Which One Day International cricket records can be beaten – and which ones are untouchable?


Last week I wrote how records in test cricket can last an incredibly long time before they’re broken (if they are at all). I looked at five or six records that will last the test of time, and also some records that have stood for a while but might still be broken.

Pivoting to One Day Internationals (ODIs), it’s a curious beast. There are fewer matches being played between ICC full member nations, but an increase in matches being played between associate nations now that these matches have been granted full ODI status.

To be sure, someone from the Netherlands is not going to have a 300 match career, but whereas in the past perhaps 40-50 per cent of their matches would count as ODI status, they now all do.

Mitchell Starc celebrates a wicket at the ODI World Cup. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

But we need to be realistic. While we talk about the crisis plaguing Tests, I think it’s fair to say ODIs are in a far greater existential crisis. People at least want Test cricket to survive, while no one would seem to care if ODI’s became extinct.

Personally, I think ODIs have about 10 years left. It means that the records set or being set in ODI cricket now stand a stronger chance of never being beaten. Longevity records will certainly last the test of time now, but there are a couple of other individual records that could still be beaten.

Let’s take a look.

Most wickets taken in ODIs

Muttiah Muralitharan’s 534 will last forever. Firstly, taking nearly 1.5 wickets per match is mighty impressive, but he played 350 matches across 18 years. The closest current player to this record is Shakib Al Hasan, who is quite close to retirement and is over 200 wickets behind. He’s also played 100 fewer matches in a similar time span – Murali rarely missed a game.

Mitchell Starc is presently the closest fast bowler on the list, and he’s “only” taken 236 wickets in 121 matches. Think about that. Think about how little ODI cricket Starc actually plays, and he’s probably the best ODI bowler Australia ever had and will has played half the matches of Lee or McGrath.


Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring his 50th ODI century, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Most Matches played

Over a seemingly ridiculous 23 years, Sachin Tendulkar played 463 matches and he didn’t miss many either. One of the remarkable aspects about his career was that he was fit and healthy for so much of it and played, and played, and played. In a three format era, this is a record that is unbreakable.

The closest current player is Virat Kohli on 292. He would need to play for another 7 years to break this record, but he’s already played for 15 years, and started when he was 20 (compared to Tendulkar starting at 16). Unbreakable. There is, however, a record Kohli might break and then own for eternity. We’ll discuss that later.

Most runs without a century in ODI cricket

Much like how Shane Warne holds this unwanted record in tests, Misbah Ul-Haq is the unfortunate standard bearer for this one. But unlike Warne’s hold on the Test record which looks slightly shaky, this one Ul-Haq is likely to hold forever.

What hurts Ul-Haq, besides few matches being played by the current crop, is that he’s one of just two full time batsman in the top 20, and he is nearly 1400 runs higher than second (Wasim Akram). No one current is anywhere near this list. Unbreakable. And what of the great irony that Ul-Haq briefly shared the record for the fastest century in in Test cricket…

Most consecutive matches in a career

Sachin Tendulkar, gulp, played 185 consecutive ODIs at one stage. By point of comparison, that’s more ODIs than all but THREE English cricket players have for their entire career (Eoin Morgan, James Anderson and Paul Collingwood).

This is not just a testament to his skill and fitness, but also his gracious obligation to fans who would often spend their days’ wages to come to see just him. In an era where players are now rested and rotated out of teams, this is an unbreakable record.

Sir Vivian Richards… Batting in a cap as usual. (S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

100 per cent of career runs made without a helmet

Time for a little fun. While it’s eminently possible someone might score runs than this man, no one will score more without wearing a helmet than Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander ‘Viv’ Richards. All of his 6721 runs were scored sans helmet. I know there is no stat list that exists recording this, but I think it’s fair to say no one is coming near this record. Unbreakable.

Records that stand a chance

Fastest century in ODI cricket

AB de Villiers’ 31 ball century is currently the record. And, while I personally think this one will last the test of time, I do concede that the current conditions of the game do make it possible for the record to be broken if about 5 things all happen simultaneously:

a) a pitch an aeroplane could land on
b) a postage stamp sized ground
c) a highly favourable match situation (for example, ABdV came in when the score was 1 for 247)
d) tripe bowling, and
e) a very good batsman

And it’s ‘e’ that makes me feel like this record might not be broken. There are few in the game past or present that were as gifted as AB. He didn’t just break the record, he shattered it by 5 balls. The reason why this is not unbreakable though is that in the domestic cup in Australia we saw Jake Fraser-McGuirk hit a 29 ball century. Unlikely, now that 30 balls has been broken, but it could happen in the international form. You never know.

Will anyone beat AB de Villiers’ fastest ever ODI century? (Photo by Gareth Copley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Most runs in ODI cricket

It was expected when Tendulkar retired, this record was outlast the lot. There was recognition that no one was going to be playing 450 matches, let alone 400 matches in a career with such a cluttered international and domestic calendar. But the other assumption was that there wouldn’t be a batsman who would average near 60 for the near entirety of his career.

Enter Virat Kohli.

Kohli is about 4500 runs behind. Which is a gigantic number for sure. And Kohli is 35. But Tendulkar played cricket into his early 40s. And Kohli is still whacking the ball at 58 per knock. If he maintained that average, he will pass the record in 78 matches. Even if he dipped to “just” 50, he would pass the record in 91. What helps is that India still do play enough ODIs a year to give Kohli a chance, but he would probably need to stop skipping series and start playing all of them to do it. Time, not talent, is his enemy.

And yes, if he broke that record, then he will own that for all time. Along with his 50+ ODI century record too.

The ‘500’ barrier

This will eventually go. Much in the same way that you need the right conditions to break the fastest century, the 500 runs in an innings barrier will eventually be broken. You just need a team firstly prepared to give it a go (and it’s fair to say there’s the odd meaningless ODIs being played these days), probably lined up against a poor team on a tiny field on a batting friendly deck. England gave it a red hot crack against the Dutch a few years back with 498 and with more full v associate member cricket taking place, it’s on the cards.

Would a Ben Stokes special push the 500 run ODI barrier?(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Worst bowling figures in an ODI

I was under the impression Mick Lewis’ 0/113 would hold this record even after the sun swallows up the earth, but then it got beaten in the world cup by the unfortunate Bas de Leede who ‘improved’ the mark by 2 runs and now I believe anything is possible.

I’m confident de Leede would think so too. This is a record you do not want to be at the top of the pile for when ODIs are eventually pulled from the calendar. It took 17 years for Lewis’ record to go and as I said, I don’t think ODIs will be around in 10 years time. The clock is ticking… There is surely another bowler out there who will have a worse day than when Tom Hanks boarded a particular Fedex flight one night and told Helen Hunt he’ll “be right back”.

Most economical bowling figures in a match (full complement of overs bowled)

West Indian Phil Simmons holds this record. His 1992 match card read 10-8-3-4. That’s 0.3 runs an over. Ridiculous. I would say unbreakable, but these are the kinds of ridiculous records that just might get randomly broken on a lucky date.

Why? Look no further than Australia’s Sean Abbott, who after 5 overs was once on track to break the record against New Zealand, but the Black Caps were bowled out before he could finish his allocation. Interestingly, of the front line bowlers he bowled the fewest overs which makes you wonder why Josh Hazlewood who NZ plundered 11 runs from his 6 wicketless overs was given more! So it could happen… But imagine breaking this record in the modern ODI era.

What you got? What records will remain unbroken, and what ones (and be as obscure as possible) might just get beaten?

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