I feel badly about Sachin Tendulkar missing his ton, but not that bad. Cricinfo has a very good story about the reaction in Wankhede when Tendulkar fell six short of his 100th 100, but reading it, I could only feel, “What is the big deal? Why so much emotion over another milestone?”
Here are my theories for the scale of anticipation: 1) Tendulkar’s amazing career is nearing its end. We may have only a couple of more years with the man, but the 2011 World Cup (and the upcoming series against perennial nemeses Australia) mark a natural end to a long stretch of achievements. So, is this anxiety and pent-up hope all just another way to properly send the man off?
2) When I was younger, I always felt a tinge of disappointment at Don Bradman’s 99.94. If only he had scored those few missing runs! Imagine how complete and perfect his statistic would have been! Much older now, I don’t feel the same way — like all sports, cricket has a way of cutting down its athletes to size, and the drama of the perpetual pursuit for perfection is always better (and more poignant) than its achievement. But do we feel that if Tendulkar ends with only 99 tons (very, very unlikely), that ‘failure’ will be cited as a blemish on an otherwise sterling career? (Sort of like Federer and the French Open?)
3) It’s interesting that ‘milestone fatigue’ hasn’t set in. At a certain point, you have to figure there’s little difference between 12,000 and 14,000, or 50 tons and 55. But perhaps all this collective pining for 100th 100s speaks to the fickleness of the Indian fan. We want more and more and more from Tendulkar, or we’re bored. If you want to hold our attention, you need to keep performing.