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By Gulu Ezekiel
Perhaps the biggest surprise surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s record 200 not out in the Gwalior ODI is that it was so long in coming.
The number of ODIs will cross the 3,000 mark this year which is a huge amount of matches considering the first was played 39 years ago at Melbourne.
Tendulkar is just behind Sanath Jayasuriya in the most matches played with close to 450 and on at least three previous occasions in his career he had come close to breaking the barrier.
One suspects now that it has fallen, there will be quite a few others—perhaps even Tendulkar—who will go past the mark.
Such sporting landmarks tend to be as much psychological as physical, the best example being the 4-minute mile.
Till Roger Bannister broke through in 1954, it was considered to be an impossible feat. And yet after Bannister, it has been surpassed over 1,000 times, including on 100-plus occasions by New Zealand’s John Walker and Steve Scott of the US.
The previous record of 194 was shared by Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar and Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry who remained unbeaten just six months ago at Harare.
It should be recalled though that back in 1997 had Anwar used the fleet-footed Shahid Afridi as his ‘runner’ almost throughout as he was suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration due to the oppressive Chennai weather.
Ironically, it was Tendulkar as the rival captain who was criticized for being lenient on the Pakistanis and acceding to Anwar’s request when he was well within his rights to turn it down.
Coventry is the only one of the three who did not open the innings, coming in at the fall of the first wicket in the second over. But the bespectacled Zimbabwean would be the first to admit he is not in the same league as Anwar and Tendulkar. And the Bangladesh bowling is frankly cannon fodder by international standards.
The big surprise over why it took so long for the 200-barrier to be breached is mainly due to the conditions and laws of the game which have been rapidly altered to suit the batsman.
The umpire has already been reduced to a cap stand due to electronic aids (all the better for the game). Now the bowler is being reduced to a faceless entity whose sole task it appears is to be carted all over the field.
This is mainly due to the rise of the T-20 format and the ludicrous ‘free-hit’ front foot no-ball law and also the reduction in the size of boundaries. At Gwalior as Tendulkar and others cleared the ropes at will, it was beginning to look like the size of the ground was fit only for a school game. Fielding restrictions and power-plays add to the bowlers’ misery.
Add to that the restriction on bouncers and the calling of a no-ball for any delivery which is above waist high plus the advancements in bat design and you can see why bowlers around the world are throwing up their arms in despair.
The only question now is: will Tendulkar’s record be broken this year itself? No raised eyebrows if it is.
--This article was originally published on butjazz.com