Records are set only to be broken goes the well known sporting adage. There was a time when Don Bradman’s 29 Test hundreds was thought to be unsurpassable. It did stand as the record for 35 years but at the moment Bradman is eleventh on the list of century makers.
When Sunil Gavaskar became the first batsman to break the 10,000-run barrier in Tests in 1987, everyone stood up to salute a figure that was reckoned to be unreachable. Twenty six years later Gavaskar is eleventh on the list of highest run getters.
It is the same with bowlers. When Freddie Trueman became the first to take 300 wickets in Tests it was regarded as a stupendous achievement. Speaking about the possibility of someone breaking his record, 'Fiery' Fred typically said "whoever does it will be bloody tired." In the half century since Trueman took his 300th wicket, the figure has gone past 400, 500, 600 and 700 with Muthiah Muralitharan at the top of the heap with a round 800 scalps.
Needless to say the proliferation of cricket has made the old records take a beating. Bradman played just 52 Tests and Trueman 67. The successful Test cricketers these days have the opportunity to play around 150 matches with Sachin Tendulkar just two short of the 200 mark. About the only record that will definitely stand the test of time is Bradman’s average of 99.94. No one will even come remotely close to it.
But any other mark particularly when it comes to tally of runs and wickets can be considered vulnerable though it is interesting to mention here that Bradman’s aggregate of 974 runs in a Test series set in 1930 has remained unbroken despite players having in some cases six Tests in a series instead of the five that Bradman played in. Similarly SF Barnes’ record of 49 wickets in a series still stands after 100 years though he played only four Tests.
There are some other records which even the most cautious gambler can bet will never be broken. Jim Laker’s 19 for 90 against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956 is one such. And even with the proliferation of Test cricket I will stick my neck out and predict that Tendulkar’s run tally - whatever his final figures are as he is still around - will never be broken at least by any current cricketer. For that matter I will make another prediction and say that no contemporary player will come anywhere close to his tally of 18,426 runs in ODIs.
I am moved to make these predictions in the light of Kevin Pietersen’s observation that Alastair Cook could go past Tendulkar’s tally in Tests which currently stands at 15,837. In a glowing tribute to the England captain Pietersen has said that "he will continue to get better and better and break every record anyone’s ever set and he is on target to go for Tendulkar’s numbers, if you look at the numbers and look at his age."
There is no denying the fact that Cook is already one of the modern greats. Since his century on debut against India in 2006 the left hander has gone from strength to strength. A combination of an impeccable technique, an insatiable appetite for runs and an unflappable temperament has seen Cook race to 7524 runs from 92 matches at an average of a shade less than 50.
Most important he already has the record of most number of centuries by an England cricketer in Tests. With 25 three figure knocks he has surpassed the long standing record of 22 standing against the names of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott. What’s even more significant is that he has figured in less matches than Cowdrey (114) and Boycott (108) while Hammond played 85 Tests.
Even as Tendulkar relentlessly piled on the runs in both Tests and ODIs, I became convinced that only a player who is yet to make his international debut could stand any chance of surpassing his incredible tallies. What made such predictions absolutely safe was the fact that he was still around. Well, Tendulkar retired from ODIs last year but is still playing Test cricket even if it is unlikely that he will be around for long after the tour of South Africa later this year.
It is interesting that Pietersen has made predictions only about Cook surpassing Tendulkar in Tests and not in ODIs. Actually he is well ahead of the field in both formats - some 2000 runs ahead of the retired Ricky Ponting in Tests and around 4500 runs ahead of Ponting in ODIs.
Among contemporary batsman theoretically Jacques Kallis has the best chance of overtaking Tendulkar. He is currently second among the active players’ list with 13,128 runs but of course the South African living legend is already almost 38 and the age factor is against him just as the age factor is in favour of Cook who is 28.
All things considered I will stick my neck out and contradict Pietersen’s prediction. Cook despite factors in his favour will not surpass Tendulkar’s run aggregate in Tests - and it will be beyond Kallis or any other contemporary cricketer. Simply put the Indian maestro is so far ahead of his contemporaries that no one realistically has a chance.
And of course the same goes for Tendulkar’s tally of hundreds either in Tests or ODIs. It is not that Tendulkar’s records will never be surpassed like Bradman’s 99.94 - arguably the single most famous figure in cricket. But if and when they are surpassed, it can only be achieved by someone in the very distant future.