster go where no cricketer has gone before.
They witnessed an innings of composure and patience, Sachin made 114 off 147 balls, hitting 12 boundaries and a six and was at the crease for 46.5 overs. The historic knock was also Sachin's first ODI century against Bangladesh.
Virat Kohli (66 off 82) and Suresh Raina (51 off 38 balls) made vital contributions to help India set Bangladesh a target of 290.
Sachin also became the first batsman to hit over 2,000 boundaries in One Day Internationals during today's innings.
The buzz around Sachin's record ton of tons had begun as early as the World Cup last year, but despite numerous opportunities, he was unable to reach the three-figure mark. Sachin opted to play the Asia Cup after a less than average outing in the CB Series in Australia.
His last international century came during the World Cup against South Africa on March 12, 2011.Â It took him 34 innings, that included thirteen ODI innings, to get to his most awaited century.
Mirpur, Bangladesh got lucky that Sachin chose to play his 462nd ODI here.