Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tendulkar vs. Bradman: Unfair to compare

With the Master Blaster having completed a half century of test centuries, the media has predictably begun doling opinions (less of experts, more of amateurs) comparing Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar. Let us try and see how both of them compare:
  1. Pitch Conditions:
    During Bradman's times, playing pitches used to be left open overnight and were hence prone to be affected by the overnight weather conditions.
    Tendulkar: Pitches are well covered with water-proof material and are, hence, less affected due to changes in the weather conditions overnight.
  2. Bowling Conditions:
    In Bradman's era, bowlers could, legally, bowl six bouncers to the batsman. Moreover, with uncovered pitches, the conditions could tilt in favour of the bowler on every morning of the test. There were no restrictions on field placements. Fielders could be placed anywhere the bowler wanted.
    Tendulkar: In test matches, two bouncers per over are allowed. In one-day internationals, one bouncer per over. So, no more rattling the batsmen by hurtling down an over full of bouncers. No more than five fielders can be placed on the leg side of the batsmen, thereby limiting the nature of attack.
  3. Sports Gear:
    No protection over the chest and no helmets. Imagine facing Larwood when your head is exposed and your heart, ribs and lungs have no protection against the thud of the ball which could hit you at around 140 km/h. And then, you would realise Bradman's situation.
    Tendulkar: All sort of safety equipment are now available. Helmets, elbow guard, chest guard, etc. Not that cricket has become easy, but batsmen can think of risking being hit, without having to worry too much about how grievous the injury will be.
  4. Fielding:
    Watch those grainy videos of the test matches involving Bradman, and you will realise that the fielders in that era didn't dive around or run their heart out, to save a few runs or to get the crucial wickets. Hence, runs were a little easy to come by.
    Tendulkar: In the modern era, cricket has become heavily competitive. It not only matters how many runs you score, but it also matters how many can you save. You can see fielders diving around to save singles, latch on to catches that would have the opposition down by one more wicket. Hence, Tendulkar has had more hard work, while compiling those runs.
  5. Oppositions and conditions:
    Bradman has played most of his cricket against England and in two countries: England and Australia. He hasn't played on the turning tracks of the subcontinent or on the ferocious pitches of South Africa.
    Tendulkar: He has played test cricket all over the world, against nine countries. This means his runs have come against different types of opposition and many more different conditions than Bradman. From the placid pitches of India, to the bouncy pitches of SA and Australia, to the seaming pitches of England, he has conquered them all. From Abdul Kadir to Warne, Ambrose to McGrath, he has tamed almost all of them.
  6. Statistics: In cricket, statistics are always biased. They comment on the results, but ignore the efforts that went into them. A century on Motera, Ahemdabad is far less difficult than a one on WACA, Perth. But statistics places equal value on both. Hence, these should be seen only as a formality.
    Bradman: Tests: 52, Runs: 6996, 100s: 29 (includes 12 double hundreds and 2 triple), Average: 99.96.
    This means, almost every time he went out to bat, he scored a hundred runs.
    Tendulkar: Tests: 175, Runs: 14513, 100s: 50 (includes 6 double hundreds, but no triple), Average: 56.91.
    Sachin's stats are as of 26th December 2010, before the start of the 2nd test match between SA and India, at Durban.
Now, these were individual parameters on which the two greats were compared. But, in no match, does it happen that only one of the parameter dominates and the rest don't. Hence, if we were to analyse a combined effect of all these factors (multivariate statistical analysis) coming into play together, it would be much more difficult to come up with a conclusion. So, it is better we stop demeaning either of the two by saying one is a greater batsman than the other. Bradman, is as great as Tendulkar is. Both batsmen have taken cricket to new frontiers in their respective era. Both have set new benchmarks to achieve for their successors. Hence, I would say, it is unfair to try and compare the two greats. Fair, would be to savour all those exciting cricket that Tendulkar continues to generate.
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