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Sachin Tendulkar and Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s rivalry is longest in the modern era

Sachin Tendulkar's (left) retirement Test overshadowed Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 150th Test landmark © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar’s (left) retirement Test overshadowed Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 150th Test landmark © Getty Images

By Michael Jones

As Sachin Tendulkar soaked up the acclaim for his 200th and final Test, another milestone slipped past almost unnoticed: Shivnarine Chanderpaul played his 150th. It was typical of Chanderpaul’s career: while others get the limelight, he continues to accumulate runs in his own unorthodox but highly effective way, holding together what has at times, since the retirement of Brian Lara, been an extremely brittle batting line-up.

With Tendulkar’s retirement, Chanderpaul took over the mantle of the most senior current Test player. He made his debut against England in 1994 and first faced Tendulkar at Nagpur in December of the same year, making 4 and 11 not out as West Indies held on for a draw after Tendulkar’s 179 in the first innings. They saw plenty of each other over the following years, with the team fortunes largely dictated by the venue – although Tendulkar did at least feature in one Test victory in West Indies, at Port of Spain in 2002 when his 117 was the only century of the match.

Chanderpaul has never been part of a Test win in India, but he did come out on top in the personal head to head, with 1629 runs at an average of 74 in the matches they played against each other, to Tendulkar’s 1364 at 57. It was almost 19 years since that first meeting at Nagpur when the two faced each other for the last time, with Chanderpaul’s dismissal for 41 hastening his team’s slide towards an innings defeat.

Had the Mumbai match been held just a few weeks later, Tendulkar and Chanderpaul would have set a new record for the longest time span between two players’ first and last Tests against each other. Wilfred Rhodes had the longest Test career of all, making his debut in the closing months of the 19th century in a team featuring WG Grace, and finishing more than thirty years later on a tour of West Indies which saw him bowl to a young George Headley. He spent much of the intervening period facing the larger than life Australian captain Warwick Armstrong; the man known as the “Big Ship” made his debut on New Year’s Day 1902, scoring 45 not out at number 11, and had his first encounter with Rhodes in the return series a few months later. The Yorkshire all-rounder had much the better of their first meeting, dismissing Armstrong for a golden duck on his way to figures of seven for 17, as Australia tumbled to 36 all out (fewer than Rhodes had managed by himself in a last wicket partnership of 81* with Bill Lockwood). Rhodes could stake a legitimate claim to calling Armstrong his bunny, dismissing him eleven times in Tests — a number only equalled in the era by the frequency with which Sydney Barnes accounted for Clem Hill; Armstrong only repaid the favour four times, but he had the last laugh.

In the years leading up to the First World War, England had had the better of Australia, with a 4-1 away win in 1911-12 followed by victory in the Triangular Tournament (in which Armstrong declined to participate after a dispute with the Australian board). When Test matches resumed after the war, Armstrong was back in the team and appointed captain, and led Australia to the only Ashes whitewash of the 20th century. Australia also won the first match of the return series by ten wickets, after which Rhodes was dropped; Armstrong went out on a high with a 3-0 win, and the last they saw of each other on the field of a Test came a day over 19 years since their first encounter.

Most of the rest of the top ten pairings are combinations of three Englishmen, two Australians and a South African either side of the war. Frank Woolley played Tests for 25 years and Jack Hobbs for 22, and they and Rhodes all became familiar opponents to the long-serving Australians Warren Bardsley and Charlie Macartney; Hobbs and Woolley also played for more than seventeen years against Herbie Taylor, South Africa’s post-war captain. In between those pairs falls one of the bitterest rivalries of all, between Wally Hammond and Don Bradman. Hammond played in Bradman’s debut match in 1928, when the newcomer made 18 and 1, and Australia were bowled out for 66 in the fourth innings to lose by the small matter of 675 runs; over the following years each took every opportunity to put the boot in the other. Bradman made eight double centuries in Ashes Tests, Hammond four; no-one else has scored more than two. Hammond saw his great foe brought down to earth in the Bodyline series, but the Don had his revenge four years late when three big scores in consecutive matches helped his team recover from 0-2 down to win the series.

When England were piling on the runs at the Oval in 1938, Bradman became desperate enough to bring himself on to bowl, and broke his ankle in his third over; Hammond delayed his declaration until he was assured that Bradman would not be able to bat in the match, and the visiting captain could only look on as his team went down by a record margin. The tables were turned as soon as international matches resumed after the Second World War: Bradman was given not out early on to what the England fielders were convinced was a clean catch, and went on to make 187 as Hammond fumed. The rest of the Australian line-up continued to pile on the runs after he was out, and from his vantage point on the balcony, Bradman failed to contain his glee. Some of his team-mates looked on his attitude with disapproval, but he saw it as the chance for revenge on his old foe for 1938, and intended to enjoy it. Hammond retired at the end of the 1946-47 series, missing the chance to see Bradman’s last innings duck from close quarters.

Unsurprisingly, Tendulkar makes other appearances on the list: he played against Muttiah Muralitharan for just over seventeen years, Ricky Ponting and Marvan Atapattu for fifteen; Chanderpaul and Ponting played for a similar length of time against each other. The longest pairing involving any Indian player other than Tendulkar is the sixteen years for which Srinivas Venkataraghavan played against Clive Lloyd, but although the high-scoring draw at the Antigua Rec in 1983 was their final encounter on the field, it was by no means the last they saw of each other in a Test: after their retirements from playing, Venkat became an umpire and Lloyd a referee, and they officiated together at Galle in 2003 almost 37 years after they first met on the pitch.

Most of the players with the longest careers had several long-term opponents, but some don’t make it onto the list at all. Brian Close had a longer span between his first and last Tests than anyone other than Rhodes, but such was the stop-start nature of his career — 22 matches in 27 years — that he rarely played against anyone for very long: the only opponent with whom he comes close to making the list is the West Indian keeper Deryck Murray, who played eight matches against Close over a span of thirteen years; Neil Harvey played against him twice, ten years apart. All the players whom John Traicos faced in his three matches for South Africa in 1970 had retired long before he made his unexpected return to Test cricket with Zimbabwe in 1993, and when George Gunn was recalled by England after a gap of eighteen years it was against West Indies, a team which hadn’t had Test status the last time Gunn had played.

George Headley, who made his debut against Gunn and Rhodes in that same 1930 series, narrowly misses out: when he was recalled for an unsuccessful swansong against England in 1954, it was a few months short of fifteen years since his first meetings with Len Hutton and Denis Compton. Hutton and Compton both make the list — along with Compton’s “Middlesex twin” Bill Edrich — against another opponent: all three were on the team against which Lindsay Hassett made his Test debut at Trent Bridge in 1938 (which was also Edrich’s debut), and all of them were there again when Hassett ended his career at the Oval in 1953.

Aside from the periods when war intervened, most of the pairs faced each other reasonably regularly between the dates of their first and last matches, but some make the list despite hardly seeing each other in the meantime. Charles Kelleway and Phil Mead played four matches against each other in one series in 1911-12; both were in and out of their respective teams in the early 1920s, Mead playing several times against Australia and Kelleway several against England without ever appearing in the same match — until the 1928-29 series, by which time Mead hadn’t played a Test for almost six years, Kelleway for four. Both were recalled for the same match — Bradman’s debut, and the start of his feud with Hammond — then they were both dropped again, and neither played another Test.

The Kiwi legspinner Jack Alabaster had another odd pattern: he only played three Tests against West Indies in his career — the first came in 1956, when his two second innings wickets helped take New Zealand to their first Test win, at the 45th attempt. The second and third came in 1972, but one opposition player remained from the earlier match — Garry Sobers, who thus played against Alabaster over a span of sixteen years. In contrast, Test cricket’s most frequent opponents, Allan Border and David Gower, don’t feature in the list at all: the 39 matches they played against each other spanned only twelve years.

With Jacques Kallis retiring without making the list (he had a near miss, facing Ricky Ponting for a month short of fifteen years), few new pairs are likely to add themselves to it the near future. Much depends on whether Daniel Vettori — after Chanderpaul, the next most senior current player – regains his fitness sufficiently to return to Test cricket: he first played Mahela Jayawardene on New Zealand’s tour of Sri Lanka in 1998, so if they ever meet in a Test again they will join the list. Vettori first faced Chanderpaul at Hamilton in 1999, but with West Indies having just completed a series against New Zealand, it seems unlikely that Chanderpaul will still be playing the next time they face each other. Chanderpaul missed the first two series West Indies played against Sri Lanka during his career, so he didn’t face Jayawardene until 2005; and with Harbhajan Singh’s international career looking over, no other pair is close to the fifteen year mark. Having survived a close challenge from Tendulkar and Chanderpaul, Rhodes and Armstrong’s record is likely to remain intact for a long time yet.

Players First match Last match Duration
W Rhodes (Eng) WW Armstrong (Aus) 29-05-1902 30-05-1921 19 1
SR Tendulkar (Ind) S Chanderpaul (WI) 01-12-1994 16-11-2013 18 350
W Rhodes (Eng) CG Macartney (Aus) 13-12-1907 18-08-1926 18 249
JB Hobbs (Eng) CG Macartney (Aus) 01-01-1908 18-08-1926 18 230
WR Hammond (Eng) DG Bradman (Aus) 30-11-1928 06-02-1947 18 68
JB Hobbs (Eng) W Bardsley (Aus) 27-05-1909 18-08-1926 17 83
W Rhodes (Eng) W Bardsley (Aus) 27-05-1909 18-08-1926 17 83
FE Woolley (Eng) HW Taylor (SA) 10-06-1912 20-08-1929 17 71
JB Hobbs (Eng) HW Taylor (SA) 10-06-1912 20-08-1929 17 71
W Bardsley (Aus) FE Woolley (Eng) 09-08-1909 18-08-1926 17 9
CG Macartney (Aus) FE Woolley (Eng) 09-08-1909 18-08-1926 17 9
SR Tendulkar (Ind) M Muralitharan (SL) 17-07-1993 22-07-2010 17 5
JB Hobbs (Eng) C Kelleway (Aus) 15-12-1911 05-12-1928 16 356
C Kelleway (Aus) CP Mead (Eng) 15-12-1911 05-12-1928 16 356
CH Lloyd (WI) PI Pocock (Eng) 29-02-1968 14-08-1984 16 167
S Venkataraghavan (Ind) CH Lloyd (WI) 13-12-1966 03-05-1983 16 141
GS Sobers (WI) JC Alabaster (NZ) 09-03-1956 14-03-1972 16 5
LR Gibbs (WI) Mushtaq Mohammad (Pak) 26-03-1959 06-03-1975 15 345
S Chanderpaul (WI) RT Ponting (Aus) 22-11-1996 27-04-2012 15 156
SR Tendulkar (Ind) RT Ponting (Aus) 10-10-1996 28-01-2012 15 110
TW Graveney (Eng) GS Sobers (WI) 30-03-1954 17-06-1969 15 79
DCS Compton (Eng) AL Hassett (Aus) 10-06-1938 19-08-1953 15 70
L Hutton (Eng) AL Hassett (Aus) 10-06-1938 19-08-1953 15 70
WJ Edrich (Eng) AL Hassett (Aus) 10-06-1938 19-08-1953 15 70
A Ranatunga (SL) Salim Malik (Pak) 05-03-1982 30-04-1997 15 56
SR Tendulkar (Ind) MS Atapattu (SL) 23-11-1990 22-12-2005 15 29
A Kumble (Ind) M Muralitharan (SL) 17-07-1993 11-08-2008 15 25

It should come as no surprise which pair head the corresponding list for ODIs: they occupy first and second places on the list of most matches played, their careers overlapped almost exactly and their teams faced each other with at times almost monotonous regularity. Tendulkar first played against Sanath Jayasuriya at Sharjah in April 1990, when he caught Jayasuriya off the bowling of Ravi Shastri, but Sri Lanka won by three wickets. Their 74th and final encounter came at Eden Gardens on Christmas Eve 2009; in a neat symmetry, Tendulkar caught Jayasuriya again, and that time India ran out the victors. At a few months short of twenty years, their rivalry is more than two years longer than any other in ODIs.

Aided by the frequency of India vs Sri Lanka matches, pairings of players from those two countries make up five of the top seven places: Tendulkar played for more than sixteen years against Muttiah Muralitharan and Marvan Atapattu, and Kumble against Jayasuriya and Atapattu. Tendulkar and Murali exceeded seventeen years in both formats.

As could be expected given the proliferation of ODIs after 1990, the majority of the pairs on the list are from the modern era. In the early years of the format, when only a few series were played each year and there were no multilateral tournaments other than the World Cup, even players with long careers were unlikely to meet each other in more than one series every few years. Among pairs who first faced off within a decade of the inaugural ODI, only Gordon Greenidge and Javed Miandad played for more than fifteen years each other, starting in the first World Cup and ending in a bilateral series late in 1990. Wasim Akram had three long term opponents, playing for sixteen years against Aravinda de Silva – the only pair not involving either Tendulkar or Kumble to pass that mark – as well as fifteen against Mohammad Azharuddin and Steve Waugh. Waugh and Jacques Kallis (against Shahid Afridi) have one entry each on the ODI list, while neither features on the Test list at all. Since Kallis has announced his intention to play on in ODIs, he may yet extend his run against Afridi; if they meet at the 2015 World Cup they would rise to fourth place in the list, and attain the longest duration of any pair not including Tendulkar. Afridi recently missed a chance of a second entry: he first played Jayawardene in a tri-series in South Africa in 1998, but Jayawardene missed the ODI series in UAE so their last meeting remains that in Colombo in June 2012 when Afridi caught and bowled Jayawardene for a golden duck.

The greater number of ODIs played by the subcontinent nations, when the other countries have usually placed greater emphasis on Tests, is reflected in the table: all pairs except one include at least one Asian player. The first non-Asian pair is an unexpected one: Kenya have only ever played five matches against Australia, the first of them in the 1996 World Cup and the most recent in the 2011 tournament – and one player on each team featured in both of them, giving Ponting and Thomas Odoyo a gap of just over fifteen years between their first and last meetings, even though they played only once in between. Another Test-Associate pair, Kallis and Bas Zuiderent, also faced each other in both the 1996 and 2011 tournaments, but thanks to the scheduling of the group matches fell a few days short of the fifteen year mark.

Players First match Last match Duration
SR Tendulkar (Ind) ST Jayasuriya (SL) 25-04-1990 24-12-2009 19 243
SR Tendulkar (Ind) M Muralitharan (SL) 12-08-1993 02-04-2011 17 233
SR Tendulkar (Ind) RT Ponting (Aus) 22-02-1995 19-02-2012 16 362
ST Jayasuriya (SL) A Kumble (Ind) 25-04-1990 11-02-2007 16 292
PA de Silva (SL) Wasim Akram (Pak) 02-03-1986 12-09-2002 16 194
SR Tendulkar (Ind) MS Atapattu (SL) 01-12-1990 14-02-2007 16 75
A Kumble (Ind) MS Atapattu (SL) 01-12-1990 11-02-2007 16 72
JH Kallis (SA) Shahid Afridi (Pak) 03-04-1998 27-11-2013 15 238
CG Greenidge (WI) Javed Miandad (Pak) 11-06-1975 11-11-1990 15 153
PA de Silva (SL) CL Hooper (WI) 13-10-1987 28-02-2003 15 138
Salim Malik (Pak) A Ranatunga (SL) 12-03-1982 14-07-1997 15 124
M Muralitharan (SL) S Chanderpaul (WI) 11-10-1995 31-01-2011 15 112
BC Lara (WI) Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 22-11-1991 13-03-2007 15 111
SR Tendulkar (Ind) BC Lara (WI) 19-10-1991 31-01-2007 15 104
A Kumble (Ind) BC Lara (WI) 19-10-1991 31-01-2007 15 104
Wasim Akram (Pak) M Azharuddin (Ind) 20-02-1985 03-06-2000 15 103
M Muralitharan (SL) RT Ponting (Aus) 21-12-1995 05-03-2011 15 74
Wasim Akram (Pak) SR Waugh (Aus) 11-04-1986 23-06-2001 15 73
BC Lara (WI) SC Ganguly (Ind) 11-01-1992 31-01-2007 15 20
RT Ponting (Aus) TM Odoyo (Ken) 23-02-1996 13-03-2011 15 18

(Michael Jones’s writing focuses on cricket history and statistics, with occasional forays into the contemporary game)

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