When England captain Colin Cowdrey walked out to toss with his Australian counterpart Bill Lawry at Edgbaston almost half a century ago (in 1968) he became the first man in the history of cricket to play in 100 Test matches. Cowdrey made that occasion a memorable one by scoring a century.
On June 25 when Younis Khan plays his 100th Test for Pakistan against Sri Lanka probably at the P Sara Oval, Colombo his achievement is sure not to be ignored, but there is no doubt the milestone has less significance today than it had when Cowdrey reached his century 47 years ago.
The welter of Test cricket played since Kerry Packer has changed the face of the game and given modern-day players far more opportunities to assemble impressive statistics. Prior to the 21st century only 18 players had appeared in 100 Tests or more, but since 2000, there has been a staggering 43 players. The last player to cross this milestone was England fast bowler Jimmy Anderson who became the 61st cricketer to play in 100 Tests in the match against the West Indies at Antigua in April this year.
Australian, Syd Gregory, became the first player to represent his country 50 times, and that was nearly 20 years after his debut. In 1959 England wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans was the first to appear in 90 Tests.
The World War denied players like England’s Wally Hammond, Denis Compton and Len Hutton their centuries. Donald Bradman, the greatest of all batsmen in the history of the game represented Australia only 52 times over a period of 11 years, a figure he would have come close to trebling had he been born five decades later. Jack Hobbs, who opened for England for 17 years, would have played 180 or so Tests instead of his modest 61.
A sense of perspective comes from projecting how many caps those venerables might have earned if there was as much Test cricket played in their days as there is today. There are modern batsmen with half the talent, some complain, who have been honoured just as frequently.
But none can deny or detract an achievement of rare worth. Being selected 100 times means being subjected to the whims of 100 selection meetings. For another, the gasping international programme conspires against longevity as never before. To win 100 Test caps thus requires the utmost in skill, dependability and durability.
Ricky Ponting the former Australian captain performed a rare feat by scoring a century in each innings of his 100th Test (120 and 143 n.o.) against South Africa at Sydney in 2006. Cowdrey also achieved a unique double for he also scored his 100th first-class hundred in his 100th Test.
The extent of Sachin Tendulkar’s staying power is demonstrated by the time he has spent serving his country. He has played a total of roughly 1000 days of Test cricket. Throw in a dozen or so washouts and 463 ODIs and you can calculate that he has spent nearly four years of his life representing India.
On a lesser scale when former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene retired from all forms of cricket at the end of the 2015 World Cup he had spent nearly three and a half years of his life playing for his country.
“Whoever beats my record is going to be bloody tired,” observed former England fast bowler Fred Trueman after claiming his 300th Test wicket. Whoever beats Tendulkar’s will be absolutely knackered.
England lead the list of cricketers who have appeared in 100 or more Test matches for their country with 13 followed by Australia with 12. The full list is:
Alec Stewart 133, Graham Gooch 118, David Gower 117, Michael Atherton 115, Alastair Cook 114, Colin Cowdrey 114, Ian Bell 110, Geoff Boycott 108, James Anderson 104, Kevin Pietersen 104, Ian Botham 102, Alec Stewart 100, Graham Thorpe 100.
Ricky Ponting 168, Steve Waugh 168, Allan Border 156, Shane Warne 145, Mark Waugh 128, Glenn McGrath 124, Ian Healy 119, Michael Clarke 110, David Boon 107, Justin Langer 105, Mark Taylor 104, Mathew Hayden 103.
Sachin Tendulkar 200, Rahul Dravid 164, Venkata Laxman 134, Anil Kumble 132, Kapil Dev 131, Sunil Gavaskar 125, Dilip Vengsarkar 116, Sourav Ganguly 113, Virender Sehwag 104, Harbhajan Singh 102.
West Indies (9):
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 164, Courtney Walsh 132, Brian Lara 131, Viv Richards 121, Desmond Haynes 116, Clive Lloyd 110, Gordon Greenidge 108, Chris Gayle 103, Carl Hooper 102.
South Africa (6):
Jacques Kallis 166, Mark Boucher 147, Graeme Smith 117, Shaun Pollock 108, Gary Kirsten 101, Makhaya Ntini 101.
Sri Lanka (5):
Mahela Jayawardene 149, Muthiah Muralitharan 133, Kumar Sangakkara 131, Chaminda Vaas 111, Sanath Jayasuriya 110.
Javed Miandad 124, Inzamam-ul-Haq 120, Wasim Akram 104, Salim Malik 103.
New Zealand (2):
Daniel Vettori 113, Stephen Fleming 111.