Cricket milestone falls short by swing of the bat

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Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar bats during the third day of the third test cricket match against West Indies in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

MUMBAI, India (AP) — The "Little Master" missed making cricket history by one swing of the bat.

Sachin Tendulkar, one of the greatest cricket batsmen of all time, fell just short of becoming the first player to score 100 centuries — amassing at least 100 runs on 100 different occasions.

Needing only six more runs to reach the milestone, the Indian great tipped the ball back to an opposing player and was "caught out" Friday, leaving him with 94 runs in the five-day test match against the West Indies.

A 6, which is akin to a home run in baseball but is worth six runs, would have given Tendulkar his historic total. But instead of celebrating, the home crowd was reduced to a stunned silence as the chants of "Sach-in, Sach-in" were replaced by the image of Tendulkar trudging off the field in disappointment.

"I know a lot of fans are down, heartbroken, but we can't just let him get out there and live freely," said Ravi Rampaul, the West Indies fast bowler who delivered the final ball. "When I walked back to the boundary it wasn't all that nice as I got heckled in a way, but that's how cricket goes."

Tendulkar, often referred to as the "God of Cricket" or the "Little Master" by Indian fans, already holds most of cricket's major batting records, including most runs and centuries in both five-day tests and one-day internationals. He also holds the highest ever one-day score — 200 against South Africa last year.

Tendulkar's 100th century has been tensely anticipated since he scored two 100s at this year's cricket World Cup, increasing his total to 99. This is the second time he's been out in the 90s in pursuit of the milestone. He scored 91 during India's tour of England this year.

The Indian's batting prowess has often led to comparisons with Australian great Donald Bradman, who retired with an average of 99.94 runs.

"Not even Don Bradman carried expectations like this, and Sachin had been bearing it since 1989," former India coach and Australia captain Greg Chappell wrote in his new autobiography.

Even Bradman has said Tendulkar, who made his debut as a curly-haired 16-year-old kid, reminded him of his own playing style.

Tendulkar can still reach the century of centuries milestone in front of a home crowd this year, but only if he is picked to play for India in the final two one-day matches against the West Indies. Otherwise, he'll have to bide his time until India heads to Australia next month for a cricket tour.

"I think a lot of people have started putting unnecessary pressure on him," India batsman Virat Kohli said. "He would be obviously disappointed to miss the century, but he is not the one to be disappointed for too long. He looked pretty relaxed in the dressing room."