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By Gulu Ezekiel
Records are meant to be broken is one of sport’s oldest adages. That may be of some comfort for Sachin Tendulkar after his ODI world record of 200 not out achieved in February 2010 was smashed by fellow-Indian Virender Sehwag at Indore last week.
Some sporting records though are well nigh impossible to eclipse. In cricket these include Australian batting legend Don Bradman’s career Test average of 99.94 and English off-spinner Jim Laker’s match analysis of 19 wickets for 90 runs against Australia at Old Trafford, Manchester in 1956.
In tennis no male player has achieved the Grand Slam—winning the four major titles in a calendar year—since Australian great Rod Laver in 1969. But Laver had achieved the feat seven years earlier as well. This makes his feat out of reach of any modern tennis pro.
Tendulkar however was the first to reach 200 runs in a single ODI innings and that achievement is his for all time, no matter how many others may follow him and Sehwag.
In track and field the four-minute mile barrier withstood all attempts to breach it for nearly 90 years since records began to be kept from the 1860’s.
Such were the myths that were built round it that some experts even began to believe that the human chest would not be able to withstand the pressures of that sort of speed and would simply explode! The barriers thus were both physical and as well as psychological. Roger Bannister knew better of course, being an ace athlete and a medical student as well. When he ran the metric mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds at Oxford in 1956, the barrier had finally fallen and the floodgates were opened. In the decades since, nearly 900 men--though no woman or Indian athlete— have gone under four minutes.
Conquering the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest was naturally an even bigger challenge and many had lost their lives attempting the ‘impossible’ till Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the breakthrough in 1953. The duo cleared the way for thousands since then, including numerous women and even those with physical challenges. Modern climbing equipment and modern running techniques as well as hi-tech shoes and artificial running tracks means the feats of Bannister, Hillary and Tenzing may appear common place today. But back in the 50s when sportspersons and adventurers had to make do with rudimentary gear, achievers like them attained almost mythical proportions.
Cricket has always been a batsman’s game. Now more so than ever with the advent of the Twenty-20 format. As a result equipment, the rules and playing conditions in cricket all tilt more and more in favour of the batsman. The bowler has to constantly strive to innovate and adapt in order to prevent being reduced to mere cannon fodder.
Advances in bat manufacturing means even mishits sail over the boundary ropes—which incidentally are being brought closer and closer in till international arenas today resemble school grounds. After all, everyone loves to see bowlers hammered for boundaries, don’t they?
Pitches, particularly in India are getting flatter and flatter, making life easier for our batsmen. No wonder our champions were found sorely wanting when they were trapped on the green tops in England this summer.
Modifications in rules today include the free-hit, fielding restrictions, power-plays and the curtailment of bouncers, the likes of which were unheard of in the early days of limited-overs cricket. And umpires are ever-more stringent in the application of wides. Totals over 400—the first such was in 2006—are no longer considered freakish. No wonder bowlers around the world are pushed to the brink of desperation.
So Sehwag should enjoy his record while he can. Chances are it won’t be long before someone re-writes it. No surprises though if Sehwag does it himself!