Vi­rat Kohli and the chal­lenge of the tricky 30s

Mint ST - - PLAIN FACTS - Feed­back@livemint.com Share of ca­reer runs (in %) Av­er­age dif­fer­en­tial over ca­reer

In or­der to reach the sum­mit in both ODI and Test runs, Kohli will have to em­u­late the best in their 30s—a mid-point of sorts in crick­et­ing ca­reers

Ear­lier this week, Steve Waugh, a de­cent judge of the game of cricket, said Vi­rat Kohli will break all bat­ting records, bar­ring Don Brad­man’s bat­ting av­er­age of 99.94 in Test matches.

In the same week, Kohli turned 30—a mid-point of sorts in crick­et­ing ca­reers, and the be­gin­ning of a decade that is fas­ci­nat­ing for what it has come to mean for top bats­men.

The first half of the 30s is prime time. The eyes are sharp, the feet are mov­ing, the body is sup­ple, the mind is willed, the years count for a lot.

But in the sec­ond half, time starts to chip away at those bat­ting essen­tials, and the des­cent to some­thing less than prime is silent, pro­nounced and poignant.

For ex­am­ple, among the top four run-get­ters in Tests, Sachin Ten­dulkar re­tired at 39, Ricky Ponting at 38, Jacques Kal­lis at 38 and Rahul Dravid at 39. And each en­dured sig­nif­i­cant bat­tles with time near the end of their ca­reers.

These four were also some of the most pro­lific bats­men in their 30s. There were oth­ers as well. There was one set that made a come­back in their 30s, and com­pressed an en­tire ca­reer in seven or eight years.

There was an­other set that played on and on, and crafted a ca­reer of com­pe­tence. In the con­text of Kohli’s many bat­ting pur­suits, it is use­ful to see who these bats­men are and the mark­ers they laid down for the 30s. Take max­i­mum runs in Test matches, the most im­por­tant bat­ting record in all of cricket.

At present, it is also the Mount Ever­est of bat­ting records. Kohli has 6,331 runs from 75 Test matches, and he’s ranked 57.

Ten­dulkar, with 15,921 runs from 200 Test matches, holds that record. For Kohli, that’s an­other 9,590 Test runs and, sud­denly, Waugh’s prophecy al­ready looks very far. It seems even far­ther, given the max­i­mum Test runs scored by any bats­man in their 30s: 7,674 runs by Dravid at 51.5 runs per in­nings (chart 1).

Only 26 bats­men have scored above 5,000 runs in their 30s. Among the top-10 run ac­cu­mu­la­tors in the 30s, there are in­ter­est­ing side­lights. Six of the top 10 run-get­ters of all­time fea­ture in this list. There’s No. 1 (Ten­dulkar), two (Ponting) and four (Dravid), and each av­er­aged less in their 30s than over their ca­reers. None more so than Ten­dulkar, who av­er­aged nearly 4 fewer runs be­low his ca­reer av­er­age of 53.78.

The other seven in the top 10 list bet­tered their ca­reer av­er­age. Matthew Hay­den (7,306 runs) is the sec­ond high­est run­scorer in the 30s. Hay­den de­buted at 23, barely played for his first six years, made a come­back at 29 and played con­tin­u­ously for 10 years. Bar­ring Ten­dulkar, who de­buted at the age of 16 years, the top bats­men with long ca­reers tend to score more than half their runs in

MINT GRAPHITI

Aus­tralia

West Indies

Eng­land

In­dia

58

85

45

52

56

80

57

55

59

71

Til­lakaratne Dil­shan

Ku­mar San­gakkara

Ricky Ponting

Sachin Ten­dulkar

Adam Gilchrist

Ma­hela Jayawar­dene

Mo­ham­mad Azharud­din

Mark Waugh

Matthew Hay­den record for most ODI runs as well: 18,426 runs.

In other words, Kohli is 8,194 runs short. To get past, Kohli will have to be the fourth most pro­lific run-scorer in the 30s. A troika of Sri Lankan bats­men— Sanath Jaya­suriya, Til­lakaratne Dil­shan and Ku­mar San­gakkara—have scored more than 8,000 ODI runs in their 30s. In ODIS, only 15 bats­men have scored more than 5,000 runs in their 30s, which says some­thing about the chal­lenges of longevity in the shorter ver- sion. Kohli is fit and hun­gry. But he’s also en­ter­ing the decade for bats­men that can be gen­er­ous when it re­wards and bru­tal when it pun­ishes.

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