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Cricket's Super-Six: Column by Suresh Menon
by Suresh Menon
Jan 26, 2009
When Fred Trueman was asked about the bowler who would overtake his then world Test record haul of 307 wickets, he said, "Whoever he is, he will be a bloody tired man." Trueman sent down just over 15,000 deliveries in a 13-year career.

There were no one-day internationals in his time. Muthiah Muralitharan, current holder of the record with 769 wickets has bowled over 41,000 deliveries, the most by any bowler. In the shorter version, he has bowled over 17,000. Murali shows no signs of being tired, leave alone being bloody tired. He will soon overtake Akram as the leading wicket taker in one-day internationals where he recently claimed his 500th wicket.

The modern cricketer, if he hopes to be regarded as an all-time great has necessarily to have an all-round record, equally impressive in Tests as well as one-dayers. The greats of the next generation will probably have to show the figures to go with the claim in three forms of the game, including Twenty20.

Only four batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid - have made over ten thousand runs in both forms of the game. Of the ten bowlers who have 400-plus wickets in Tests, only two - Muralitharan and Akram - have them in one-dayers too. That four of this 'super six' are still playing suggests that this is probably the best time to be a spectator.

Ponting turned 34 in December while Dravid blew out 36 candles on his birthday cake earlier this month. Tendulkar is 36 in April, a week before Muralitharan turns 37.

Tendulkar made his debut two decades ago as a 16-year-old who couldn't think beyond cricket. Today he is a national icon, a businessman, a successful model, a philanthropist, father of two young children, and cricket still takes up the greater portion of his waking hours. Watch him on the field. He is as excited, as committed, as focused as he was 20 years ago.

Or watch Muralitharan, eyes glinting, a half-smile on his face, the body language combative at all times, sending down his 42,000th delivery with the same enthusiasm as his first ten thousand all those years ago.

What makes these people special? What keeps them motivated after every peak has been climbed, every obstacle overcome? It is easy to believe that scoring yet another century would be for Tendulkar, like mountain-climbing after the Everest. Yet they do it. A Dravid bats through a phase where nothing goes right, where his greatest supporters look away in embarrassment and say gently - for Dravid is a gentle man - that he looks past it. Yet he shows up everybody by making a Test match century. A Ponting, written off as both batsman and captain nearly makes a century in each innings against South Africa.

How do they do it? How many of us have worked in the same office for 20 years, and done the same things on auto pilot? Another day in the bank, another month selling computers, another year thinking up advertising slogans and we are ready to scream. But at least the rest of us do it away from public gaze; our mistakes are discussed in a closed circle, we might just miss out on a salary increment or a bonus, and soon it will be forgotten. But these players have to deal with living their professional lives on the front pages of newspapers, their every move dissected and discussed on television.

Greatness is a function of longevity and of the ability to take pressure. Muralitharan's 500th wicket hardly caused comment. There was an inevitability about it. Perhaps their greatness lies in the fact that the super six believed that there was an inevitability about their getting to where they have, scoring runs or taking wickets.
 
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