© Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar has excellent stats in virtually all parameters © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar holds more batting records in cricket than most other cricketers put together: most runs, most matches, most centuries; the list is nigh endless. Tendulkar batted for most of his career at No. 4 in Tests, a position usually reserved for the most vital batsman in the line-up. Shiamak Unwalla looks at the numbers to see if Tendulkar is statistically the best No. 4 batsman of all time.

NOTE: The numbers considered here are only when Tendulkar batted at No. 4 in the line-up. This excludes times he would ordinarily have come in at two-down but dropped lower to accommodate a night-watchman or a change in strategy.

On the face of it, Tendulkar easily wins the “battle of the No. 4s” based on runs scored. There is a difference of around 9,000 runs between Tendulkar and the man at No. 10 on this list, Martin Crowe. Let that sink in; 9,000 runs is more than anyone in England or Pakistan have ever scored in their entire careers. And that is merely the difference of runs between Tendulkar and Crowe batting at No. 4 alone. Here is the list of top 10 run-scorers at the No. 4 position in Tests:

Name Team Period M R HS Ave 100s 50s
Sachin Tendulkar India 1992-2013 179 13492 248* 54.4 44 58
Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka 1999-2014 124 9509 374 52.24 30 35
Jacques Kallis South Africa 1998-2013 111 9033 224 61.86 35 36
Brian Lara West Indies, ICC 1990-2006 91 7535 277 51.25 24 31
Javed Miandad Pakistan 1976-1993 104 6925 280* 54.1 19 31
Mark Waugh Australia 1992-2002 110 6662 153* 42.43 16 39
Kevin Pietersen England 2006-2014 90 6490 227 48.43 19 27
Gundappa Viswanath India 1969-1983 82 5081 222 43.05 12 31
Inzamam-ul-Haq Pakistan 1993-2005 68 4867 329 52.9 15 21
Martin Crowe New Zealand 1983-1995 67 4841 299 49.39 16 16

However, if one looks at average then Jacques Kallis (61.86) is comfortably ahead of Tendulkar (54.40), while Javed Miandad (54.10) is close at Tendulkar’s heels. Mahela Jayewardene’s highest individual score of 374 is by far the best, though Tendulkar’s 44 tons is nine more than the next best Kallis (35) managed. READ: Sachin Tendulkar voted as greatest Test cricketer of 21st century

These were the aggregates. Let us look at how the top batsmen have fared away from home; this is usually what separates the good from the great. Here is the list of top 10 run-scorers away from home:

Name Team Period M R HS Ave 100s 50s
Sachin Tendulkar India 1992-2012 87 7083 248* 57.58 24 30
Jacques Kallis South Africa 1998-2013 53 4126 182* 58.11 16 16
Brian Lara West Indies, ICC 1990-2006 48 4112 277 50.14 13 16
Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka 1999-2014 62 3974 275 40.14 10 12
Younis Khan Pakistan 2002-2015 45 3768 213 57.96 13 13
Javed Miandad Pakistan 1978-1993 54 3735 271 51.16 9 21
Mark Waugh Australia 1993-2002 57 3222 153* 40.78 7 18
Kevin Pietersen England 2006-2014 44 2693 227 40.8 6 12
Martin Crowe New Zealand 1983-1995 41 2593 188 43.21 8 9
Inzamam-ul-Haq Pakistan 1995-2005 37 2411 200* 46.36 7 11

Again, unsurprisingly, Tendulkar is at the top with as many as 7,083 runs. But once again, in terms of average it is Kallis (57.58) who leads the way ahead of Younis Khan (57.96) and Tendulkar (57.58). It should be noted that Younis has played a lot in UAE, and his overseas numbers reflect that. READ: The leading run-getters in Test cricket for each team

Let us now look at a country-wise break-up of No. 4 batsmen. Given that Tendulkar made his debut in 1989, let us look at how opposition batsmen have done in every country since that year:

Host Country M R HS Ave 100s 50s
England 170 84595 311* 30.69 154 405
Australia 148 70226 277 26.28 108 332
West Indies 121 55952 212 29.3 112 254
New Zealand 103 50306 275* 32.02 104 242
Sri Lanka 108 49861 333 27.53 90 239
South Africa 113 49834 262 25.21 78 205
India 99 48286 275 29.12 89 218
Pakistan 70 32310 334* 28.92 56 150
Bangladesh 50 27171 319 44.54 72 118
Zimbabwe 52 24495 270 33.87 45 119
UAE 22 22936 278* 33.58 55 99

Visiting batsmen seem to enjoy higher averages in Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, UAE, New Zealand, and England, while they have traditionally struggled in Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, India, and Pakistan.

However, the numbers look quite different if one looks at the numbers post 2000:

Host Country M R HS Ave 100s 50s 100
England 107 53300 311* 28.53 91 251 247
Australia 87 43238 241* 27.14 69 195 239
West Indies 76 38063 212 32.03 84 174 149
Sri Lanka 78 36649 333 26.75 61 167 186
India 69 36012 275 31.15 74 162 144
South Africa 77 35565 262 25.82 61 144 209
New Zealand 61 30083 218 30.85 61 144 138
Bangladesh 49 26242 319 45.24 70 115 58
UAE 22 22936 278* 33.58 55 99 90
Pakistan 32 16496 309 32.21 34 63 63
Zimbabwe 30 14828 270 35.64 25 73 43

Of late, England has become much harder to bat in, while West Indies and India have become considerably easier. South Africa, Australia, and Sri Lanka remain challenging though.

Given how vastly different the three countries are in terms of conditions and skills needed to survive — ability to play pace, bounce and spin — let us look at the top overseas batsmen in South Africa, Australia, and Sri Lanka:

Name Team Period M R HS Ave 100s 50s
Sachin Tendulkar India 1992-2012 41 3385 241* 54.59 13 12
Brian Lara West Indies 1992-2005 27 2839 277 60.4 9 10
Wally Hammond England 1927-1947 20 1336 181 47.71 3 7
Martin Crowe New Zealand 1984-1995 16 1239 188 47.65 3 6
Kevin Pietersen England 2006-2014 21 1152 227 37.16 2 3
Younis Khan Pakistan 2002-2015 15 1031 177 42.95 2 6
Jacques Kallis South Africa 2001-2012 12 969 147 53.83 2 7
Virat Kohli India 2013-2015 6 964 169 80.33 5 2
Graham Thorpe England 1994-2003 13 889 123 46.78 2 4
Ken Barrington England 1964-1966 9 886 148* 80.54 4 4

It stands to reason that South African, Australian, and Sri Lankan players would not feature prominently on this list since their record at home would not be included. As such, Kallis still manages to feature. At this point it is no surprise that Tendulkar once again heads the charts, but his average pales in comparison with those of Ken Barrington (80.54) and Virat Kohli (80.33). The sample sizes of both men are, however, too small: only 15 Tests between them as opposed to Tendulkar’s 41.

Meanwhile, Tendulkar still averages a superb 54.59 collectively in these countries. It should be noted though, that Tendulkar has a lacklustre record in Pakistan, where he averages only 40.25. Of course, that is still a decent average.

Now let us look at where Tendulkar stands when pitted against the best team of his era — Australia. For much of the 1990s and certainly the 2000s, Australia were nigh invincible. Here is a list of the 10 leading run-scorers against Australia (whether home or away) in Tests since 1989:

Name Team Period M R HS Ave 100s 50s
Sachin Tendulkar India 1992-2013 35 3060 241* 56.66 10 13
Brian Lara West Indies 1992-2005 22 2152 277 58.16 8 7
Jacques Kallis South Africa 2001-2012 21 1504 147 45.57 4 8
Kevin Pietersen England 2006-2014 19 1150 227 37.09 1 7
Nasser Hussain England 1997-2003 15 948 207 36.46 2 5
Virat Kohli India 2014-2015 4 692 169 86.5 4 1
Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka 2004-2012 11 664 105 33.2 2 3
Robin Smith England 1989-1993 9 618 143 41.2 2 3
Saleem Malik Pakistan 1994-1998 5 602 237 75.25 2 1
Younis Khan Pakistan 2002-2014 5 589 213 65.44 2 3

Once again the usual suspects Tendulkar, Kallis, and Lara feature in the top three. For once, Kallis’ average is not the highest. Kohli (86.5) holds that honour, followed by Saleem Malik (75.25) — thanks to his epic 237 at Rawalpindi — and Younis (65.44). But while none of these three men have 1,000 runs at No. 4 against Australia, Tendulkar has 3,060 at 56.66. It should also be noted that of the three, none have played more than 5 Tests at No. 4, and so the sample size is quite small. Tendulkar meanwhile played 35 Tests, most of which were when Australia were the undisputed best team in the world.

That Tendulkar is excellent at setting up games cannot be doubted. But how good was he at batting in the toughest of conditions; the fourth innings? Here is a list of the leading run-scorers at No. 4 in the fourth innings of a Test since 1989:

Name Team Period M R HS Ave 100s 50s
Sachin Tendulkar India 1992-2013 58 1354 136 35.63 2 7
Mahela Jayawardene Sri Lanka 1999-2014 33 817 123 45.38 3 3
Mark Waugh Australia 1993-2002 32 788 116 46.35 2 2
Younis Khan Pakistan 2002-2015 22 712 131* 71.2 2 4
Brian Lara West Indies 1992-2006 29 696 122 29 1 4
Aravinda de Silva Sri Lanka 1989-2000 17 635 143* 57.72 1 4
Ross Taylor New Zealand 2007-2015 16 569 107 51.72 1 3
Jacques Kallis South Africa 1998-2013 33 541 85 30.05 0 5
Kevin Pietersen England 2006-2014 26 519 101 27.31 1 2
Virat Kohli India 2014-2015 6 441 141 88.2 2 2

To sum up, Tendulkar has scored more runs than anyone at No. 4. His average is bettered only marginally by Kallis, but Tendulkar has more runs and centuries. Tendulkar has scored more runs overseas than anyone, again at an average only fractionally less than that of Kallis. He has also done exceedingly well in countries where most visiting batsmen struggle. He did exceptionally well against the best team of his era, though has struggled in the fourth innings.

In addition, Tendulkar has scored over 400 runs in a series at No. 4 on four occasions, while he has averaged 100 or more at No. 4 ten times, two of which included averages of over 240 (he has also averaged 96.66 and 93 in two other series). He scored two centuries at No. 4 in a series on nine occasions, and hit at least three half-centuries in a series 11 times.

Is Tendulkar statistically the greatest batsman the world has ever seen? Maybe not; but the numbers suggest that he is certainly among the greatest No. 4 batsmen the world has ever seen.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)