The greatest Test batsman since 1970: part two

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By , Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Sachin Tendulkar has an idea to improve cricket. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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    Yesterday, I went through the first half of a list of candidates for my top-10 fast bowlers since 1970. Here are the remaining candidates, as well as the much-awaited list.

    We start today by looking to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has produced two outstanding batsmen – Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

    Jayawardene’s record really is in two distinct halves with a home average of 61.1 and a mere 39.3 on the road. In 25 Tests at his beloved Singhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo he has scored ten of his 31 career centuries.

    Against South Africa at the SSC in 2006 he made 374. A powerful driver through the covers and with the familiar flick of the wrists to the leg side that defines so many sub-continental batsmen, Jayawardene is another all-round player.

    In 138 Tests to date he has totalled a Sri Lankan record 10,806 runs at 49.6 with 31 tons. He averages 64.0 in 17 Tests against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

    Sangakkara loves to compile big scores. In 115 Tests to date he has scored eight double centuries and three scores in the 190s. He has produced 10,045 runs at 55.8 with 30 centuries.

    Unlike Jayawardene, he has been consistent both home (55.6) and away (52.3). England has been his Achilles heel with nine Tests in the home of cricket producing an average of just 30.6.

    Early on he was a predominantly back-foot player with the bulk of his runs coming square of the wicket. He later bloomed into a far more well-rounded batsman. In 16 Tests against the minnows he boasts a Bradmanesque average of 100.8.

    While Sangakkara is a stylist, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is far from it. With the most open stance in the game the 38-year-old has used clever deflections and a powerful pull shot to amass 10,696 runs at 51.7 from 146 matches. He has scored 27 hundreds and 61 half-centuries.

    Away from home he has an average of 46.8 against 58.5 at home. His 11 Tests in Australia have produced a highest score of 82 and an average of 30.2. He has played 14 Tests against the minnows for an average of 59.0.

    His long-time teammate Brian Lara is a giant of the game. Twice the left-hander has held the world record, both posted against England in Antigua – 375 in 1993/94 and the current benchmark of 400no ten years later.

    In his 131 Tests he scored 34 centuries, nine of them doubles, second only to Don Bradman’s 13. Lara thrived against the might of Australia during his time, averaging 51.0 and peeling off nine centuries in 31 matches.

    He scored 11,953 runs in all at 52.9. He had an unusually small number of not outs, just six in 232 innings.

    A free-flowing player who unfurled from a low stance, he holds the record for the most runs in a losing series – 688 runs in Sri Lanka in 2001/02. At home in 1998/99 he almost single-handedly disposed of Australia with innings of 213, 153no and 100.

    At home his benchmark was 58.6 and away 47.8. His four Tests against the minnows produced an average of 65.8.

    Sachin Tendulkar has rewritten the record book during a yet to end 23-year, 194 Test career – the most runs (15,645 at 54.3 and a strike rate of 61) and an all-time best 51 centuries.

    Tendulkar’s career has been built around one of the straightest bats in the game, yet he at times plays inventive shots that defy description.

    The ‘Little Master’ has thrived against Australia, averaging 57.3 and posting 11 centuries in 35 matches.

    He has been incredibly consistent with averages slightly either side of 54 both home and away.

    He has scored six double centuries with his best being 248no against Bangladesh in 2004/05. Against them and Zimbabwe he has made 1738 runs in 16 matches at 124.1 with eight centuries.

    Tendulkar’s long-time teammate, Rahul Dravid was known as ‘The Wall’, such was his seemingly impregnable defence, although his stumps were rattled many times late in his 164-Test career.

    In all, his technically correct game and infinite concentration saw him score 13,288 runs at 52.3 with 36 centuries.

    He was often far from his best against Australia, with the notable exceptions his 180 in the famous Kolkata Test of 2000/01 and his double century in Adelaide in 2003/04. In his 33 Tests against Australia he averaged a disappointing 38.7.

    In South Africa he averaged 29.7 from his 11 Tests, yet his benchmark all-up on foreign soil was 53.0 and at home 51.3. He played against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh 16 times for an average of 85.5 and six tons.

    Aside from Greg Chappell, three other Australian captains have flourished since 1970 – Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

    Border was the epitome of the street fighter, all grit and determination. With a powerful cover drive allied to piercing shots square of the wicket, he retired after his 156 Tests with a then world record 11,174 runs at 50.6 with 27 centuries.

    He had the misfortune to have to take on the mighty West Indian sides of his era 31 times during which he produced an average of 39.5. On the sub-continent the pugnacious Border averaged 54.5 and he is one of few players to have played over 100 Tests to have performed better away than at home with averages of 46.0 and 56.8 respectively.

    Waugh, like Border, was seen as a scrapper who loved nothing more than a fight out in the middle. Debuting at 20, he was initially a free-flowing stroke maker who over time gave away the pull shot.

    As a result, he was attacked to the body by fast bowlers everywhere, yet it hardly ever brought about his demise.

    In 168 Tests he made 10,927 runs at 51.1.

    It took Waugh 27 Tests to score his first century before going on to compile a career total of 32. Like Border, he performed better on the road – on home soil he averaged 47.6 and 55.9 away. Strangely, he averaged just 38.5 against New Zealand.

    But against the strong West Indian pace attack he averaged 49.8 in 32 outings. He is the only player to have scored in excess of 150 against all nine opponents.

    In five Tests against the minnows he produced an overall average of 273.0.

    Ponting retired having equalled Waugh’s Australian record of 168 Tests. He struggled for runs for the bulk of his last three years in the game but that cannot detract at all from his overall record – 13,378 runs at 51.8 with 41 centuries, six of them beyond 200.

    In 2003 he amassed 1503 runs at 100.2 with six hundreds.

    Sometimes a candidate for leg before early in his innings, if he got through that phase the opponents were in trouble as he scored freely off both back and front foot. He was one of the finest exponents of the pull shot in the game.

    He averaged 57.0 in Australia and 45.8 away. His lower mark on foreign soil was largely as a result of a poor record in India where his 14 Tests produced the meagre average of 26.5. He suited up against the minnows seven times, scoring 550 runs at 78.6.

    Jacques Kallis has built a career around being virtually unbreakable. His 285 wickets have been largely overshadowed by his gargantuan feats at the batting crease – 160 matches, 13,048 runs at 56.7 and 44 centuries.

    He approaches his job with the bat very much in the way Dravid did – defence first, attack second. That approach has resulted in a strike rate to date of 46. For a player blessed with such a well-formed technique and boundless levels of concentration he has surprisingly scored just two double centuries, with his first coming 142 matches into his career.

    Against Australia he has an average of 41.2 after 29 matches. At home he boasts a standard of 58.2 and away 53.8. His 12 Tests against the minnows have produced four centuries and 996 runs at 124.5.

    Few batsmen have impacted the game outside the top six in the order like Adam Gilchrist did. One of the cleanest hitters of a cricket ball he is the only man to have struck 100 sixes at Test level.

    In 96 consecutive matches he blasted 17 centuries on the way to 5570 runs at 47.6.

    He averaged 50.2 at home and 45.9 away. He struggled on the sub-continent with his hard-handed approach often bringing him undone against the spinners.

    His 15 Tests on the dusty, turning tracks produced an average of 37.3 with his efforts in India coming at 28.5.

    The fall of the fifth Australian wicket often brought massive headaches to the opposition as Gilchrist either shored up a stuttering innings or put the icing on the cake with a rapid fire knock. His career strike rate was 82. He played six Tests against the minnows for 332 runs at 83.

    Inzamam-ul-Haq wasn’t the most fleet of foot but he built a magnificent career – 120 Tests, 8830 runs (two less than Miandad’s Pakistan record) at 49.6 with 25 centuries, the best of them 329.

    He was more lethal at home then away – 53.7 versus 45.9. He always found the Australian attack hard work with his 11 Tests producing an average of just 31.4. He played ten times against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, averaging 61.5.

    Inzi’s teammate Mohammad Yousuf played 90 Tests and scored 7530 runs at 52.3 with 24 tons.

    His 11 Tests against Australia were disappointing with a meagre average of 29.6. He fared little better against South Africa (29.7). He was a bully at home (65.2) and much less convincing away (44.9).

    He holds the record for the most runs in a calendar year with nine centuries and 1788 runs at 99.3 in 2006.

    He seemingly played later than most other batsman with his willow coming down from an extremely high back lift.

    He played 11 Tests against the minnows, scoring 1,119 runs at 101.7.

    So, there you have it – 23 candidates in all. Why did I decide to do this?

    This is my top ten
    1 Brian Lara
    2 Sachin Tendulkar
    3 Greg Chappell
    4 Viv Richards
    5 Sunil Gavaskar
    6 Ricky Ponting
    7 Jacques Kallis
    8 Allan Border
    9 Kumar Sangakkara
    10 Javed Miandad

    Once again, it’s now over to you.

    And, if I survive the wrath of the Roarers, I’ll be back with my top-10 all-rounders of the last four decades.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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