With the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Shiv Chanderpaul all due to retire from international test cricket in the near future, the question on many cricket lovers minds is; who will be the next generation of great test match batsmen?
Jayawardene, Chanderpaul and Sangakkara are six to eight respectively in the order of leading all time run scorers in test match cricket. Of the top five all-time leading run scorers, four have retired in the last two years, with the one exception being Brian Lara who retired in 2006. As many would be aware, Sachin Tendulkar is the all-time leading run scorer in test matches with 15,921 runs in 200 test matches. In positions two to five follow Ricky Ponting, Jaques Kallis, Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara.
With that in mind we must now look to the future, and consider who may be the current or potential future crop of great test match batsmen, and if in fact any will ever come close to scoring the vast amount of runs that Sachin Tendulkar managed to amass in his 200 test matches spanning a 24-year career.
In the modern day and age, cricketers now play more international cricket than ever with the recent introduction of T20 cricket to the international stage, and the increased number of one day internationals being played. On the flip side of this there are now less test matches played per year, meaning test batsmen now may not have the same opportunity to score the vast bulk of runs accumulated by Tendulkar.
Despite the fact that test cricket has a great deal of competition from the other formats in terms of entertainment value and spectators, it remains the pinnacle, and most challenging and rewarding or formats for the cricketing faithful. All that being said, who can we look at today as a great batsmen or potentially great batsmen?
The next batsmen in the list of leading run scorers in test cricket, to still be active today is Australian captain Michael Clarke. The 33-year-old batsmen who was fondly nicknamed ‘pup’ in his early days with the Australian test team has scored 8,240 runs in 105 matches, hitting 27 centuries along the way. Clarke’s highest score came in 2012 against India when he hit 329 not out, which was the fourth highest score by an Australian. In the same year he scored three further double centuries which helped cement his position as Australia test captain. Clarke may yet add to his tally, however be mindful that he is nearing the end of his test career.
One of Michael Clarke’s opposing captain’s Alastair Cook, is the next closest batsmen on the list with 8,092 runs in his 103 test match appearances. Alistair Cook holds the record as the youngest Englishmen to reach 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 runs, and is set to become England’s leading run scorer of all-time and first Englishmen to make 10,000 career test runs. At only 29-years of age, Cook may yet potentially make another 40-60 test match appearances, and if so should break into the top ten of all-time leading run scorers.
As you scroll down the list of the leading run scorers, the next two names to appear from the current crop of players, may come as a surprise to many, for very different reasons. 36-year-old Pakistan captain Younis Khan, despite a chequered career, including bans, fall-outs and numerous scandals, has amassed 7,399 in 89 matches, and was the third Pakistan batsmen to hit a triple hundred when he hit 313 against Sri Lanka in 2009. Khan however, has not played test cricket since 2013, and there remain doubts over his test career, and how many more opportunities he will have to add to his tally.
The other name on the list who is slightly surprising, due mostly to his reputation as a limited overs batsmen, is South African AB De Villiers. The 30-year-old wicket keeper batsman has scored 7,168 runs in 92 test matches. De Villiers, despite his age, appears to have the mind set and body of a man much younger than he is, and would feel confident of his place in the side for a number of years, and ability to make his way past 10,000 runs and possibly into the top ten of the list of all-time run scorers.
Beyond the current ‘semi-great’ batmen on show today, where may the future greats come from, as we look around the test match circuit today?
A man who has been backed by many, and even the great Sachin Tendulkar himself, is the 25-year-old Indian batsmen Virat Kohli. Kohli came onto the test scene in 2011, but struggled in his first series, away from home against the bowling of the West Indies. Kohli made his name however, in what was a dismal series for India, when he was their highest run scorer in the series against Australia in 2012. During that series he hit his maiden test century at Adelaide scoring 116. Kohli has scored 1,721 runs in 24 matches, and with his expressive, solid and determined personality, combined with an impressive technique looks set to score many more runs, in many more tests for his country.
Another impressive batsmen to come out of India, is Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara currently holds the highest test average of any batsmen currently playing today with a minimum of 20 innings. The 26-year-old has scored 1,650 runs at an average of 58.92 in just 19 test matches. Pujara has made a name for himself by batting stoutly and with little risk scoring double hundreds against both England and Australia, an achievement not even matched by the all-time leading run scorer Sachin Tendulkar.
Of the younger batsmen currently expressing themselves in the test arena, there are few to have made a real impression. Englishmen Joe Root however, is somewhat of an exception and in just 16 test matches has scored 1,155, and most notably scored a recent double century at Lords, in addition to the 180 he scored at the same ground in the Ashes series in 2013. Root who is 23-years-old has been tipped by English greats such as Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott, to be the next great English test batsmen, and up to now has proved to have such potential.
Another stand out performer of recent is 23-year-old Kiwi Kane Williamson. Williamson has played 31 test matches, and scored 1,964 runs. Whilst Williamson is not the most fluent, or flamboyant of batsmen, his recent form has been emphatic, scoring three centuries in his last four test matches. The most impressive aspect of the young Kiwi batsman’s game is his ability to dig in, concentrate and eke out the runs in tough conditions, which is set to stand him in good stead to score thousands more runs at the top of the innings for New Zealand over the next ten years or so.
Whether any of the current batting superstars do break into the list of all-time greats is yet to be seen, however, it is clear that test cricket is entering a new era, and we can conclude that the past 10-15 years have seen some of the greatest batsmen of all-time.
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