Back in the old days, when cricket was still a young sport, boundaries did not mean much. If the batsman hit the ball onto the road outside, endangering any cows or horses that might happen to be there, striker and non-striker would frantically run up and down the 22 yards, racking up as high a score as possible before the fielding side retrieved the ball. Hence the term “runs”. But with the revolutionary introduction of boundary lines and fours and sixes, batsmen have been taking it easy ever since.
Today, we are looking not at the number of times batsmen have cleared the boundary, but at the distance they have actually, literally run in their cricketing careers. 22 yards is an iconic figure in the world and history of cricket, but very rarely has it been translated into the legwork put in by batters over the years.
1 run is 22 yards, 66 feet, 792 inches or approximately 9.3 Mohammad Irfans. This is quite a distance to run. Sneaking a quick double requires running a little over 40 metres, with one u-turn, while wearing helmet, pads, gloves, arm guard, hip guard, thigh guard and chest guard, not to mention an awkwardly placed box, and carrying about three pounds of willow. That is hard work.
And even with all this, people doubt the athleticism of fine sportsmen like Inzamam-ul-Haq.
So who has run the longest distance in their batting careers? Who has done the most marathons in their time in the middle? Who has filled each unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run? The answers may surprise you.
(Note: we should clarify that these figures refer to the distance that players have run for their own runs. It does not take into account the amount they have run while they were at the non-striker's end. Which just serves to remind us that all of these players are professional atheletes. Increases your respect for Inzy, doesn't it?)
Overall Running between the wickets (in kilometres and metres per innings)
The all time chart, including Tests, ODIs and T20 Internationals, is not so different from the top run scorers of all time.
The only difference is that Sanath Jayasuriya, not known for his lack of boundaries, has run less than Steve Waugh. The other significant person on that list is none other than the one and only Inzamam-ul-Haq.
His Majesty from Multan, famous for his tendency to get run out, has run over 223 kilometres in his illustrious career. More than five marathons in the middle. His closest countrymate is Javed Miandad, who is about 9 kilometres behind him on 214 kms. Younis Khan, the longest runner among active players, is a good 29 km behind Inzy. Good luck running that, Younis.
Only 2 players have run over 300 kms. Sachin Tendulkar and Kumar Sangakkara have, over 24 and 15 years, run 331 km and 301 km respectively. That is staggering. That is over 15,000 times they have gone from one crease to another. What is notable about Sachin in this aspect is that in the top 10, he is the only player who has scored more runs from boundaries than by running, along with Brian Lara.
If we look at it in terms of marathons, Border, Miandad, Lara, Inzy, Steve Waugh and Chanderpaul (the limpet who did leave his crease to run) have all run over 5 marathons, but fallen short of 6, while Dravid, Kallis and Jayawardene crossed 6 but fell short of Tendulkar, Sangakkara and Ponting, who have done more than 7 each, with Tendulkar falling 5 km short of 8 marathons. (Honourable mention: Mark Waugh, AKA the twin who scored more centuries and more fifties, but fewer runs, is in the unique position of being the only player to run 200 km, but not make the 5-marathon mark)
You would think that Test matches, with the policy of slow and steady accumulation, have seen people running longer distances than ODIs. Tendulkar ran almost 185 km in ODIs, compared to 146 km in Tests. Inzamam really comes into his own in ODIs, running 140 km, which were unfortunately accompanied by 40 run outs, compared to just 83 km and 6 run outs in Tests.
Test Running between the wickets (in kilometres and metres per innings)
Chanderpaul, Steve Waugh, Border and Gavaskar from the Top 10 Test tally are replaced by Inzamam, Azharuddin, Mohammad Yousuf and Aravinda de Silva in the ODI tally. Sangakkara and Jayawardene move up the table with 164 km and 155 km under their belts respectively, while Dravid’s 137 km in ODIs are almost matched by his 131 km in Tests.
ODI Running between the wickets (in kilometres and metres per innings)
In T20Is, unsurprisingly, the distances are rather smaller. Brendon McCullum, the only player with 2 T20I centuries, leads the way with 16 km, just 5 short of a half marathon. Apart from him, only 15 players have run over 10 km. JP Duminy and Umar Akamal follow with 15 km and 14 km respectively.
T20I Running between the wickets (in kilometres and metres per innings)
Only 2 players are in the top 10 of Test, ODI and T20I runners: Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Sri Lanka’s middle order masters showcase their adaptability (and fortunate timing), and display their long distance talents across all formats.
To make things more interesting, and give a chance to players who have not racked up an enormous number of runs, we have also considered who has run the most per innings on average. That tells a completely different tale.
By this measure, Tendulkar runs just 424 metres per innings (mpi). In the overall table, Kallis leads, running 463 mpi, followed by Sangakkara with a brisk 453 mpi. Of the top 10, Jayawardene seems to be the laziest with just 395 mpi, lagging behind Inzamam with 406 mpi.
Looking at T20Is, with a qualification of at least 25 innings played, Virat Kohli tops the charts with a comparatively staggering 326 mpi, followed by Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen with 286 mpi and 284 mpi respectively. Older fighters Sangakkara and Misbah-ul-Haq keep JP Duminy company at about 267 mpi.
T20I (At least 25 innings) Distance run per innings (in metres per innings)
In ODIs, among players with at least 50 innings, Jonathan Trott leads the way in the stamina race, with 600 mpi. Closest behind him is Hashim Amla with 551 mpi. The older generation make their presence felt with Zaheer Abbas and Geoff Marsh in hot pursuit, with 533 mpi and 528 mpi. 2015’s leading ODI run scorer, Kane Williamson, slides in at 502 mpi. Virat Kohli and Joe Root follow him at 491 mpi and 481 mpi.
ODI (At least 50 innings) Distance run per innings (in metres per innings)
Finally, the top Test mpi shows that modern cricket really has become all about the boundaries. With a qualification of at least 50 innings, the highest currently active Test match player is Younis Khan with 522 mpi. Just above him is the recently retired Sangakkara with 529 mpi. The next active players are Joe Root, Azhar Ali and Kane Williamson with 512 mpi, 507 mpi and 500 mpi.
The hardest running Test player of all time is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Sir Donald Bradman. The Don is far and away the leader, running a staggering 1065 mpi. That’s a kilometre per innings. Most modern day players manage only about half of that. Truly astonishing.
Following him is the famous duo of Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs with 846 mpi and 808 mpi respectively. Two of the famous 3 W’s of the West Indies make it into the top 10: Everton Weekes with 774 mpi and Clyde Walcott with 746 mpi. The 3rd W, after whom the trophy was named, Sir Frank Worrell, is further down with 605 mpi.
Test (At least 50 innings) Distance run per innings (in metres per innings)
An interesting note is that Shivnarine Chanderpaul and AB de Villiers have 468 mpi and 466 mpi respectively. Predictably, AB has scored more runs in boundaries than by actually running.
The all time list (minimum of 100 innings) is predictably dominated by the golden oldies. Hobbs leads with his 808 mpi, followed by Len Hutton and Wally Hammond who ran 733 mpi and 724 mpi. The latest player is Bob Simpson (last match in 1978) with 619 mpi. The greatest all-rounder of all time, Sir Garfield Sobers, secures a place with 618 mpi.
Overall (At least 100 innings) Distance run per innings (in metres per innings)
From what we’ve learnt, despite the surprises thrown up by statistics, we can take heart in knowing that The Don, once again, in another avatar, proves himself to be the most exceptional batsman in the history of the game.
Stats by: Karna Yajnik