Beyond compare

Post-Sachinís new record, there have been comparisons galore with other batting legends.
But is it fair to compare players from different eras, asks Donald Banerjee

Within days of Sachin Tendulkar scoring a record double century in a one-day match, comparisons have begun to find out who is the greatest batsmen of all times. The names of Sir Don Bradman, Sir Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Ricky Pointing, Sir Garfield Sobers and Brian Lara are being discussed.

Prize catch

A cricket-obsessed India wants Sachin Tendulkar to be honoured with the highest civilian award of the country, the Bharat Ratna. Politicians have started cutting across party lines demanding this highest civilian award for Sachin for his record 200-run innings against South Africa at Gwalior recently. Cricketers Ajit Wadekar, Saurabh Ganguly , Kapil Dev and a host of others have joined the chorus. But surprisingly, there is no such support for this award from sportspersons of other disciplines.

Sachin has already been decorated with the second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan, besides the Arjuna Award and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, which was floated specially for sportspersons.

There is no provision for a Bharat Ratna for sportspersons under the rules drafted for the highest civilian award. The official notification reads: Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This includes artistic, literary and scientific achievements, as well as recognition of public service of the highest order. Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna carry no special title nor any other honorifics, but they do have a place in the Indian order of precedence.

Sachin Tendulkar was equated with India's only world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand when he was given the Padma Vibhushan in 2008. Abhinav Bindra, who fetched the first-ever individual gold in 108 years of India's Olympic history had to settle for a Padma Bhushan for his shooting triumph at the Beijing Olympics.

India produced world beaters in Olympic hockey. The team won several gold medals. Is it time to do a rethink. What about Dhyan Chand, the hockey legend? `A0It is a comment on how cricket-obsessed a nation we are, says a former Olympian. ó DB

Sachin's fans have gone crazy ever since the 37-year-old Mumbaikar achieved the impossible, scoring the first double century in an ODI tie, defeating South Africa by 153 runs at Gwalior. Other than Ponting and Lara, all other batsmen played in a different era. Hence comparisons are difficult.

Even the conservative international media put Sachin on a par with Bradman. The Indian media, especially the electronic media, went overboard. The comparison war began soon after this match. Reports started creeping in: He is better than Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, even Vivian Richards. Yet others branded him a better batsman than Sunil Gavaskar. But the ultimate was when he was considered on a par with, if not better than, Bradman.

Such quotes were unthinkable about the Australian cricket legend, who was till now considered "high and mighty " as a cricket icon.

Sachin was quick to refute such comparisons. He said Bradman remained the best batsman in the annals of world cricket.

Going by statistics, Bradman's Test batting average, 99.94 per innings, is double than that of Sachin's. But Sachin stands out going by the volume of the game he has played. Starting his cricketing career in 1989 in Pakistan as a 16-year-old, Sachin has adapted to every format of the game, be it Test cricket, the One-Day International or the Twenty-20 format. He already has a world record of 13,447 runs in Test cricket and also holds the record for the maximum centuries in Tests.

Rationally,`A0comparisons can be made of batsmen of the same era. Playing cricket in an era when no protective headgear was used is altogether different from the present era, where you walk in with loads of protective gear. Sachin himself made this very clear at a recent press conference when he said no comparisons could be made between cricketers of different eras.

Sunil Gavaskar showed his class in taming the fiery pace attack of the West Indies when the fearsome Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and their ilk bowled life-threatening bouncers at a pace in excess of 95 miles per hour. That was the era when there was no rule to curb the number of bouncers in an over. This was at a time when the protective headgear was yet to make its appearance. He was the first cricketer to surpass Bradman's record of hitting the maximum number of centuries in Test cricket.

Who can forget the ruthless swagger of Vivian Richards as he tore the bowlers apart with his batting style. The six he hit over covers off Bob Willis in the 1980s left the purists gasping.

All said and done, cricketing greats have shown their mettle in different eras. Brian Lara holds the record of scoring 400 runs in a single Test innings. This feat is as unbeatable as Sachin's 200 in ODIs.

During the record-breaking double century, Sachin remained at the crease for the entire Indian innings though he showed signs of tiredness and was also suffering from cramps. The Little Master passed the previous record of 194 not out set by Zimbabwe's Charles Coventry in August last year and 194 by Saeed Anwar in 1997.

Sachin does not look like heís going to hang up his boots. But he is 37 today, which means he could be there for the World Cup to be played on home soil around this time next year. This could be the right opportunity for Sachin to silence his critics, who say he has not played enough match-winning innings on a big occasion for India. What better than the World Cup to prove it on home soil.

Comparisons are endless. But going by the number of records that Sachin has created, he stands out as an all-time great.