Boxer Floyd Mayweather watches an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Virat Kohli laid down another marker this week to illustrate how and why he is the world’s greatest batsman in cricket

The Indian captain set a new benchmark for consistency when he became the fastest batsman to reach 10,000 one-day international runs in his 205th innings against West Indies on Wednesday, eclipsing compatriot Sachin Tendulkar’s previous record by an astounding 54 innings.

With over 1,000 ODI runs in 2018, Kohli walks out to the crease with an aura of near-invincibility but he said the secret still lies in working hard for every run and never taking things for granted.

“Even after playing for 10 years, I don’t feel like I’m entitled for anything here,” Kohli told BCCI.tv on Friday.

“You still have to work hard for every run you score at the international level while playing for your country because there are many people who want this very badly.

“So when you’re in that position yourself, you should have that same hunger and passion. You should never take things for granted, never take it easy at any stage.”

While the 29-year-old still has plenty of cricket ahead to establish himself as the best the game has seen, we take a look back at the other stars who took their sports by storm to stake a claim at joining the list of ‘Untouchables’

Serena shatters records

Serena Williams has provided tennis fans with nearly two decades of Grand Slam dominance as she has racked up 23 major titles at the ‘Big Four’ events — The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

She holds the record for titles in the Open era, one more than Germany’s Steffi Graf and one behind Australia’s Margaret Court, who set her landmark in the 1960s and 1970s when, let’s be honest, there was less competition. Serena has been relentless since picking up her first major trophy, the US Open way back in 1999. She fended of brilliant players in their own right such as Martina Hingis, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin and of course her sister Venus. Serena’s feat is all the more remarkable when you consider she has reached 31 Grand Slam finals, losing only eight, underlining her will to win, as if we doubted that tenacious spirit when we see her scream and fight for every point on the court. After matching Graf’s record of 22 titles in 2016 at Wimbledon, she set the record the following year in Australia, defeating her sister Venus (who else) in the final. Oh, and she was pregnant. The fact she has reached two more finals (she just missed out on tying Court’s achievement both times) since becoming a mum just shows her hunger for success.

All-conquering All Blacks

Such is their success, when you are looking at the history of the New Zealand All Blacks, it is difficult to pinpoint a side or and era that stands out from the rest. This is a team that have only been beaten by six other nations in the history of Test rugby union since 1903 and have an overall 77 per cent win ratio and they have held the No. 1 world ranking title longer than all the other teams combined.

As recently as 2016, New Zealand set the record for the longest winning streak in Test Rugby (18 matches), and in 2013 they won every Test they played during a calendar year. They also the record for most consecutive Test victories at home — a mental 47 matches — achieved between 2009 and 2017.

However, the standout team has to be that of their longest unbeaten streak from 1987 to 1990 that lasted 23 matched, the only ‘blemish’ being a 19-19 draw with Australia in Brisbane in 1988. Arguably the finest All Black team won the inaugural World Cup in 1987 and included such stars as John Gallagher, John Kirwan, Grant Fox and Sean Fitzpatrick. Coached Brian Lochore, this side of the late 1980s really did something special to be the greatest among the greats.

Their all-time points record for tests stands at 15,777 points for and 7,624 against (updated 6 October 2018). Many national teams’ heaviest defeats have occurred against New Zealand — the national teams of Argentina, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, Portugal, Samoa, South Africa and Tonga have all suffered their greatest defeats at the hands of New Zealand. The All Blacks’ largest test win was 145—17 against Japan in 1995,[128] while their heaviest loss was a 28—7 loss to Australia in 1999.[88].

Spain’s world beaters

Spain not only became the first European side to win a World Cup outside of Europe with their 2010 victory in South Africa over Holland, but they also won back-to-back European Championships either side in 2008 and 2012 beating Germany and Italy in respective finals. This made them the only national team to win three major titles in a row. They also won Team of the Year six times in a row from 2008 to 2013, one short of Brazil’s record run from 1994 to 2000. Also between November 2006 and June 2009, they went unbeaten for a record-equalling 35 consecutive matches, level with Brazil, who achieved the same between 1993 and 1996. These achievements lead many to believe this Spanish were the greatest national team of all time, essentially perfecting the tika-taka Total Football style that had been brought to Barcelona by Johan Cruyff, and now endorsed by his greatest protégé Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. -Ashley Hammond

Bubka vaults into history

Sergey Bubka took the saying raising the bar far too seriously and kept increasing the bar to break one pole vault record after the other during his illustrious career, spanning over 17 towards the end of 20th century.

The Ukrainian legend, who has dedicated all his life to athletics as he is a Vice-President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Executive Board Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, has set a whopping 35 world records during his career, which also includes multiple World Championship and Olympic title.

Bubka, took up pole vault as a nine year old after falling in love with the sport by watching his neighbour vault. After the insistence of his neighbour, whose coach asked Bubka to wait until the age of 12 to start training, got the opportunity. “I sprinted 30 metres and did 15 pull ups even though I really knew nothing about the sport. It sort of happened by accident but I was comfortable, and once I had started I never considered giving up,” the 54-year-old was quoted at sergeibubka.com

Bubka first set the outdoor world record in Bratislava in May 1984 and bettered it twice in the next few weeks before clearing 6.00 metres for the first time in pole vault in Paris in 1985. He still holds the outdoor world record of 6.14 metres in 1994. The Olympic Games provided mixed fortunes for Bubka was not as successful in Olympics as he could not take part in Los Angeles in 1984 due to the Soviet boycott. In Seoul in 1988, he won gold and won six straight World Championship titles from 1983 to 1997 before officially retiring in Donetsk in 2001. - A.K.S. Satish

Frankel’s Tour de Force

Horse racing has enjoyed many epic moments thanks to some blockbuster performances from legends of the turf like Red Rum, Nijinsky, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Shergar … the list is endless.

However, if ever there was one horse, one very special horse, who completely dominated the sport to the point it making the result predictable, it was the incomparable Frankel.

Trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was a horse like no other. He could run fast, faster than any other horse who dared to take him on. He retired in 2011 with an unbeaten record of 14 imperious victories. Some called him a freak, other a wonder horse, a modern day Pegasus.

Frankel’s groom believed that the combustion he generated, and his unbelievable cardio, were a result of his gigantic nostrils which allowed him to breathe in superfluous supplies of oxygen, when running.

Frankel didn’t just win a race; he did it by destroying the opposition.

And that’s what stood him apart, his ability to win like a true champion should. -Leslie Wilson Jr

Schumacher’s Seven Heaven

Formula One’s Michael Schumacher is widely regarded as the best driver the sport has ever seen, mainly thanks to the seven World Drivers’ Championship titles he picked up between 1994 and 2004, including five on the trot for Ferrari. His feats are raised even higher as he picked up his first two titles in an inferior Benetton car and he then continually succeeded during a period in the sport when there were no massive advantages between a number of teams and their machines. Germany’s first F1 champion still hold 25 (twenty-five!) records in the sports, including most drivers’ titles, most GP wins (91), most fastest laps (77) and the most races won in a season (13).

Tragically, Schumacher hit his head on a rock while skiing in France, suffering a traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma for four months. Although details of his condition are minimal as he attempts to recover in private, it is believed he is paralysed and continues to have severe mental impairments.

The Untouchables: Notable mentions

Floyd Mayweather Jr
Boxing
50 wins, 0 losses

Floyd Joy Mayweather Jr staked his claim to be the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time with a perfect 50-0 record across five weight divisions — from super featherweight to welterweight — since he first stepped into the ring back in 1996. He first made headlines with a bronze medal as an amateur at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. His defensive style brought him many critics, but his ferocity and stamina meant he defeated many stronger opponents during a career that also included 27 knockouts.

Jack Nicklaus
Golf
18 majors

The Golden Bear is lauded as the best player ever to pick up a golf club and it is hard to argue with that, given he has collected 18 major championships over a 25-year span. He made his breakthrough in 1962 when he followed up winning the US Amateur Open with victory in the US Open proper and that opened the floodgates to a further three US Opens, six Masters, three Open titles and five PGA Championships. His final major came at the 1986, when he shot a final-round 65 to become the oldest winner of the Masters.

1990s Chicago Bulls
Basketball
6 NBA championships

Led by superstar Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s put NBA basketball firmly on the global map thanks to their dazzling style of play, and domination of the sport, picking up six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998 with two three-peats (three titles in a row) and a then-record 72 wins in a season in 1995—96. Hall of Famer Jordan led the team to all six titles, helped admirably by his faithful sidekick Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson. The team included other big names such as Dennis Rodman, Will Perdue and John Paxson.

Usain Bolt
Athletics
8 Olympic gold medals

Jamaica’s Usain St Leo Bolt became a household name and regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time thanks to his gold medal triumphs in the 100 and 200 metres across three Olympics, starting at Beijing in 2008, and then at London four years later and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He also has two 4x100m Olympic golds, but was stripped of a third after his teammate Nesta Carter failed a drug test.

At the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Bolt set the current 100m world record with a time of 9.58 seconds.

Such is his sporting prowess, he is currently looking to sort out getting a professional football contract with Australian A-League side the Central Coast Mariners at the age of 32.

Michael Phelps
Swimming
23 Olympic gold medals

‘The Flying Fish’ is by far the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals, an astonishing 23 of which are gold.

Beginning as a 23-year-old in Beijing in 2008, the precocious Phelps made the watching world sit up and take note as he powered his way to eight golds in the pool, breaking fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds finishes at a single Games. He had won six golds and two bronze in Athens four years earlier and he racked up four more first place triumphs in London 2012. Five golds in Rio 2016 made him the most successful athlete of the Games for the fourth Olympics in a row.