Ah, statistics, those noted chums of lies and damn lies. Today we have had Cricinfo's Awards, based in part on the first and last statements in the paragraph above, and the ICC's Reliance Mobile Best Ever Test Championship Ratings, calculated according to the others (and never mind the apparent contradictions).
They have dispatched the following information: Virender Sehwag and Dale Steyn gave the Test performances of the year, Shiv Chanderpaul was the Batsman of the Year, Sachin Tendulkar is the 26th best Test batsman of all-time, some 23 places below Ricky Ponting, and Shane Warne has been comprehensively outbowled by Derek Underwood and Tony Lock.
It seems trite to say that some things are quantifiable and others are not. Cricket is a comparatively measureable sport; that's one of its great pleasures. The accuity of the Cricinfo Awards and the patent absurdity of the Reliance Mobile Best Ever Test Ratings (almost too tempting a name, isn't it?) have made for an entertaining day.
But they open a wider and more enduring point, and that's the role played by aesthetics and beauty. To draw a simple, football-based analogy, would David Beckham have lived the life of David Beckham if he had looked like Paul Scholes?
Life rewards beauty. And beauty distorts statistics. Who was the better batsman, David Gower or Matthew Hayden? The stats are conclusive, the emotions less so. Would you rather watch Mark Waugh or Steve? Gooch or Boycott, Lara or Border, and so on, forever. Today, stats have proven a blunt tool.