Saturday, August 21, 2010

So, is Sehwag really the best?

Today, I was going through Aivjit Ghosh's blog post on the recent news in the world of cricket. Amongst all news, he talks on Sehwag in high esteem. Not that I do not hold Sehwag in high esteem. Infact, someone who has consistently appeared and performed well at international level, deserves an applause. But then, is it really the right time to start calling him the Indian best bastman of all time?

But, Avijit thinks he is the best. And here are the claims that Avijit makes in Sehwag's favour:
"Others can keep piling methodical hundreds, they can never dream of a 80-plus strike rate in Test cricket. Now even research papers show that he is better than anybody in India."
Oh yes, probably no one can dream of such a strike-rate. But then, stirke-rate is a deceptive statistic. It is not an unbiased measure of performance. This only means that Sehwag scores 80+ runs every 100 balls he faces. Which means, he might get out at a score of 8 or 9 after playing 10 balls in an innings, for 10 consecutive matches, and still end up with this strike-rate. In such a case, methodical hundreds might be more useful. I have blogged previously about the deceptive nature of statistical figures. This is yet another example of use of incomplete statistics to arrive at a conclusion.

Again, Avijit relies on some research papers that have claimed to have analysed that he is better than anybody in India. Frankly speaking, the reliability of research papers that combine human abilities and statistical data to arrive at conclusions should be sceptically looked at. I, definitely find in difficult to trust in such research, as we are never sure if the statistical data used is completely unbiased. And that the final conclusions are not sensitive to addition or removal of parameters.

Perhaps, the best comparison comes from Harsha Bhogle. His crininfo article on comparison between Gavaskar and Sehwag can be found here. And, quoting Harsha, here is the clincher
"But at the corresponding points in their career (79 Tests each), a mere 88 runs separate them. The difference in batting average is but 0.68."
I had once heard Shirish Kanekar on comparing different cricketers. Like every sane person, he said that it is impossible to compare players of different era, as playing conditions were different. Ranjitsinghji, Don Bradman, etc. never wore helmets or protective gear. They played differently and had to defend themselves against the possibility of getting injured due to a swinging delivery ramming into the body. The pitches were never covered, as they are today and hence batsmen were much more exposed to the vagaries of nature. Today, with protective gear, the batsman can be more aggressive and hence in turn score more runs. Kanekar had an interesting anecdote. He said, "There was no concept of nuclear warfare and its counter strategies during Shivaji Maharaj's era. That doesn't mean he was a king of lesser abilities than today's war strategists."

So, instead of pondering over which individual is best, there should be more concentration on building a team that is best.
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  1. I haven't been following Sehwag's playing nor the statistics but what I can definitely say is that "t is impossible to compare players of different era, as playing conditions were different."

    Be it cricket or life, there are different yardsticks to measure one's worth.

    A great Sunday to ye.

    Joy always,

  2. Oh yes, but we definitely love to compare. See how peoples' mouth salivates when somebody evokes Bradman's statement that Sachin Tendulkar plays like he himself used to.