Scaling the Everest made easy

10,000 runs and 300 wickets aren't the benchmarks of excellence that they used to be.

Chanderpaul completed 10,000 Test runs this week. When Sunil Gavaskar became the first person to accumulate 10,000 career Test runs in 1987, Test cricket itself was 110 years old. Until Gavaskar realistically inched towards that threshold, the number had little significance to either a schoolboy cricketer or a Test player. It was something that only existed in a very abstract sense, perhaps how the Neanderthals saw the moon. Enter Neil Armstrong.

Before then, the measure for legendary status for a batsman with a long international career was 8,000 runs. And before that, it was 6,000. And 5,000 before that. Allan Border was the second to reach the mark six years later in 1993. A decade later in 2003, the floodgates opened and eight more batsmen now perch atop Test batting’s Everest. One is tempted to say it’s getting crowded. No England batsman has ever reached the mark, but barring injury, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook all appear destined to go to well beyond the mountaintop.

Someone somewhere might be tempted to think it time to raise the ceiling again. Clearly, the modern benefits of comfortable travel, coaching, strength, conditioning, nutrition, equipment, technology and the inescapable ubiquity of Test cricket has made the 10,000 run plateau obsolete. Clearly, a better yardstick for the modern game should be 12,000 runs. The current rate at which Test cricketers are knocking down the increasingly flimsy barrier to immortality means that in another 110 years, everyone who earns a Test cap will have finish their career with 10,000 Test runs.

Nothing proves that more than seeing the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul walk into the most exclusive of clubs. Compared to the other nine greats who took guard before him, Chanderpaul batted lowest in the order, often alongside a very long and unproductive tail. He did not need the most matches, innings or deliveries to reach the mark. Some might focus on the fact that he has the lowest average and fewest centuries out of the top ten run-getters, but that would be the assessment of a bean counter and not a cricket fan. Instead of asking how soon we will see another man reach the 10K mark, consider if we will ever see another Shiv.

One day the 10,000-run Test plateau will mean less than it does today. Maybe it is inevitable. 100 Test wickets now seems like a beginning, a mere promise. Even 200 Test wickets is a platform to greater things. 300 Test wickets is the first sign of fulfillment and accomplishment, when just 30 years ago, it was the culmination. Stratosphere has become a little exotic.

10,000 Test runs means less to us than it once did to our elders, and it will mean even less to our children. This is a sad, inescapable and tragic truth. But right here and now, it is still rarefied air, preserved for the most stubborn and productive, the most traveled and useful. One day, time will turn every record and achievement to dust, but that day is not today.

Welcome, Chanderpaul.

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Kunal Diwan, The Hat That Doesn't Fit

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