Virat Kohli: The sky, and perhaps Sachin Tendulkar, are the only limits

The rate at which Virat Kohli is scoring hundreds, he is likely to emerge as the top run-getter and century maker in ODIs © Getty Images

With his century at Harare, Virat Kohli has moved up to number 17 in the list of all-time ODI hundred makers. And he is not yet 25! Arunabha Sengupta tries to find out how soon he can go past the leading century makers and run-getters to head the respective lists.

The 108 ball 115 scored by Virat Kohli against Zimbabwe in Harare on Wednesday was his 15th hundred in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). It is indeed remarkable when one reflects that his career has spanned just about five years. The first time he had donned the Indian colours was against Sri Lanka at Dambulla in August 2008.

The century now places him at the 17th position in the all-time list, bringing him abreast with Mohammad Yousuf and compatriot Virender Sehwag. He has pulled ahead of the man who may be a close competitor in the next few years — AB de Villiers. However, Kohli has age strongly on his side, with the South African almost half a decade older.

Given that Kohli is not yet 25, the feats that can be extrapolated as possible accomplishments in his career are truly mindboggling. If we take five centuries as the qualification criteria, he currently scores hundreds more frequently than any batsman in ODI history bar, Hashim Amla. If he manages to maintain this rate of scoring runs and hundreds, there is a distinct possibility that with time both these records will be in his bag. Amla can give him stiff competition, but again Kohli has the benefit of the years. The classy South African is already 30.
In this article we try to find out exactly where he stands in terms of runs and centuries and how long it should take him to end up on the top of the world in both respects if he maintains his phenomenal run. The assumption that we have made is that ODIs will be played in the same frequency over the next dozen or so years.
None of the 16 men with more hundreds than Kohli have a higher frequency of scoring centuries than the Indian youngster.

Table 1: The ODI hundred leader board; Kohli takes far less number of innings per 100

Batsman M I Runs Ave 100s Inn/100
SR Tendulkar (India) 463 452 18426 44.83 49 9.22
RT Ponting (Aus/ICC) 375 365 13704 42.03 30 12.17
ST Jayasuriya (Asia/SL) 445 433 13430 32.36 28 15.46
SC Ganguly (Asia/India) 311 300 11363 41.02 22 13.64
CH Gayle (ICC/WI) 254 249 8743 37.68 21 11.86
HH Gibbs (SA) 248 240 8094 36.13 21 11.43
Saeed Anwar (Pak) 247 244 8824 39.21 20 12.2
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 299 289 10405 40.48 19 15.21
ME Waugh (Aus) 244 236 8500 39.35 18 13.11
DL Haynes (WI) 238 237 8648 41.37 17 13.94
JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) 321 307 11498 45.26 17 18.06
NJ Astle (NZ) 223 217 7090 34.92 16 13.56
TM Dilshan (SL) 264 239 7423 36.74 16 14.94
AC Gilchrist (Aus/ICC) 287 279 9619 35.89 16 17.44
DPMD Jayawardene (Asia/SL) 402 376 11318 33.48 16 23.5
KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) 351 328 11632 39.69 16 20.5
V Kohli (India) 109 106 4493 49.37 15 7.07

Sachin Tendulkar remains closest with 9.22 innings per hundred. However, we may do well to remember that Tendulkar scored his first hundred only in his 79th ODI. He found his niche as an ODI batsman on being promoted to open the innings at Auckland in March 1994. If we consider his career from that precise moment, he does manage a better rate than Kohli for the rest of his career.

Table 2: Kohli compared to the post Auckland 1994 Tendulkar

Batsman M I Runs Ave 100s Inn/100
Sachin Tendulkar from Auckland 1994 394 386 16668 47.08 49 7.88
Virat Kohli  109 106 4493 49.37 15 7.07

Among the all-time list of century scorers, Kohli is next only to Amla in his rate of getting 100s. The following table lists the top 12 in terms of frequency of hundreds, taking 10 hundreds as the cut off. As we can see, Amla’s rate in the 74 matches he has played is better than even the post 1994 Sachin Tendulkar.

Table 3: All-time list of players with minimum innings per century
(Min. Qualification 10 hundreds)

Batsman M I Runs Ave 100s Inn/100
HM Amla (SA) 74 71 3580 55.07 11 6.45
V Kohli (India) 109 106 4493 49.37 15 7.07
SR Tendulkar (India) 463 452 18426 44.83 49 9.22
AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 145 139 5715 49.26 14 9.93
ME Trescothick (Eng) 123 122 4335 37.37 12 10.17
HH Gibbs (SA) 248 240 8094 36.13 21 11.43
CG Greenidge (WI) 128 127 5134 45.03 11 11.55
CH Gayle (ICC/WI) 254 249 8743 37.68 21 11.86
RT Ponting (Aus/ICC) 375 365 13704 42.03 30 12.17
Saeed Anwar (Pak) 247 244 8824 39.21 20 12.2
WU Tharanga (Asia/SL) 169 162 5223 34.13 13 12.46
G Gambhir (India) 147 143 5238 39.68 11 13

With Kohli’s supreme rate of scoring hundreds apparent from the above tables, let us look at when we can expect him to catch up with the members on the leader board. As explained earlier, we will assume that he will maintain the same rate of scoring for some years to come.
From the following table it seems Kohli will be ahead of most of the field within the next two years. By the time he is 27, he should be among the top four. And before he is 30, he should be ahead of all but Tendulkar. One can surely expect him to carry on in the same for the next five years — a period which is considered to be the most productive for batsmen.
However, after that, the rest of the path to the top will remain a long haul. Tendulkar is far ahead of the field. After going past the rest, it should take more than six additional years to draw level the master. It remains to be seen whether Kohli is able to maintain the same level of performance at 36. But, then, going past Tendulkar requires one to do something extraordinary.

Table 4: Probable time frame by which Kohli should catch up with the top ODI century makers

ODI century leader board Estimated for Kohli to catch up
Batsman 100s Additional innings Required Time Probable age
NJ Astle (NZ) 16 7 4 months 25
TM Dilshan (SL) ** 16 7 4 months 25
AC Gilchrist (Aus/ICC) 16 7 4 months 25
DPMD Jayawardene (Asia/SL) ** 16 7 4 months 25
KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL) ** 16 7 4 months 25
DL Haynes (WI) 17 14 8 months 25
JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) ** 17 14 8 months 25
ME Waugh (Aus) 18 21 1 year 25
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 19 28 1 year 4 months 26
Saeed Anwar (Pak) 20 35 1 year 8 months 26
CH Gayle (ICC/WI) ** 21 42 2 years 26
HH Gibbs (SA) 21 42 2 years 26
SC Ganguly (Asia/India) 22 49-50 2 year 3 months 27
ST Jayasuriya (Asia/SL) 28 92 4 year 3 months 29
RT Ponting (Aus/ICC) 30 106 5 years 29
SR Tendulkar (India) 49 240 11 years 4 months 36

** For Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Jacques Kallis and Chris Gayle the current number of hundreds have been considered. These present players can obviously score more centuries. But, given their current ages and the rate at which they have scored centuries through their respective careers, it is difficult to see them going much beyond Sanath Jayasuriya and Ricky Ponting. Hence, the assertion that Kohli will go past all but Tendulkar before 30 still remains a pretty robust one.

Kohli has also amassed 4493 runs at 49.17 in his five years of playing ODIs. It does raise the question about the possibilities of his going past the leading run scorers in this format.
Let us carry out the same exercise as we did for the centuries and see when, how and whether Kohli is likely to go past the top ten in the ODI aggregate table.
The path to overhaul the run scorers is a bit steeper. Kohli does not seem likely to run away from the rest of the field while in his twenties as he threatens to do for the centuries. However, if he can continue to maintain his prolific run-making for the next few years, there is a good chance of going past most by the age of 31. The tallies of Jayasuriya and Ponting may take a bit longer to overtake. 
Again, Sangakkara may amass a few more thousands, but it does seem that by the time Kohli is 33, he can indeed go beyond the rest of the field. Given his unquestionable class, it is quite reasonable to assume that he will continue to pile on the runs for the next ten years.
But, getting to the summit is again a backbreaking affair. The gap between the rest of the batsmen and Sachin Tendulkar remains a huge one and Kohli will need to keep playing with the same consistency till he is over 38.
Tough ask yet again. But, then, as mentioned earlier, going past Sachin Tendulkar is never quite a cakewalk.

Table 5: Probable time frame by which Kohli should catch up with the top ODI run makers

ODI Aggregate Leader Board Estimated for Kohli to catch up
Batsman Runs Ave Additional Innings Required Time Probable age
BC Lara (ICC/WI) 10405 40.48 120 5 year 8 months 30
R Dravid (Asia/ICC/India) 10889 39.16 130 6 year 1 month 30
DPMD Jayawardene (Asia/SL) 11318 33.48 138 6 year 6 months 31
SC Ganguly (Asia/India) 11363 41.02 139 6 year 7 months 31
JH Kallis (Afr/ICC/SA) 11498 45.26 142 6 year 8 month 31
KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL)** 11632 39.69 145 6 year 10 months 31
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Asia/Pak) 11739 39.52 147 6 year 11 months 31
ST Jayasuriya (Asia/SL) 13430 32.36 181 8 year 6 months 33
RT Ponting (Aus/ICC) 13704 42.03 187 8 year 10 months 33
SR Tendulkar (India) 18426 44.83 282 13 year 4 months 38

** Sangakkara may still score many more runs, but it is unlikely that he will go too far beyond Ponting.
Only time will tell whether whatever has been projected here will come true or not. However, there is every reason to believe that plenty of ODI records will continue to fall before the flashing blade of this young Indian batsman.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at