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The Sachin Tendulkar Debate – Background

August 9, 2009

There are probably as many “top-10/20/100 best players” lists as there are cricket journalists. Over the years, forests have been leveled in order to present rigorously analytical points of view about why player A is better than player B because his average is higher on grounds beginning with the letter W while player C sucks because he only seems to score his runs on even dates in the southern hemisphere and none on the 13th.

On a significant percentage of those lists, for every Indian fan and many global ones, the contentions have centered around a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Is he second only to Bradman or is he nothing more than “the greatest support act in Indian cricket” as described by holdingwilley?

With Tendulkar’s changes to his game over the last 3-4 seasons coinciding with the rise of the new Indian middle order, the number of articles/books/conversations questioning his utility have exploded. So, it was a pleasant (yet dubious) surprise when I was gifted a book in the opposing vein “If cricket is a religion, Sachin is God” written by Vijay Santhanam. The book attempts to statistically refute specific assertions by noted cricket journalists in the “Why my grandmother bats better than Sachin” club. Having pledged my (unquestioning) lifelong allegiance to the Tendulkar fan club sometime in the middle of the last decade, I was quite chuffed by the book. But I couldn’t help but question the process.

Relying on statistics to figure out who the great contemporary players are is like going indoors to log onto to see if it’s nice outside.

Just like we don’t necessarily need album sales information (classified by country of sale, time of the year and other miscellaneous information) to have an inkling that The Beatles, U2, Pink Floyd,  Queen, The Doors probably constitute some of the best rock bands to have filled arenas. Or that another completely sane music-lover might swear by the likes of Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead and co, it does not detract from the ‘greatness’ of the first group. in short, great players are observed and enjoyed, not ordered and re-ordered based on filters on spreadsheets or database queries. Well, atleast not completely.

So, I decided to take my own stab at weighing in on the discussion. To examine Sachin Tendulkar’s claim to greatness without any (significant) overt preconceived bias going either way. To look at career statistics, not by first deciding on the argument and then looking for supporting data, but to first lay out what might constitute superlative performance and then to look at Tendulkar’s numbers in relation to those of some of the others that we typically associate with being the best batsmen of this era. It’s only fair that there be separate discussions for Test Cricket and One Day Internationals.

Next: Rules of Engagement…

One Comment leave one →
  1. PRADEEP permalink
    June 19, 2011 11:49 am


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