The way he is batting these days, Virat Kohli makes hundreds for breakfast. On November 20, he became only the eighth batsman in the history of the sport to reach 50 international hundreds. The next two innings he played in the ongoing test series against Sri Lanka, he added two more—that too double hundreds.
He is in imperious form. He is hungry to write and rewrite history. He has the focus. He has the fitness.
Still, the summit of hundreds, on whose perch Sachin Tendulkar sits alone by a long, long way is a long and arduous journey away. And, in order to reach there, Kohli will have to do things that most others who have tried to make that journey have failed to.
It comes down to a tale of two halves. These top centurions were more productive in the first half of their career than their second. All barring one, and we will come to this exception.
The graph below shows the age at which the top three centurions (Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Kumar Sangakkara) and two current players (Kohli and Hashim Amla) have scored their centuries.
Look at Tendulkar’s line (colored blue). It starts before everyone else’s: he debuted the youngest. It extends beyond everyone else: he played the longest. It rises the highest: he has the most hundreds. It is always above everyone else’s: at every age, Tendulkar had more hundreds.
Virat Kohli is 29 today. At that age, Tendulkar had 65 hundreds, 15 more than Kohli. Tendulkar played for nine more years, during which he amassed another 35 hundreds—a lower rate of accumulation. Similarly, Ricky Ponting, who finished with 71 hundreds, added 36 hundreds between the age of 29 and 37, when he retired.
The one exception to this was Kumar Sangakkara. He was a rare top batsman who became more prolific with age and went out in considerable style. Sangakkara played till the age of 37. And between 29 years and 37 years, he racked up 43 hundreds.
For Kohli to overhaul Tendulkar’s record of 100 hundreds, he will need to play as long as Tendulkar and do so with the accumulation prowess of a Sangakkara.