Can We Declare Sachin the Best Batsman Ever and Place Him in Higher Esteem than Don Bradman?
We can certainly consider it…
“Better than Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting, the other two great players of my era. Better than Sir Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border. And I would even say better than Sir Don Bradman himself.”
Last summer, like many other cricket lovers before me, I wrote an article naming who in my opinion were the top 20 batsman of all time (see greatest batsman of all time positions 11-20 and the greatest batsmen of all time positions 10-1 here). As an amateur historian, I combined the knowledge gained from 30 years as a cricket follower, plus research encompassing both primary and secondary sources before arriving at my choice. I added several caveats explaining that it is extremely difficult to compare batsmen from different eras and that the game had changed and evolved throughout its wonderful history. I also based my choices primarily on test cricket given that the first ODI was in 1971 and that tests always have been the best barometer of a batsman’s true quality.
Bradman came top of my list with Tendulkar 11th, which naturally provoked a lot of criticism and ire from those that read it both in and outside India; especially as I had ranked both Ponting and Lara higher than the Little Master. Whilst I believe I was right in most of the choices within my top 20, I believe I may have erred somewhat in placing Tendulkar outside the top 10. Let me explain…
However, this post is not about revising my previous choice, but a contrary one that suggests that comparing the two is perhaps unnecessary. Is it not better to merely argue that as Bradman was the greatest in his era, Sachin is the greatest in his? 93 international centuries spread over a 20 year career suggests he is and I belatedly concur that he shades Ponting and Lara for this accolade.
Comparisons with Bradman are difficult. Bradman played on sticky dogs but had more latitude with the LBW laws prior to 1934 and only faced one other team (England, against whom The Don still averaged 89.78) that was really competitive against Australia. But at the same time, Bradman played at the same time as a number of other all-time batting greats like Hobbs, Hammond, Sutcliffe, Headley, Ponsford and McCabe and averaged at least 40 runs more than any of them. Like Sachin, every time he went to the crease he had the additional pressure of a nation’s expectations sitting on his shoulder, albeit far less than the billion souls perched along Tendulkar’s collarbone.
Maybe it is simply better to celebrate the many similarities between the two. Both have faced down and bettered the best bowlers of their time, whether it be pace (Ambrose, Wasim and McGrath versus Larwood and Bedser) or spin (Warne and Murali against Verity). Furthermore, both have achieved milestones in the game that will never be equalled. No other batsman will ever get close to Bradman’s immortal 99.94, but at the same time no other batsman is likely to score 100 international hundreds, which the Indian Master will probably achieve in the next 18 months; maybe fittingly in the 2011 World Cup Final?
I’ve come to the conclusion that debates as to who is the greater between Bradman and Tendulkar are irrelevant and basically a waste of time. It is time for cricket followers to just celebrate that two such legends have played this wonderful game of ours. A place on the Mount Olympus cricket field is there for both of them. Bradman believed that Tendulkar reminded him of himself and that is maybe a good place to leave this particular argument.
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