Sachin Tendulkar's achievement of 100 international centuries is good reason to dwell on what a three-figure innings means and meant to a Mumbai batsman.
As a former Mumbai captain I dare say the relevance of a hundred over the years has been best understood by a Mumbai batsman. Thankfully, with the Dravids, Laxmans, Sehwags and Gangulys, the gospel has spread pan India.
Sachin Tendulkar walks off after scoring his first Test century at Old
Trafford in 1990. Pic/Getty Images
In an age where coaching was uncomplicated in Mumbai, batsmanship was measured by one's ability to score a hundred. Coaches, more often than not, kept the script very simple: If you were to attract eyeballs, a hundred was your most productive route. One heard of revered coaches in the Gavaskar era and later, hammer the importance of a hundred.
Coaches like Vithal Patil, PK 'Joe' Kamath, Vasu Paranjape, Vasant and Mohini Amladi, Anna Vaidya, L B Keni and Ramakant Achrekar -- all spoke the same language to batsmen then. Though the journeys suggested may have varied, but the destination professed was common. When I was growing up (and this is the case with other players too), I heard about how my Podar College coach VS 'Marshall' Patil used to drop in at Gavaskar's residence in Dadar after dinner and say to him: 'Sunny, century tomorrow.' Such was the romance of Mumbai's cricketing folklore. Both Patil and Gavaskar contributed so much to their beloved Dadar Union Sporting Club.
One heard of a coach reprimanding his ward when he threw his wicket after doing the hard yards needed to take him to the hundred and beyond. The punishment was either a run around the park or a lunch break without lunch. Penalties were simple, but the message was strong. The Mumbai school of batting flourished on a cultural hand down of ethos from its coaches and seniors. The relevance of Sachin's much-awaited landmark is huge to Indian cricket as it is to Mumbai's batting tradition. It could be a renaissance of sorts to an ethos that is arguably dwindling.
Yes, the fabric of cricket has changed as much as it has evolved. The variants of the game have diverted the focus from numbers to strike rates. If tradition has to be preserved, especially in Sachin's bastion, Mumbai, the landmark has significant relevance. It could dazzle a fading culture and ignite the much-needed flame that was, in a sense, an arm of Mumbai's batting not so long ago!
The author opened the batting when Sachin Tendulkar made his first-class debut for Mumbai in December, 1988. He led Mumbai in the 1991-92 season.