For long it was the insurmountable target for batsmen the world over. Even with the proliferation of Test cricket the 10,000-run mark eluded the greatest of batsmen. Gary Sobers was the first to get past the 8000-run mark and a few years later Geoff Boycott surpassed his aggregate though by that time he had played over 100 Tests (Sobers had figured in 93) but even though by that time a few players crossed the three figure mark it appeared that 8000 plus runs was the batting Mount Everest.
It was Sunil Gavaskar who first raised hopes of a batsmen crossing the magical five figure mark. First, in November 1983 he went past Boycott’s record aggregate of 8114 runs. Two years later in Australia he became the first to get to 9,000 runs. By this time he had played well over 100 Tests but was already 36 and obviously could not carry on much longer.
Playing a number of matches during the 1986-87 period helped even as Gavaskar’s hunger for success as well as his appetite for runs remained insatiable. Moreover once he crossed 9,500 runs it was clear that 10,000 was well within his reach.
And finally amidst scenes of much jubilation he did in fact get there against Pakistan at Ahmedabad in March 1987. Trust Gavaskar to come up with just the perfect quote to mark the occasion. "Many more might get there but the one who reaches there first is remembered most."
Gavaskar could not have put it more quaintly. We all remember the first men atop Mount Everest but does anyone recall the names of the 14th or 15th mountaineers who conquered it? At that time even with players getting the opportunity to play more and more Test matches, topping the 10,000-run mark still appeared to be difficult.
And indeed Gavaskar was the only one atop the peak till Allan Border joined him in early 1993. It was only a matter of time before Border went past Gavaskar – albeit in more Tests – and became the first to get to 11,000 runs before finally retiring in 1994 with a record aggregate of 11,174 runs.
Gavaskar had played 125 Tests and Border 156. By now playing around 150 matches was not uncommon which meant that there were opportunities for batsmen to get to the five figure mark. They still had to be good enough – and fit enough - even if by the advent of the new millennium 10,000 runs though still a formidable figure ceased to be magical.
Steve Waugh who played 168 Tests was the third to reach the mark and by now it was clear that it was only a matter of time before Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar joined the elite group. The West Indian great was the first to get there and a little later the Indian legend joined him. In 2005 Lara went past Border’s record aggregate and two years later when he retired he finished tantalizingly short of 12,000 runs.
It was left to Tendulkar to be the first to reach this mark and while he continued to amass runs and be the first to reach 13,000, 14,000 and 15,000 runs by the end of the first decade of the new millennium he was joined in the 10,000 club by Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis.
Suddenly Gavaskar was pushed down to eighth in the list and very soon it became ninth when Mahela Jayawardene went past 10,122 runs. Now with Shivnarine Chanderpaul the latest entrant to the list and with Kumar Sangakkara within striking distance of the five figure mark it is only a matter of time before Gavaskar will be out of the top ten run getters. And to think that at the time he was the first to cross 10,000 runs it was thought to be an insurmountable barrier.
While playing in more and more Tests certainly has helped batsmen score over 10,000 runs it must be remembered that there are many who have played about 200 innings but have fallen short of the mark. These include Graham Gooch, David Gower, Mark Waugh, VVS Laxman, Javed Miandad and Inzamam ul Haq.
Also the most striking aspect of the elite 10,000 run group is the fact that all of them have an average of 50 plus – the true mark of greatness. It is also a tribute to their skill, fitness and durability.