Sunday, February 5, 2012

Who's the Greatest of them all?

A never-ending debate was reignited a few days ago, when Griffith University Professor Dr. Nicholas Rohde used economic theory to compare batsmen across different eras, and concluded that India’s star batsman Sachin Tendulkar was the greatest batsman of all time. Immediately statistics were thrown around by passionate fans – some agreeing with the research while some questioning the application of economic theory to sports.

Cricket has undergone a lot of change since the first Test match, which was played between Australia and England on 15 March 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Pitches have changed, so have the outfields, the equipment and the level of the game.  From timeless Tests to Twenty20, cricket has come full circle. When the game has changed so much, can we really compare players across different eras?

Every player is a product of his generation. Thus it’s a bit ridiculous to say that had ‘X’ been playing during the 40s, he would have struggled on bowler friendly pitches. And were pitches really as bowler friendly as we often assume them to be? Uncovered pitches produced some of the highest scores – 6 of the top 10 Test match aggregates of all time were scored before 1960. If we compare the batting averages of the top seven batsmen by decade, the 1940s stand as the best era for batting with an average of 41.13. Yes, Bradman never had the luxury of playing with super bats and protective equipment, but he also had the luxury of not very high standards of fielding, limited opposition and lax lbw rules –  in Bradman’s time you could only be given out if the ball pitched and hit in line with the stumps and then went on to hit them. This ruled out the in-swinger, the off-cutter, and the off-spinning deliveries that pitch outside but come in enough to hit in line.

Thus, every era had its pros and cons. We really can’t say that with an average of 99.94, Bradman was a “better” batsman than Sachin or Lara or Richards - statistically yes, but stats reveal very little. Here we must make a distinction between the “best” and the “greatest”. When calling some “better” than the other you can only compare players from the same era. Greatness on the other hand spans across eras. It is, however, very subjective. One person’s criteria of judging greatness may be vastly different from another’s. For some, Bradman may be the greatest for being way ahead of his contemporaries, while for some, Sachin, with his longevity and completeness, may be a greater player than the Don.  We don’t need any research to prove who is right. It is a fan’s personal preference.

In a game that has changed by leaps and bounds, we only do disservice to players by blindly comparing one with the other. Let each have his favorite. Let Bradman be the greatest for one. Let Sachin be the greatest for another. Let Cricket be the uniting factor for both.


An Economics researcher claims to have found an answer to one of the biggest debates in international cricket by picking Indian icon Sachin Tendulkar as the greatest Test batsman ever over late Australian legend Sir Donald Bradman.

"Griffith University researcher Dr Nicholas Rohde has used economic theory to compare batsmen from different eras, and says India's Little Master, who will pad up against the Aussies at the MCG on Boxing Day, is history's premier willow wielder," reported 'The Australian'.

The 38-year-old Tendulkar has a world-record 15,183 runs from 184 Tests at an average of 56.02 since making his debut in 1989.

Bradman, on the other hand, played 52 Tests from 1928 to 1948, scoring 6996 runs at an astonishing average of 99.94. He died in 2001 aged 92.

Dr Rohde said a theoretical analysis puts Tendulkar above Bradman.

"The rankings are designed to allow for meaningful comparisons of players with careers of different lengths," Dr Rohde said.

"It's an emotional issue and there will always be debate between followers of Test cricket about the relative career performances of various batsmen," he added.

The rankings by the researcher have been created according to a player's career aggregate runs, minus the total number of runs that an average player of that era would accumulate over the same number of innings.

Allan Border (seven) and Steve Waugh (nine) are the other Australian batsmen in the top 10. Rahul Dravid (fourth) and Sunil Gavaskar (eighth) are the other Indians in the list.

Dr Rohde said it was possible that Tendulkar and Bradman could swap their places many times before the Indian retires as a dip in form would affect his standing. 


A study conducted by a Griffith university researcher has put Sachin as  the greatest cricketer of all time, Sachin Tendulkar has officially usurped Sir Don Bradman as the greatest Test batsman. A study done by an Australian professor found Tendulkar greater than Bradman.
Researcher Dr Nicholas Rohde used economic theory to compare batsmen from different eras. India’s Master Blaster, who pads up against the Aussies in Sydney this week, emerged as history’s premier willow wielder.

Bradman played 52 Tests for Australia from 1928 to 1948, scoring 6,996 runs at a peerless average of 99.94. He died in 2001 aged 92. Tendulkar, who debuted in 1989, has so far amassed a world record 15,183 runs from 184 Tests at an average of 56.02.

Tendulkar, whom Bradman once described as the player who most reminded him of himself at the crease, has been seeking a historic 100th international century in Australia this summer.
According to the study, Tendulkar occupied the top spot in the rankings with Bradman at number two spot. South Afrcia’s Jacques Kallis came number three while the Great Wall of India Rahul Dravid occupied the number four spot. The legendary West Indian, Brian Lara, was at number five.
Another West Indian Garfield Sobers, former Aussie Captain Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar emerged sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Australian Steve Waugh and Pakistan’s Javed Miandad completed the top 10 list.

While ahead of the Sydney Test match Australian fast bowling legend Glenn McGrath has predicted Sachin Tendulkar will remain stranded on 99 international centuries at least for the rest of the summer, cricketer Michael Hussey said that the stars were aligning in a way that Sachin could get his 100th ton at the Sydney Cricket ground.
And India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a press conference admitted that five straight losses overseas have hit the “belief of the team” but said that his boys are capable of bouncing back in the Sydney Test against Australia beginning on Tuesday January 3.

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