On Monday when Virat Kohli let out a mighty roar after reaching his century in style with a six off Suranga Lakmal, he became only the second Indian batsmen to lay claim to 50 international centuries.
The current flag bearer of Indian cricket now lies exactly half-way behind the 100 tons registered by former stalwart and legend Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian skipper has managed to breach the landmark in 28 innings fewer than the ‘Master Blaster’, achieving the feat in 348 innings compared to Tendulkar’s 376.
The 29-year old has now become the joint quickest to the 50-century mark along with South Africa’s Hashim Amla. Long considered the heir apparent to Tendulkar’s everlasting legacy in Indian cricket, Kohli has more than justified the tag over the years with his ascendancy to being recognised as the best limited-overs batsman in the game currently.
Having recently turned 29, it is interesting to compare his career graph to his predecessor. While Kohli was a late bloomer in the Test-format after establishing himself, initially in India’s limited-overs squad, Tendulkar had already made his Test and ODI debuts at the tender age of 16.
Kohli was initiated into limited-overs cricket at the age of 20 and it was another three years before he would pull on the whites for India.
Despite Tendulkar being a teenage prodigy like no other, comparisons between the two remain inevitable and it is interesting to cast a glance at their track records.
At the time of turning 29, the former Indian batsman had already breached Sir Don Bradman’s record of 29 Test centuries while Monday’s century against Sri Lanka was only Kohli’s 18th in the format.
It is the Delhi-born Indian skipper though who rules the roost when it comes to the limited-overs format. Having already racked up 32 ODI tons, Kohli has one more than the Mumbai man at the same stage in their career despite having played 84 fewer innings.
The No.1 ranked one-day batsman’s staggering average of over 55 towers over Tendulkar’s 43.92 at the same stage though the latter’s Test credentials more than make up for it.
Kohli’s average of 49.55 (now 50.12) before turning 29 in Test cricket lies someway behind the record century-maker’s 58.72. Tendulkar had accumulated 18, 938 (427 innings) runs in international cricket at the same juncture while Kohli has 15, 631 himself in 345 innings.
A supremely gifted athlete, it is not outside the realms of possibility that Kohli can continue playing for India for another eight years at least considering Tendulkar himself hung up his boots at the age of 40.
Having hit a remarkable six ODI centuries in 2017 itself, it is not hard to imagine that the 29-year-old could muster another 25 in the 50-over format if he continues his impressive conversion rate by the time he calls time on his career. That would leave the highest paid cricketer in the world with another 25 or so to get in the longer format to have any chance of toppling Tendulkar’s century of international hundreds.
With the ICC’s Test Championship coming into effect from 2019, there will be no dearth of matches for the Indian skipper to continue making an indent in Tendulkar’s numbers in red-ball cricket.
Despite it sounding fairly doable on paper, it would still require Kohli to remain at the top of his game on a highly consistent basis until he retires to come close to breaking the once seemingly unattainable record.
It is not hard to envisage Kohli undergoing slight dips of form at some point in the future like Tendulkar himself had done in various phases of his career. The 44-year-old’s sheer longevity at the top has left Kohli with a huge mountain to climb.
Tendulkar’s 34,347 international runs might be a bridge too far for Kohli though the 100-ton barrier remains within reach. Though he himself has mentioned several times that he does not aspire to break his idol’s records, it would not be a foolish bet to back Kohli in doing the seemingly impossible.