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Session-dashboard - Tracking Test Matches as they progress.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Sachin Tendulkar and other legends

Sachin Tendulkar at Adelaide OvalThe Little Master WikipediaYet another research report was done recently by a set of researchers in Australia on the best batsman in the history of cricket - the result was a known one. The best batsman in the world was Sir Don Bradman.
There were changes in the remaining batsmen based on their averages. But, there is a fundamental flaw in this process, as per my thinking.

Why are we trying to include Bradman in the calculations and comparisons. Everyone who is living and dead, old and young, veterans and newcomers, have acknowledged the fact that Sir Don is the greatest of all batsmen in test cricket.

Why dont we then, compare the other batsmen against Don, rather than trying to measure all of them with arbitrary values?

I tried to do the same exercise pitting the best batsman in modern times, Sachin Tendulkar, against the Don.
To find out the matches or the opponents where Sachin failed against, I did a comparison of their %runs scored against %innings played. That is, if a player played against a specific country for 20% of his overall number of test innings, he should have scored 20% of his overall number of runs. If the difference is 0 or a positive value, it means that the player had a performance that was comparable to his overall numbers. If it was a negative difference, this showed that the player fared badly against the country or in that situation. Lesser the negatives will determine the greatness of a player. It takes the average out of the equation since I am not worried about the not-outs - just taking the innings played into consideration. I like to call this as the 'DoP' value (Difference of Percentages).

What were the results? It turned out to be quite interesting. There are some limitations in the approach taken, however - I will mention it as we go along the comparison process.

Sachin's consistency across the years has been a wonder to look - only 2 years (2003 and 2006) has his performance been not satisfactory, 2003 seeing him play only 5 matches. 7 of his other years has seen him dip slightly - a real marvel at his tendency to be consistent throughout his career. Bradman, on the other hand, showed interesting figures - 3 of his years having the dip (though to be fair, 2 years saw him playing only 2 and 3 test matches in the year) with 3 other years showing a smaller dip.
Bradman played only 4 countries during his life-time (India, South Africa, West Indies, England), scoring 72% of his runs against his traditional rivals England, while playing in 70% of the matches overall. Against West Indies, he scored 6% of his runs while playing in 10% of his tests - a difference of 4% on the negative side. The average also dips by more than 20%. Here, one has to say that the number of matches played against WI was only 5 - hardly a sample to compare.

Tendulkar, on the other hand, has negative differences against NewZealand, Pakistan and South Africa (more against the latter two countries) - he has a chance to make the numbers better later this year against NZ (at home) and SA. He has a positive difference against the other four countries (Australia, England, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh) & 0 difference against 2 others (Sri Lanka, West Indies). South Africa has been among the top-3 ranked teams during Sachin's playing lifetime. Even though NZ and Pakistan have not been consistent in their performances in test cricket but have managed to keep Sachin down.

Bradman has a negative difference at home, compared to his performances away - quite interesting really. He seemed to relish the English conditions more than the ones at hoome. Similarly, if one looks at Sachin's performances across the world, he has again shown a good difference in Australia and England, 2 places where the conditions are quite different than at home. South Africa, again, has resulted in Sachin's performance going down a bit - a reflection of the talented bowling attack that the Proteas have had over the years. Just like the Don, Sachin averages in the negative at home also!! His performance in Pakistan, West Indies and Zimbabwe have slightly dipped as well - one can argue that Sachin has played against Windies when they had better bowling attacks than now.

I have done similar charts with 3 other players who have scored the highest number of runs in the history of cricket - Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid. The countries where they have scored less against as well as the countries they have scored less in, are compared.

This chart shows the performances of the four current greats against all opponents.Dravid against Australia, South Africa seems to be on the -ve side while Lara has a greater negative against India and NewZealand. Ponting has a difference against India but not very high.

This chart shows the performances of the same batsmen in all countries. Ponting in India, Lara in Australia, Dravid in Sri Lanka are the major differences.

Verdict: Each have their weak points but overall, Sachin has a good score against all countries but Ponting seems to have the better score playing in all countries.
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