Monday 14 March 2011

Tendulkar: Greater Than The Don

Sachin Tendulkar, I think, stands on the edge of the greatest feat of batting in the history of the game. When [and it is when - his batting is an absolute at the moment] he registers the 100th hundred of his international career, he will achieve something that, like Bradman's average, will never be superseded.

It's human nature to try and measure achievement and to be driven to close to madness when it proves impossible. Time and its changes usually mean that it is. But Tendulkar's argument as the best ever is gaining weight.

It's a question of degree of course. Bradman's is measurable. He is, statistically, more than 30 per cent better than anyone else who has played. That's a stat that makes him not just the greatest cricketer of all time, but by the gap that he created, the greatest sportsman of all time. To draw facile comparison, Usain Bolt would have to run the 100 metres in six seconds to equal him; Tiger Woods would have to win another ten Major Championships.

Yet Tendulkar edges closer. One hundred international hundreds will put him more than 30 per cent clear of the next best, Ricky Ponting who has 68. Only one other player has 40 Test hundreds [SRT has 51] and that's Jacques Kallis. Yet Kallis has 'only' 17 ODI tons. There is Tendulkar and then there is daylight.

The Don of course scored with greater mass. If he had continued at his career rate, he would have made 100 Test hundreds in roughly 250 innings [Tendulkar has batted 290 times for his 51] but that presumes Bradman would have been able to continue. All of sport's geniuses, from Ali to Woods, have been slowed down and altered by life. No, what separates Sachin even from the Don is endurance.

Tendulkar has spent more than a year of his life playing ODI cricket, and a lot more than that in Tests. He has played the game internationally from the age of 16, and he's now 37. That's 57 per cent of his time on earth. He has played 626 Tests and ODIs in that time. Bradman played for 20 years, for a combined 234 Test and first-class games. The pace of life and the pace of the game is irrevocably different.

Efforts have been made to calculate what Bradman's average might have been had he played today, given the differences in bowling and especially fielding, and it comes out to around 77. What's unknowable is how modern life and the demands of the game would have impacted upon him. There is empirical evidence of Sachin's apparently unquenchable desire.

You'll get no argument from me if you want to surmise that Bradman could have scored a hundred international hundreds. But Sachin is actually going to do it, and given the likelihood of ODI cricket [and perhaps even Tests] surviving for long enough to prove that anyone can outstrip him, his record will stand forever, as distant and unreachable as anything of the Don's and as worthy of consideration as the greatest ever. It's hard to imagine that Bradman was better.


Leela said...

Stats apart, I don't think anyone else can even begin to understand the kind of pressure SRT performs under.

Brit said...

Well argued, OB (and good point Leela) - the problem with all these things is that you can define 'greatness' in so many ways. But for me the point about Bradman is that the big stat - the batting average over a sustained period - is inescapable, because its measurably so much better than his peers as well as later players, which effectively neutralises factors such as pressure, condiditons, fitness, bowling etc

John Halliwell said...

It doesn't seem too long ago that the debate centred around who was the greater: Tendulkar or Lara. I don't think there's much doubt now that Tendulkar has put that one to bed; or is there? I go with Brit's point that greatness can be defined in many ways and that 'average' is a very compelling argument. But we will forever argue about who was the greater: The Don or Sachin, and it's intriguing to contemplate how Tendulkar, without helmet and body-armour, would have coped with Larwood bowling ferocious body-line and Bradman facing Muralitharan. Ah, it's great fun.

Chanakya said...

There is refreshingly little in the indian media about Sachin's 100th. Strange.

I agree, Sachin's 100th will be like Bradman's 99.96 and probably Lara's 400

Chanakya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
diogenes said...

I would love to see Tendulkar on a green Lord's pitch batting against John Snow and Geoff Arnold...or on a crumbling pitch against Underwood. Those were the supreme tests when i was groing up and not many folks passed...Greg Chappell being mabout the only one (don't laugh at Doug Walters)

Anonymous said...

another point of interest is the number of matches played. After the end of the Bodyline series in 1933, Bradman did not get the chance to play another Test Match until June 1934. Similarly, he did not play Tests between Ausust 1934 and the start of the next Ashes series in December 1936 (I think he missed a series against S. Africa in the interim). If he had played international matches at the intensity of Tendulkar, would his average have survived?

Anonymous said...

"It's hard to imagine that Bradman was better."

Very hard indeed!

Bradman remains the greatest cricket legend. But as you've noted, Tendulkar's endurance at the very top has been incredible! He was the best 17-year old Test batsman in history, and now, at almost 38, he is the No. 1 ranked Test batsman and the reigning ICC Cricketer of the Year! And so probably the best 38-year old Test batsman in history!

And he can still make one go "WOW!" with his stroke-production... I mean the straight drive off Morkel the other day was just AWESOME! (Closely followed by a thunderous cover drive on-the-up against Morkel again, and a fabulous hooked 6 off Steyn... delicious!)

Pay per head services said...

hi, I only wanted to reply Leela's comment on which she says that she thinks that anyone else can even begin to understand the kind of pressure SRT performs under. I have to disagree with you Leela, I do know what kind of pressure is that, I have lived that kind of pressure, it is not easy at all to deal with

Ashok Sridharan said...

A (little?) late to comment on this article, but I have no doubt that Bradman would have never managed an average of 99.94 in the modern era. With 15 overs an hour these days against 22-25 in his time, the Don simply would not have enough balls to score as heavily as he did in his time. Just compare his strike rates in his two triple hundreds to those of others, and you'll get what I mean.