On September 8, Virat Kohli scored a century against Afghanistan, 1,021 days after his previous hundred. The long dry spell was often used as an example by his critics of a slump in his batting form, though his captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid pooh-poohed these claims.
“With Virat, people get a little bit obsessed with his statistics and his numbers. For us, it’s not really about that,” Dravid had said just days before Kohli’s recent century. In February, Sharma had defended Kohli saying his form was not a matter of concern for the team management. “It’s a different matter that he did get a hundred, but in the series against South Africa, he scored two half-centuries. I don’t think there is anything wrong,” he said.
No one knows better about prolonged spells of ‘century droughts’ than Sharma himself. After scoring two consecutive hundreds in 2010 — the first two centuries in his career — Sharma did not score another century for 1,235 days, which is over 200 days more than Kohli’s latest dry spell. Sharma also had another slump. His 14th century came over 500 days after his 13th century. However, he now holds 41 hundreds across formats.
Data show that even the game’s greats have struggled with such gaps between two centuries. Table 1 lists the widest gaps in terms of days between two consecutive centuries across all formats of the game among select batsmen. The table only lists the widest gap between two centuries in a batsman’s career. For instance, Sri Lanka’s ace batsman, Arjuna Ranatunga, scored his third century 2,340 days after his second. For the World Cup-winning former Australian captain Steve Waugh, the gap between his third and fourth century was 1,113 days. The table lists at least 23 other batsmen who have had a wider gap between two centuries than Kohli. The number of such players may actually be much higher as this is a conservative list, with players cherry-picked based on their career statistics.
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Table 2 lists the highest number of days that have passed between two centuries across all formats of the game among select Indian batsmen. For instance, Yuvraj Singh’s final hundred came 2,132 days after his penultimate century. Sunil Gavaskar took 1,150 days to score his fifth century. At least eleven Indian players — including former skippers M.S. Dhoni and Mohammad Azharuddin — had wider gaps between two hundreds in their careers than Kohli.
There are some interesting exceptions. The fabulous four — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman — did not have gaps that exceeded Kohli’s at any point of time in their careers. But even among them, there were times when the gap between two centuries exceeded 500 days.
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However, it is more important to note at what point of time in their careers these stalwarts had such ‘century droughts’. In the vertical axis, Graph 3 shows the number of days between two centuries among select batsmen. The higher the bar, the wider the gap between two hundreds. In the horizontal axis, the graph shows the number of centuries scored. For instance, Tendulkar scored 100 centuries and so there are 100 bars, while Kohli has 71 bars corresponding with his 71 hundreds.
The graph indicates that some players such as Matthew Hayden and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had the widest gaps in their early careers. Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd and Geoffrey Boycott had their widest gaps in the middle of their careers. And Allan Border’s widest gap was at the end of his career. Kohli can breathe easy, for he is in stellar company.
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