Until the 1990s cricket was played in a manner wherein bowlers and batsmen had more or less equal chances to succeed. However of late, especially in the last 15 years, the game has tilted heavily in favour of batsmen.
So many batsmen have averages above 50. But a question to be asked is whether it truly reflects a batsman’s capability.
Particular pitches have always been batting paradises. Helmets have also made it easy for batsmen to succeed even if they have technical flaws.
Earlier batsmen had to use their technical skills to combat bouncers. However today batsmen often get trapped and get hit on the head but are saved by helmets. Had it not been for helmets, how many batsmen would have played confidently on the front foot?
Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting were hit nastily quite a number of times in their careers. Sachin was hit by Shoaib Akhtar in 2006 and by James Anderson in 2007. Ponting got the same treatment from Javagal Srinath in 1999/00 and in the 2005 Ashes.
What if they did not have helmets on? Now imagine the sight of say a Malcolm Marshall going around the wicket and bowling six consecutive nasty jaw breakers in one over?
This is not to demean anyone, but the helmet is a major factor which is always overlooked when you compare modern greats with guys like Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards.
True, batting is not all about facing bouncers, but even on other aspects of fast bowling, how many of the modern greats have played top fast bowlers with authority?
Ponting in his heydays did not have to face a single top fast bowler. Brian Lara and Tendulkar never seemed to dominate Alan Donald or Glen McGrath.
Als,o even though Sachin, Wasim Akram, Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose were contemporaries for over a decade, the Little Master hardly played any Tests against them and when he did, these guys had crossed 30.
(It can also be said these bowlers were lucky not to have faced Sachin in his prime but that is a different issue.)
Even Ponting stuttered while playing Ishant Sharma, the first time he was playing real pace after a long time.
This is not to undermine the efforts of these guys, who have been fantastic throughout the years. The point is to emphasize the amount of runs and tons scored should not be the sole criteria of comparing batsmen from different generations.
When you compare Richards with someone from a previous generation like Frank Worrell, there are hardly any problems.
However when one compares a Sachin or a Ponting with any of these past masters, a second thought needs to be given.
Or else it’s not just cricket.