On This Day: When Allan surpassed the 'Sunny' Border

On February 26, 1993, Allan Border went past Sunil Gavaskar, scoring the most number of runs. Here's rewinding an appreciation piece on both the legends.

The two 10,000 men, Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar, like their long distance cousins on the athletics track, made it seem as if they were not only battling the bowlers but also their own luck.   -  The Hindu Archives

Milestones are there to be passed. It is a sign of progress that record books have to be rewritten every time a cricketer erases an old mark. Allan Robert Border is such a realist that he has said already he is leaving a mark he is sure someone else will cross one day. Records are not indelible and the thrill of achievement lies in creating new ones. This is the pride that achievers like Border feel.

Sunil Gavaskar was a pioneer who blazed a trail none had set before. The mark of 10,000 was a magical figure then. The Indian got there and made 122 more before leaving the benchmark for great Test batsmen. Border has got past that and looks likely to make a few more before he hands in his contract to the Australian Cricket Board. Some day another batsman close enough to 40 years in age will pass the Border mark. Maybe, Sachin Tendulkar will be the one to crack the figure unless Javed Miandad can hang in long enough to leave a higher mark for the new generation of Test batsmen headed by the teen-aged Tendulkar.

Full coverage on Border's feat (Sportstar, 1993)

It was a wondrous thing in the old days when Freddie Trueman crossed the 300-Test wickets mark. Now, 400 is a figure two bowlers have crossed already and represents a mark that other young bowlers, say Waqar Younis, of today will get to. The game has progressed that far; also cricketers are playing at such an increased frequency that old marks are certain to tumble from just the statistical probability of there being far more international cricket in the most modern era. With a typical Yorkshire burr, Trueman had said that whoever crossed his 307 would be a very tired man.

The batsmen are, somehow, luckier. They need not necessarily be very weary men even if they have covered a few hundred miles between creases in running their singles though the chances are that if they are the outstanding batsmen in weak sides they are more likely to be mentally exhausted men by the time they get to such famous landmarks.

After 15 seasons in the international game. Border must certainly feel the strain. First comes the task of establishing oneself and then the ensuing addition of responsibility as in the captaincy which is always likely to be given to the leading batsman of the side. To endure all that and defy age and form and get beyond 10,000 Test runs and then go further to set new record s constitute a workload that would have bent men of lesser will power . If there is one thin g that distinguishes the record breaker s from the pack, it is in their will power to go on regardless of various negative factor s that can creep into any career. Gavaskar gave up his career when he found concentrating on the field too tough.

Considering he had not aged much and did not look his 38 year s when he retired, Gavaskar could have batted on for a couple of more seasons but he just could not keep his mind on fielding. He thought his age told not so much in fielding as in his ability to concentrate. What is it that empowers some like Gavaskar and Border to go on for so long while many others have quit almost in their prime when records looked within their grasp? There is an unyielding quality to such men who can endure the tensions of the international game and in fact, even seem to thrive on it. A single-mindedness can often be a form of selfishness. Batsmen like Geoff Boycott had it. He would surely have gone on for longer if no t for abandoning the tour of India mid-way and plotting a rebel tour of South Africa. Border could not afford to be just a batsman who looks after the interests of his own career.

Allan Border led Australia out of a trough and back to somewhere near the top of the Test standings.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


He led Australia out of a trough and back to somewhere near the top of the Test standings. Such a man could hardly be termed selfish. In the early days of his captaincy he did not have to worry about his own form since he stood, head and shoulders, above the rest of his team. But when his own form took a beating under the cares of captaincy, Border plugged on knowing that some day he could swing hi s form around. It was a matter of time and of patience of which Border had loads.

The revival of Australian cricket was a greater cause to work for and few have done as much as Border to make the resurgence possible. Having been thrown into the deepen d of Test cricket just three weeks after a maiden first class century for New South Wales, Border would have had few illusions of grandeur as he batted for Australia in an Ashes series at the height of the Packer divide. He was not such an outstanding performer in Shield cricket that he could walk into a full strength Australian batting lineup. But such blooding may have helped toughen the stocky New South Welshman who after being dropped for the last Test of that series bounced back to play 15 Tests in a mere 28 weeks in 1979-80 in which he established beyond doubt his usefulness to the side. Only his worst critics could pick on him for his readiness to place effectiveness over style.

There have certainly been many lefthanders with far more flourish but few have shown the same grit, especially over such a long period. "Test cricket is a hard yakka." he is inclined to say often. But that is exactly what cricket has always been for Border — a hard grind. His forte lay in the reliability he had built up so quickly that by the age of 30 he was close enough to 6,000 Test runs but the sky was the limit for the southpaw with the big appetite for runs. It was said then that Border could double his Test aggregate in the next ten years since the average career expectancy of cricketers had also gone up. But between the Faisalabad Test of 1988 and a Colombo Test of 1992.

Border had not made a century for himself though he kept his batting average pegged above the half century mark which is the minimum measure of greatness of Test batsmen. In that period it would have been too important for Border to sustain what history will acknowledge as the age of revival of Australian cricket. Border's character is such he would have been pleased not to bother overmuch about his failure to get in the big Test innings. His batting has always been so .geared to team priorities that an innings dug out in the face of adversity in the rescue of his team brought him far more pleasure than easy runs gathered out of a non-competitive environment.

Many of the runs that Border and Gavaskar made, they were forced to eke out while running a virtually lonely battle against opposing pace bowlers.   -  M. VEDHAN


Speaking of competitiveness. Border has been the very personification of it on the field, while off the field he has always maintained an easy cordiality with everyone connected with the game. It always hurt him that the media made more of events flowing from the needle atmosphere in the middle. He could never understand why when rival cricketers were able to forget incidents almost as soon as they happened, the print media should dwell on them so much as to keep controversy in the public eye.

The rest of the cricket world may not always have seen things in the Border way but many teams have also shown an equal willingness to let the misunderstandings and shows of temper on the field be confined to the competitve sector of the game. After all. Border did not invent sledging, nor has he been the instigator of aggro as Javed Miandad can so often be. And to share a beer with mates and fellow cricketers irrespective of the needle on the field has been the great Australian tradition. Having grown up in the atmosphere of playing the game the very hard way thanks to the Chappells and the fighters like Dennis Lillee whom they led, Border himself has not been free of the 'Ugly Aussie' image.

At the end of a long career, Border would, however, like to be remembered for what he achieved as a batsman and as a captain rather than for the role he had to play as the skipper of a team that appeared to feed on aggression. The nearly unique spirit of competitiveness that has been a feature of Australian cricket through the good days and the bad may have helped the adopted Queenslander guide his team as well as his own career past the depression of the mid-80's when all Aussies agonised over the failure of their heroes of the sporting summers. As Gavaskar said pointedly in his missive to the Australian on his reaching the 10.000-run mark, a lack of socalled flair for strokeplay was not as much of a handicap as people may have believed.

The shots that the two leading rungetters of the world did not play are probably to be seen in their aggregate. The 'Mr.Reliables' of cricket did not build a bank of runs by giving all and sundry a chance to get their wicket. Perhaps, this ability to make their wicket very, very dear to the opposition, particularly when the flak is thick and the going tough, is the key to their greatness. Such an ability can come only from fierce competitiveness. The Border-Gavaskar marks will be erased but only by batsmen who can boast of a similar ability to stand up to the 'hard yakka' that Test cricket inevitably is. Also, such men would need some consistent luck to get past the normal fluctuations.

The two 10,000 men, like their long distance cousins on the athletics track, made it seem as if they were not only battling the bowlers but also their own luck. Many of the runs that Border and Gavaskar made, they were forced to eke out while running a virtually lonely battle against opposing pace bowlers. It is their luck that they were always conscientious enough to be able to achieve this. All things considered, maybe, it is their conscientiousness that carried them so far.

(The piece was published in The Sportstar on March 13, 1993)