Over at The Cricketer, John Emburey has made the point that Sachin Tendulkar has been tested in ways that Bradman wasn’t. It’s a fair point.
In Ed Smith’s damn fine book, What Sport Tells Us About Life, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to Bradman’s average. Someone somewhere did some sort of science/magic and concluded that in a later era, Bradman wouldn’t have averaged 99, but he’d still have averaged 70-odd or summat like that.
The point is partly that his average was higher because cricketers now are generally bigger-faster-stronger-better and partly that, actually, Bradman would still be exceptional, even allowing for that.
Don Bradman played Test matches in England and Australia and nowhere else. Sachin Tendulkar has played Tests in 10 countries. Only in Zimbabwe has he not scored a hundred – he has only had seven innings there and still averages 40. Tendulkar’s figures in each nation are not all exceptional, but they do stand up to scrutiny. Pace, turn, swing, seam – Tendulkar has succeeded against it all.
Bradman excelled in every format he played – first-class cricket and Tests. Tendulkar has succeeded in every format he has played – Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20. Defiant rearguards and hell-for-leather flaying, Tendulkar can do both and everything in between.
So Tendulkar is better than Bradman was?
We chose our title carefully. Tendulkar has been better than Bradman, because to us batting is about encountering different match situations in different conditions and succeeding. The best batsmen aren’t simply those with the highest averages, but those with the broadest range.
When comparing Bradman and Tendulkar, the latter has benefited from circumstance. We believe that Bradman would have excelled at one-day cricket and Twenty20 as well, were he around now.
But he hasn’t actually done it – Tendulkar has.