Stats porn. Are we all addicts?

When it comes to stats and trivia about cricket, I’ve been hooked since I was a teenager. It’s easy to get seduced by the numbers and the mathematical comparisons, but I figure it’s ok so long as the sport itself remains more important.

I draw a line, however, when statistical “milestones” become playthings of the media industry, a raison d’etre of the sports desk at the 24/7 news outlet, the honeytrap for mindless SMS fodder. The presentation of obscure and contrived stats for media self-gratification and/or profit – this surely justifies the definition of Stats Pornography.

It’s from that untapped frontier of cricket capitalism, India, that the most outrageous examples of Stats Porn are spewing forth. We’ve seen, in recent weeks, the aggregation of Test, ODI and Twenty20 records to create the revelation that Sachin Tendulkar has scored 30,000 runs in international cricket… But somehow overlooking, for example, the 28 runs he scored for India in the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

The media were all over this unprecedented, and possibly forever unique, 30000 milestone. A happy postscript having already turned his 20th anniversary in the international game, without doubt a great effort of endurance, into pages and pages of newspaper copy and hours and hours of television analysis.

Then came India’s innings victory over Sri Lanka at Kanpur last week. It brought up that magic milestone for India – their 100th Test win. Ever. Since 1932.

Excited? In the same week, Ricky Ponting won his 40th Test as Australian captain. The next victory will bring him level with his predecessor Steve Waugh. Yes, that’s 81 wins between the two of them. Add wins under the captaincy of Mark Taylor and Adam Gilchrist, and we have 111 Australian Test victories just since the retirement of Allan Border. In 1994.

One hundred wins for all time? Did you SMS your congratulations?

Moving forward to this Thursday, and an incredibly brutal knock by Virender Sehwag. Even he couldn’t accelerate enough in the final overs of the day to overhaul Don Bradman’s world Test record of 309 runs in a day. But at 284 not out overnight, the speculation mounted. Could he beat the first-class world record of 501 not out, or merely Lara’s Test world record of 400 not out? But first, there was an interim milestone… at 300, he would become the first batsman in history (surpassing Bradman and Lara) to score his third Test match triple century.

But no. Sehwag caught and bowled Muralitharan 293. “Sehwag Heartbreak”, the headlines screamed. “Sehwag Misses World Record By Seven Runs.” Oh, the horror, the agony, the shame. The lack of anything to celebrate… but wait. There is redemption.

The IBNLive website has come to the rescue by setting up the following thread on their message board, and prominently displaying it on their home page:
“Sehwag becomes 3rd fastest Indian to score 6,000. Congratulate him.”

What do I say?
“Congratulations Sehwag on your fast-ish milestone.”
“Viru, you’re still my Number Three.”
“Yo, Viru. I’m really happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Sunny had one of the fastest 6000s of all time!”

Call him. Felicitate him. Go onnn, call him nowwwwww.

(A G-rated version of this article appears at The Roar)

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