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Why Tendulkar’s tally of First-Class tons should rank over those who have scored more than him, except Bradman

Why Tendulkar's tally of First-Class tons should rank over those who have scored more than him, except Bradman

If Sachin Tendulkar had county cricket as much as those who have scored more centuries in First-Class cricket, the Little Master’s tally of centuries would have been way ahead of the field © AFP

With the solo effort in the first innings of the Irani Trophy, Sachin Tendulkar equalled Sunil Gavaskar’s Indian record of 81 First-Class hundreds. Arunabha Sengupta tries to estimate how many hundreds Tendulkar would have scored if he had played as many matches as the county cricketers of the bygone past.

The first century was scored on his First-Class debut as a rosy cheeked 15-year old. The year was 1988.

Cold War had not yet thawed. Even as the Iron Curtain fluttered in the winds of change, Soviet Union stood firm having just begun the perestroika programme of economic restructuring. Germany was still divided by a man-made wall that ran across Berlin, manned by American and Soviet soldiers.

That day in 1988, the average age of the rest of the players involved in the ongoing Irani Cup was 2.33. Wasim Jaffer, the eldest, was ten. Four players were not born.

Twenty-four years have passed. Sachin Tendulkar has just completed 25,000 runs in First-Class cricket. More than 60% of them have been obtained at the highest level while engaged in Test matches. He has joined Sunil Gavaskar at the top of the table for the most number of First-Class centuries by an Indian batsman.

Gavaskar scored his 81 hundreds in 348 matches. Tendulkar got there in 45 less. What makes Tendulkar’s achievement even more commendable is that Gavaskar played 125 Test matches, and 223 non-Test First-class games. In contrast, Tendulkar has played 194 Tests and only 109 non-Test First-class matches. Gavaskar’s scored 34 hundreds in Tests, while has scored 51 thus far in Tests.

Player M 100s Tests 100s Matches/
100
%Test Matches %Test hundreds
Sunil Gavaskar 348 81 125 34 4.30 35.92 41.98
Sachin Tendulkar 303 81 194 51 3.74 64.03 62.96

True, Tendulkar’s remarkable record has been reached without the benefit of the easier pastures of non-Test First-Cass matches. His time has been occupied elsewhere – scoring 18,000 more runs and 49 more hundreds in One-Day Internationals has the potential to clutter one’s calendar.

However, it leaves one wondering how many hundreds he would have managed if he had played a similar proportion of non-Test First-Class matches as the batsmen who head the list of First-Class centurions.

For example, if we consider the frequency of his hundred plus scores in non-Test First-Class matches and assume that he had played 223 non-Test First Class matches like Gavaskar, his estimated number of career hundreds amount to 112.

It is significant that the two Indians have played just a handful of county matches. Gavaskar appeared in 15 games for Somerset and scored two hundreds. Tendulkar represented Yorkshire 16 times and managed one. Most of the cricketers who lead the table of First-class centuries have had long county stints with a huge number of matches under their belts.

Among the 25 batsmen who managed a century of First-Class centuries, 21 are English. Three of four non-Englishmen, Viv Richards, Zaheer Abbas and Glenn Turner, spent a large part of their careers in the county circuit, playing 507, 459 and 455 First-Class matches in their respective careers. Only Don Bradman, with his monstrous appetite for hundreds, managed the feat without the help of a county career, though four rather long English tours did push things along.

However, what is significant is that none of the others in the 80-plus group comes remotely close to Tendulkar in the percentage of Test matches played and percentage of hundreds scored on the premier stage of Test cricket.

In the table below we have listed all the batsmen with 80-plus First-Class hundreds with the percentage of Test matches and Test hundreds.

In the last column we have tried to estimate the number of hundreds Tendulkar would have made if he had played as many non-Test First-Class matches as each batsman.

For example, from the first row we find out that Jack Hobbs scored 199 hundreds in 834 First-Class matches – including 61 Tests. If Tendulkar had played 773 First-Class matches apart from his 194 Tests, he would have scored 264 hundreds given the rate of his 100 plus scores. This figure has been captured in the last column.

In this list as well, as in most of the areas of batsmanship, only one batsman upstages him – Don Bradman.

Leader board of First-Class centuries: the last column denotes the estimated number of hundreds Tendulkar would have scored if he had played the same number of non-Test First-Class matches as each batsman in the list.

 

Player Span FC
Matches
FC
100s
Tests Test
100s
%
Tests
%Test
100s
Estimated 100s
of Tendulkar
JB Hobbs 1905-1934 834 199 61 15 7.31 7.54 264
EH Hendren 1907-1937 833 170 51 7 6.12 4.12 266
WR Hammond 1920-1951 634 167 85 22 13.41 13.17 202
CP Mead 1905-1936 814 153 17 4 2.09 2.61 270
G Boycott 1962-1986 609 151 108 22 17.73 14.57 189
H Sutcliffe 1919-1945 754 151 54 16 7.16 10.60 244
FE Woolley 1906-1938 978 145 64 5 6.54 3.45 303
GA Hick 1983-2008 526 136 65 6 12.36 4.41 178
L Hutton 1934-1955 513 129 79 19 15.40 14.73 170
GA Gooch 1973-2000 581 128 118 20 20.31 15.63 178
WG Grace 1865-1908 870 124 22 2 2.53 1.61 284
DCS Compton 1936-1964 515 123 78 17 15.15 13.82 171
TW Graveney 1948-1972 732 122 79 11 10.79 9.02 231
DG Bradman 1927-1949 234 117 52 29 22.22 24.79 101
MR Ramprakash 1987-2012 461 114 52 2 11.28 1.75 164
IVA Richards 1971-1993 507 114 121 24 23.87 21.05 157
Zaheer Abbas 1965-1987 459 108 78 12 16.99 11.11 156
A Sandham 1911-1937 643 107 14 2 2.18 1.87 224
MC Cowdrey 1950-1976 692 107 114 22 16.47 20.56 210
TW Hayward 1893-1914 712 104 35 3 4.92 2.88 237
GM Turner 1964-1983 455 103 41 7 9.01 6.80 165
JH Edrich 1956-1978 564 103 77 12 13.65 11.65 185
LEG Ames 1926-1951 593 102 47 8 7.93 7.84 201
GE Tyldesley 1909-1936 648 102 14 3 2.16 2.94 225
DL Amiss 1960-1987 658 102 50 11 7.60 10.78 218
JW Hearne 1909-1936 647 96 24 1 3.71 1.04 222
CB Fry 1892-1922 394 94 26 2 6.60 2.13 152
MW Gatting 1975-1998 551 94 79 10 14.34 10.64 181
CG Greenidge 1970-1992 523 92 108 19 20.65 20.65 165
AJ Lamb 1972-1995 467 89 79 14 16.92 15.73 158
AI Kallicharran 1966-1990 505 87 66 12 13.07 13.79 172
GS Sobers 1952-1974 383 86 93 26 24.28 30.23 131
JL Langer 1991-2009 360 86 105 23 29.17 26.74 121
RB Kanhai 1954-1977 421 86 79 15 18.76 17.44 145
WJ Edrich 1934-1958 571 86 39 6 6.83 6.98 197
JT Tyldesley 1895-1923 608 86 31 4 5.10 4.65 210
PBH May 1950-1963 388 85 66 13 17.01 15.29 140
RES Wyatt 1923-1951 739 85 40 2 5.41 2.35 243
J Hardstaff jnr 1930-1955 517 83 23 4 4.45 4.82 187
DS Lehmann 1987-2007 284 82 27 5 9.51 6.10 122
SM Gavaskar 1966-1987 348 81 125 34 35.92 41.98 112
ME Waugh 1985-2004 368 81 128 20 34.78 24.69 117
SR Tendulkar 1988-2013 303 81 194 51 64.03 62.96 81
BA Richards 1964-1983 339 80 4 2 1.18 2.50 143
Javed Miandad 1973-1994 402 80 124 23 30.85 28.75 128
M Leyland 1920-1947 686 80 41 9 5.98 11.25 229

 

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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