Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Sir Don Bradman © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Sir Don Bradman © Getty Images

 

By Dileep.V

 

“Once people start making comparisons to a player of the past, they want you to be that player. I try to go out there and create my own image, my own style, my own type of game. Right now I can’t even think of one guy I’ve been compared to,” Paul Pierce, American Basketball player.
Sachin Tendulkar would wholeheartedly agree with Pierce’s words. Since his sensational entry into international arena as a precocious teenager Tendulkar has been compared to many greats of the past, most notably to The Greatest in cricket history – Sir Don Bradman. What gave the comparisons an indelible stamp of authority and authenticity is the fact that The Don himself went on record to say that Tendulkar’s batting reminded him of his own batting.

 

Is Tendulkar better than The Don? Sacrilege as it may have seemed a few years back, it’s a question that is asked more frequently in recent times by cricket aficionados – and it’s not restricted to jingoistic Indians worshipping Tendulkar. It has created enough debates and arguments in newsrooms, parliament, markets, schools, colleges, gullies and on cricket fields. Every time Tendulkar breaks a record or sets a new one, the nation gets into debate on this topic – from the chaiwallas to CEOs.

 

CricketCountry joins in the debate.

 

Comparing greats of different era is unfair because of the varying quality of opposition, playing surface, playing conditions, availability of safety gear, etc. We move ahead after accepting the undeniable truth.

 

One critical component in any comparison is how a player has fared both home and overseas. The consistency in both is an indicator in judging his adaptability and scorability ratio.

 

Tendulkar’s average both home and away is astonishingly identical – a measure of his consistent scoring abilities in any condition against all opposition for over two decades. In the elite list of players who have scored a minimum of 5000 runs in Test cricket, Tendulkar is right up there at the No 1 slot. Sir Don, in comparison, is at No 8 eight with a difference of 4.62.

 

Tendulkar’s efforts are all the more creditable because he has played – and scored hundreds– in all the test playing nations barring Zimbabwe, as compared to the Australian legend whose 19 away Tests were just in England. Also Tendulkar has played 55% of his Tests away from home as compared to the Don’s 36.5%. Not to forget that Tendulkar has also played 442 ODI’s and Twenty20 matches along with 177 Tests, whereas Bradman played in 52 Tests spanning 20 years.

 

Home and away average difference (Min 5000 career runs)

 

Player Average-Home Average – Away Difference in Average
Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) 56.93 56.95 0.02
Viv Richards (WI) 49.77 50.50 0.73
Greg Chappell (Aus) 54.39 52.95 1.44
Sunil Gavaskar (Ind) 50.16 52.11 1.95
Len Hutton (Eng) 57.79 55.29 2.50
Rahul Dravid (Ind) 50.75 53.84 3.09
Jacques Kallis (SA) 59.49 55.22 4.27
Don Bradman (Aus) 98.22 102.84 4.62
Jack Hobbs (Eng) 52.29 59.91 7.62
Steve Waugh (Aus) 47.58 55.50 7.92

 

By the way, the Top Ten list has two other champion performers from India – Sunil Gavaskar at No 4 and Rahul Dravid at No 6.

 

Unjustified criticism

 

Tendulkar has often been ridiculed for failing to take India home in the 4th Innings. A look at the stats suggests not many have done it consistently. His average of 72.12 is the highest by an Indian and third highest for players scoring a minimum of 500 runs in winnings causes in the fourth innings. Sir Don is way down the list, scoring 290 runs in 6 matches at an average of 72.50 with a hundred and fifty each.

 

Among the present lot Tendulkar and VVS Laxman are the only Indians to score a hundred. Rahul Dravid has managed three fifties, while Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag have managed two each.

 

In winning causes in 4th Innings (Min 500 runs)

 

Player Inns Runs Avg 100’s/50’s
Ricky Ponting (Aus) 22 835 92.77     3/3
Graeme Smith (SA) 17 929 77.41     3/5
Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) 17 577 72.12      1/3
Desmond Haynes (WI) 30 809 67.41     1/4
Gary Kirsten (SA) 18 605 67.22     0/5
Gordon Greenidge (WI) 23 850 65.38     1/4
Matthew Hayden (Aus) 27 913 57.06     1/6
Andrew Strauss (Eng) 14 570 57.00     1/5
Jacques Kallis (SA) 22 553 50.27     0/5
Justin Langer (Aus) 23 849 49.94     2/5

 
(Dileep.V is a Scouser fan, Sports freak, Movie buff, Laggard Quizzer and dreams of setting foot on Anfield one day)