Tendulkar has been better than Bradman

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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.

Different eras

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.

Different conditions

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.

Different formats

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.


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    1. Nope. Genuinely thought it was a point worth making.

      It’s not really about Tendulkar or Bradman. It’s about how we value batsmen generally. It’s about being an all-round batsman, if that isn’t too ambiguous.

  1. [I just wanted to get in first before any actual rabid Indian fans.]

    wat is this??!? how can u say that SACHIN is not as gud as bradman? this is all part of a connspiracy against indian cricketr!

    SRT is a cricketin GOD!

    he will DESTROY ur whinin south african B bowlers! there is no reel point in playing this south africa B team or any other as SACHIN is too good to play against any team ever assembled!

    SACHIN IS GOD! etc

    1. That’s really convincing. You must have studied the oeuvre quite carefully.

  2. Send Sachin in wearing notheing but old fahioned pads, a cloth cap and a cold tin box and see what happens to his average. the differentera thing cuts both ways.

    1. And sachin never had to face fast leg bowling. Imagine how he would have crumbled under such cheating illegal outrageous immoral tactics

  3. To be fair though as Bradman only played England he did play only against good teams – something that Tendulkar has not done…

    I love Tendulkar as he’s fantastic to watch and I as am a cricketing geek I love Bradman’s stats more than perhaps anything else. Even more than the possibility of a hundred hundreds…

    Point taken though.

  4. All this illustrates is that it’s pointless to compare across generations. There is no sense in trying to claim that Tendulkar’s range (great success in all forms of the game that he’s played in – incidentally, only one T20I, just 10 scored…) demonstrates anything in comparison to Bradman’s (also great success in all forms of the game at the time). Can’t we just appreciate that they’re both great? Why do we have to try to put them in order?

    And to demonstrate people’s lack of appreciation of the game, I give you the ‘Greatest Test Team of all time, as voted for on the ICC website. Utterly predictable, utterly stupid.

    Virender Sehwag
    Sunil Gavaskar
    Sir Donald Bradman
    Sachin Tendulkar
    Brian Lara
    Kapil Dev
    Adam Gilchrist (wicketkeeper)
    Shane Warne
    Wasim Akram
    Curtly Ambrose
    Glenn McGrath

    1. Why do we have to put them in order?

      Because everything has to be put into order, otherwise it will be out of order, which means broken, which means not as good as it would be if it was in order.

      For sports people, you can place them in order within their sports quite easily, taking into account that being dead is always worth a few places. Across sports it is harder, and it’s harder still to include non-sports people and everything else on the same list. Nevertheless, with a bit of effort it can be done. Here is a segment of the definitive master list:

      Derek Pringle
      The Proclaimers
      The Discovery of Manganese
      Mouse Mats
      Open Heart Surgery
      King Cricket
      Gerbil Mats

    2. Daneel, we were really trying to highlight a difference rather than compare. However, we were also questioning the assumption that Bradman is incomparable, which rather knackers-up that first aim.

    3. “Take that, ironing, you pathetic piece of shit!”

      Is that an extract from your comma-separated list?

  5. I tend to think that the Tendulkar-Bradman comparisons aren’t the most useful because Bradman was an anomaly. He comprehensively outshone everyone else in his own era that faced similar circumstances (I’d guess that the next highest average would be Headley at 60). He played over 200 first class matches in total and still averaged 95, in an era where first class cricket was more significant to the top players than it is now. Take 25 runs off his test average (to account for a wider range of conditions, more teams etc etc) and it’s still significantly higher than even Tendulkar’s.

    The real comparison for Tendulkar, purely in terms of cricketing feats (e.g. being consistently excellent over a huge length of time and racking up previously unthought-of numbers of runs/centuries) is Jack Hobbs.

  6. Before trying to answer questions regarding the best ever, it is instructive to look at what one of the greatest batsmen of our generation asked his crowd when he signed off: “Did I entertain?” Not “Did you think I was consistent?” or “Did I play spin well?”, but “Did I entertain?”. Sport, when deconstructed to its element, is simply that – a vehicle for providing entertainment. Sure, there is national pride, individual goals and such, but these are not as tangible while the drama unfolds as the entertainment value. So the question of who is the best is best replaced by who did you enjoy watching the most? And we should count ourselves lucky that there are so many good ones to choose from. The lazy elegance of Haq, the technical goodness of Sachin, the overwhelming stats of the Don….

    But you see, there’s always been something about Brian.

    1. The most entertaining batsman I’ve ever watched? Hmm. Toss up between Mullally or Malcolm, I think.

    2. Steve Harmison for us.

      He provided an intoxicating blend of fear, incompetence and occasionally thunking clean-hitting. You never knew quite what was going to happen next.

    3. Murali.

      Ged commented (Jan 2009 – I looked it up) that he was one of the few batsmen that would not just get you out of the bar, but out of the bar queue as well, because:

      a) His batting was thoroughly entertaining, and
      b) He was unlikely to still be there if you waited to get your drinks.

      This remains my favourite ever comment, appearing on the overall list between papier mache and yodelling.

    4. I think the replies are equally thoughtful Deep Cower. What constitutes entertainment to different people may be vastly different.

  7. Both are great, but as we have seen that Australian are weak on slow pitches, therefore, looking a the record of Australian one can suggest that may be Bradman not good on slow pitches, while Tendulker is good on both type of pitches.

    1. Artherton played about 46% of his matches against top class (group 5) bowling. Abnormally high! Against everyone else, he batted decently well.

  8. This is all very well and good, but bradman and tendulkar are certainly no Lord Robert Key.

    1. I’ve just noticed that Kent have dropped Bobby Key. They have replaced him at the top of the order with someone called Piesley. This is not a joke.

    2. Price. Notice how KC hasn’t even mentioned Sir Bob in his article as he knew it would be futile to make/not-make that comparison.

      Also, that silly advert box at the top of the page has just tried to sell me a dress that has ‘2 styles’.

      Targeted marketing eh?

  9. I see the error of my ways dan. How could I have questioned the king?!? Sometimes I think the King is all the cricket journalism one really needs

    1. As you know Price, KC deserves a seat at the ‘top table’ of cricketing journalism.

  10. 3 Tendulkar ‘articles’ in 2 weeks (or so)… trying to boost readers KC?
    What’s next? a piece on ‘Shane Watson naked’? That phrase combined with Bert’s list should get a few random google hits. But at what price?

    But at what price?

  11. I think i should bring up the GREAT Stuart Law for that matter, he just played one test & was 54 notout, which is an average of infinity & beyond.
    Anyway i feel bradman was better, as he had to watch out for his “noggin” or “Uncle Ned” more times then Sanchin getts rejected from a Rollercoster ride!

  12. I am not sure I agree with Emburey’s point – how can he say there is no way Bradman would have averaged 99 these days, when on the other hand every second article you read bemoans the inflation of modern-day batsmen’s averages due to batsmen friendly pitches? Maybe Bradman would have averaged 109!

  13. In test match news, here’s a quote from Cricinfo at lunch:

    “…and though Zaheer looked a little short of a gallop…”

    That has Greggs Covert Ops signature all over it.

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