How does Tendulkar rate against Bradman and Gavaskar?

sheek Roar Rookie

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    Tendulkar became the first batsman to score 200 runs in a One Day International. AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

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    In the aftermath of Sachin Tendulkar’s eventual achievement of 100 test/one-day centuries some discussion has turned to the great Sir Donald Bradman and Tendulkar’s fellow countryman Sunil Gavaskar.

    Bradman and Gavaskar are inextricably tied because it was Gavaskar who eventually passed Bradman’s record of most test centuries, which now lies in the possession of Tendulkar.

    One of my good mates is a huge Gavaskar fan. What made Gavaskar so great was the fact that he played a good portion of his career before helmets were introduced into Test cricket. Plus the quality of pacemen he faced were very great, especially those from the Windies.

    Helmets were first introduced into Test cricket between 1976 and 1978, but there is some discrepancy whether it was Dennis Amiss facing the Windies in 1976 or Graeme Yallop also facing the Windies in 1978 who wore the first official Test helmet. I’m inclined to think it was Yallop.

    In any case, I will assume Gavaskar did not wear a helmet until after the 1977/78 series against Australia. At this point he was still less than a third into his eventual haul of 125 tests.

    At this point, Gavaskar had played 37 tests, and was averaging a respectable 47.36 for his 11 centuries. But he obviously got better, finishing with an eventual 125 tests, averaging 51.12 with 34 centuries.

    Bradman scored his 29 centuries in just 52 tests (one century every 1.79 tests). Gavaskar’s 34 centuries came at a rate of one per 3.77 tests. Tendulkar, with 49 centuries in 188 tests, has a strike rate of one century every 3.84 tests.

    For the curious, Gavaskar’s equalling 29th century came in his 95th test, and his 30th century (236no) came in his 99th test. Both theses centuries were scored in a torrid series against the Windies in 1983/84.

    Who were the great fast bowlers Gavaskar faced? The fast bowler who appeared most against Sonny was England’s Bob Willis, in 17 tests.

    Imran Khan was next with 16 Tests, followed by Mike Holding (15), Malcolm Marshall and Ian Botham (both 14), Tony Greig (13) and Chris Old and Andy Roberts (both 11).

    Sonny didn’t face Lillee or Thomson much. He played against Thomson in five Tests in 1977/78 and against Lillee and Pascoe in three tests each in 1980/81. That was it. The Aussie paceman he faced most often was Rodney Hogg (8 Tests).

    Interestingly, Gavaskar’s last five tests in 1987 (against Pakistan) were also the first five tests for the young Wasim Akram. This was the only time they would cross paths in Test cricket.

    There are also questions as to the quality of pacemen faced by Bradman. The fast bowlers who appeared most against Bradman were of course Harold Larwood, and the English all-rounder Gubby Allen, who each played him 11 times.

    Apart from 1932/33, Larwood didn’t really do much, but this has more to do with the poor manner in which he was used by his English captains and authorities (Jardine excepted), rather than his true ability.

    Allen was quite fast apparently and, apart from Ken Farnes, was probably the next fastest after Larwood. Farnes only played Bradman eight times, veteran all-rounder Maurice Tate nine times. Bill Voce and Alec Bedser played against Bradman 10 times each.

    Of the non-Enlishman, South Africa’s Sandy Bell and Windies Herman Griffith each played Bradman five times.

    Interestingly, Bradman averaged 105.72 from his 15 Tests after WW2, when there was an immediate dearth of great fast bowlers (Australia excepted). Bradman’s batting average at the outbreak of war in 1939 was 97.94 from 37 tests.

    Curiously, he improved that by an even two batting points to an eventual 99.94.

    So what does any of this tell us about either Bradman or Gavaskar? Bradman played against some fine pacemen in his career, without any of them being top-drawer, except for Larwood.

    Even allowing for this fact, Bradman is still way in front of any other batsman to play Test cricket.

    Gavaskar’s opposition of pacemen is quite compelling, even allowing for the fact he played more than two-thirds of his career with a helmet, or that he rarely appeared against either Lillee or Thomson.

    Needless to say, Willis, Imran, Holding, Marshall, Botham, Greig, Old and Roberts are some of the biggest names in fast bowling ranks to grace the cricket turf.

    Gavaskar is India’s greatest opener, but Tendulkar perhaps pips him as India’s best batsman in any position.

    In my all-time selections, Bradman would be in the First XI, while both Gavaskar and Tendulkar would probably be in the Second XI, and only because of the quality of competition for places.

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (126)

    • March 20th 2012 @ 9:19am
      Bayman said | March 20th 2012 @ 9:19am | ! Report


      In a more mischievous mood I might dispute your comment about the fast bowlers Bradman faced – Larwood excepted – not being in the “top drawer”. I would except not being “express” pace – but Tate, Bedser and Voce, for example, rank among England’s greatest ever bowlers.

      Gavaskar had a great career and he played against some of the great modern fast bowlers. However, as Jason suggests there is also the consideration of context. Being an opener, of course, he was open to the vagaries of getting a very good nut early in his innings.

      In 1977/78 against Australia he scored three second innings centuries following first innings scores of 3, 4 and 0. On a good track in Adelaide during the epic fifth Test he made 7 and 29.

      Unlike Bradman and Tendulkar, my memory of Gavaskar is a career littered with big scores and virtually no scores. In other words he lacked the consistency the other two displayed. As I have suggested, however, this may be to do with the fact that he was an opener and had the new ball to face every time.

      Bradman’s post-war average of 105 is quite exceptional even allowing for the lack of express bowlers (he did face Bedser in 1948 – one of the greatest bowlers of his generation). Even more so when one considers he turned 38 just prior to the start of the 1946/47 series against England. At that age he was probably thankfull he had Lindwall and Miller on his side.

      After the war, in 1945/46, 1946/47 and 1947/48, Bradman virtually did not play any Shield cricket for South Australia. He played a couple of times against Victoria scoring 43 and 119 in 1946/47 (against Johnston, Freer, Miller, Johnson and Tribe) and an even 100 in 1947/48 (against Johnston, Freer, Loxton, Johnson and Ring). His only other games during those years were against the touring teams and he declined the opportunity to feast on New Zealand.

      The argument against Bradman based on the quality of the bowlers he faced (versus Gavaskar, Tendulkar, for example) can always be countered by the obvious observation that every other contemporary of his failed to achieve his numbers against the same opposition. Batsmen like Ponsford, Woodfull, McCabe, Barnes, Hasset, Morris et al were all very good, even great, players and all had their famous moments but only Bradman had those extraordinary numbers and that consistency – over and over again.

      Of the two great Indians I think Tendulkar has had the best of the prevailing circumstances – bats, protection, roped boundaries, pitches – even bowlers. Perhaps because of those things I think he has also been more consistent than Gavaskar. He has also been less volatile than Gavaskar who has always given me the impression of having something of a chip on his shoulder (the famous walk-off, the go-slow at the World Cup).

      Both of them, however, have been great players. Tendulkar has been nothing short of great for the majority of his career but it was Gavaskar, I believe, who first made a stand for Indian batting against the great opposition of the time – Australia, the West Indies and England. It was Gavaskar who first made India believe and for that he deserves much credit.

      Yes, he has that “chip” but he probably thinks it’s been well earned. He might be right. Personally, I could live with having all three of them in my team.

      • March 20th 2012 @ 9:35am
        Bayman said | March 20th 2012 @ 9:35am | ! Report, that should read, “I would accept not being express pace”…….

        • March 20th 2012 @ 10:05am
          sheek said | March 20th 2012 @ 10:05am | ! Report


          Yes, I did a bit of reading up on the English bowlers of the 30s, & perhaps I didn’t express myself correctly. Tate, Bedser & Voce were all very good, very good indeed, but I guess I was trying to draw out a comparison with the likes of Barnes, Botham, Trueman, Staham, Snow & Willis.

          Interestingly, Bedser had a high strike-rate (in the 60s I think), but he also had to shoulder the bowling almost singlehandedly.

          And double yes, I’ve often argued if somehow you prove Bradman didn’t face top quality fast bowling too often in his career, & discounted his average by a third (which of course, is ridiculous) then guess what, he would STILL be the best-ever batsman in history.

          So Bradman is numero uno whichever way you try to cut it.

          • March 20th 2012 @ 1:27pm
            PeterK said | March 20th 2012 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

            also why was the next best batsman of his age have such a lower average if the bowlers were not that good?

            • March 20th 2012 @ 2:10pm
              Jason said | March 20th 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

              This is the ultimate point.

              If Bradman isn’t the best of all time (which I don’t think anyone is saying) then you are conceding that the likes of Wally Hammond, Len Hutton, Bill Ponsford and George Headley are no better than Mike Gatting, Chris Tavere, Phil Hughes and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

              • March 21st 2012 @ 2:52am
                AndyMack said | March 21st 2012 @ 2:52am | ! Report

                well said.

    • March 20th 2012 @ 9:53am
      Chris said | March 20th 2012 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Um, isn’t it Sunny, not Sonny?

      Statistically Bradman was head and shoulders above his peers. So was either Gavaskar or Tendulkar clearly head and shoulders above their peers? I’m not sure either of them were… For example, was Gavaskar a much better batsman than Greg Chappell? Has Tendulkar been a much better batsman than Ricky Ponting?

      In trying to rank batsmen across the eras, pretty much everyone agrees with Bradman at the top, but I’ve never seen any clear evidence as to an order after that – rather, there is a group that are all roughly at the same level (e.g. Chappell, Gavaskar, Ponting and Tendulkar amongst others) at the next level down from Bradman. The only point I would make with any confidence is that there is an astonishing gap between Bradman and everyone else.

      • March 20th 2012 @ 10:22am
        sheek said | March 20th 2012 @ 10:22am | ! Report

        Chris yes, Sunny it is!

        True, after Bradman, it becomes murky deciding who the next best are. I would still think Sobers is safe from Kallis as the batting all-rounder, although statistically ther’s nothing in it. But Sobers was a far more dynamic cricketer than Kallis, whether batting, fielding or bowling.

        But positions 1, 2, 4 & 5 are very hotly contested indeed.

      • November 20th 2013 @ 1:51pm
        ppc said | November 20th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        Bradman would be an ordinary batsman in modern era. He is overrated. Even Mike Hussey averaged 80 at one point during his career. Ditto with Hadlee till he had some bad series. What Tendulkar has achieved is insurmountable. He has consistently played at international level in 200 tests against formidable opposition in all continents. Bradman pales in comparison to this man’s consistency. I would say Lara is no. 1 and Tendulkar no. 2 in test batting.

    • March 20th 2012 @ 10:49am
      sheek said | March 20th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      I know we are digressing here, but there’s a wonderful photo of the Perth trotting ground (Gloucester park) scoreboard from a WSC supertest of 1977/78, Australia versus World XI.

      The world were batting & the scoreboard showed Barry Richards & Gordon Greenidge both on 101no, with 6 extras – 0 for 208.

      Greeneidge retired injured soon after, but returned later to complete 140. Baryy Richards went on to score 207, while Viv Richards contributed 174. The World easily passed 600. Lillee & Bright each claimed 4 wickets for the Aussies.

      if nothing else, this small story shows that Barry Richards belonged in exalted company. Despite playing just 5 supertests, he finished with a higher WSC batting average than either Greg Chappell or Viv Richards. And he faced Lillee, Pascoe, Walker, Gilmour, Holding, Roberts, Garner & Croft in those 5 supertests.

      • March 20th 2012 @ 4:17pm
        Rhys said | March 20th 2012 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

        Sheek, am I right in thinking that the stats from those 5 ‘Supertests’ have never been included in the official career stats for those players involved? If not, surely it’s time the ICC let bygones be bygones and amended the career stats of all players concerned to include those games.

        • March 20th 2012 @ 4:45pm
          Jason said | March 20th 2012 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

          They aren’t even included in those players’ first class stats.

          This means, for instance, that Cambridge Uni v Loughborough Academy games are statistically more significant than the WSC matches which included a stack of the best players ever to pull on the whites.

          • March 20th 2012 @ 5:48pm
            sheek said | March 20th 2012 @ 5:48pm | ! Report


            The ultimate revenge of the establishment against WSC for all the grief they caused, is to deny WSC official status. But we the fans don’t have to accept the official view.

            Those stats are real, & they happened, between most of the best players in the game at the time.

            • March 21st 2012 @ 2:55am
              AndyMack said | March 21st 2012 @ 2:55am | ! Report

              I still count Dennis Lillee’s wickets in WSC. In my mind he was the first guy to crack 400 test wickets and it was some time (early 90’s??) until Hadlee joined him in the club.

              • March 21st 2012 @ 3:35pm
                sheek said | March 21st 2012 @ 3:35pm | ! Report


                Consider this for Lillee:

                70 x official tests 1970-84….. 355 wickets.

                1 x B test vs NZ 1970….. one wicket.

                (NZ opposition was their official test team).

                4 x matches vs World XI 1971/72….. 24 wickets.

                (World included Sobers, Lloyd, Kanhai, Pollock bros, Bedi, Gavaskar, Intikhab Alam, Zaheer Abbas).

                2 x matches for International Wanderers vs South Africa 1976….. 15 wickets.

                (SA included B.Richards, G.Pollock, E,Barlow, L.Irvine, C.Rice, V. van der Bijl, R.Hanley).

                14 x supertests for WSC Australians 1977/79….. 67 wickets.

                (WSC contained many current best players from Australia, Windies, South Africa, Pakistan & England).

                Add all that up, & what do you get?

                91 international matches for 462 wickets!

    • March 20th 2012 @ 11:33am
      tommy said | March 20th 2012 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      Bradman played on uncovered pitches, if that doesnt make his stats even more mind boggling I dont know what does. Seriously, Tendulkars batting style is far more restricted than Bradmans and that is the key to it all. if Bradman played now – on these flat pitches and with a helmet – he would probably average more towards 120-130 nevermind the 99.94 !

      • March 20th 2012 @ 12:35pm
        sheek said | March 20th 2012 @ 12:35pm | ! Report


        There’s a wonderful story of Bradman delivering a sucker punch to Windies paceman Patrick Paterson back in the 1988/89 series. At the Adelaide test, Bradman was introduced to the Windies players.

        Paterson, who was crudely fast, but far from the best Windies paceman, asked Bradman how he thought he would go against the current Windies pace attack (Paterson, Marshall, Ambrose & Walsh).

        Bradman conceded that the current Windies pace attack would most probably trouble him a lot. Patterson was immensely chuffed to hear this until Bradman continued, “But you must remember, I’m now 80 years old”!

        Boom, boom……….

      • March 20th 2012 @ 9:53pm
        Tendulkar Fan said | March 20th 2012 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

        Tommy do you Know anyting about uncovered pitches . you are just arguing without the knowledge. All it does leaves a bit of moisture in the pitch if it is a dewy night . Moreover it was harder for openers.My dear , apart from Brisbane , there is no dew in whole of australia or England.
        If he had played int todays era , he would have been video analysed, His LBW ration would have gone through the roof , His runs scored would have been atleast ( conservatively) 20 runs less due to fielding, and his average would have been around 50-60. Thats one reason why none of the modern greats can achieve more than that .
        I can only fathom how many times he would have been bamboozled By Murali,Swann, Harby, Mushtaq, Saqlain or Ajmal.

        Tell me how many modern greats have a great record in sub continent

        This is typical USA syndrome. They have sports that are played in their country and they are then crowned World champions. Same thing with Bradman ( Aus -Eng).

        Human race has a fascination with Old things and that’s the same with Bradman.


        • March 22nd 2012 @ 9:55am
          Pope Paul VII said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          If Bradman had played on the sub continent he would have averaged 200.

        • March 22nd 2012 @ 12:07pm
          Bayman said | March 22nd 2012 @ 12:07pm | ! Report


          “Tommy do you Know anyting about uncovered pitches . you are just arguing without the knowledge. All it does leaves a bit of moisture in the pitch if it is a dewy night . Moreover it was harder for openers.”

          Speaking of arguing without knowledge TF. Well done!

          Let’s just have the dew for a minute. If there’s no dew, apart from Brisbane, what is that stuff on my lawn in the morning here in Sydney? What was that stuff on the school oval in Adelaide all those years ago?

          Now let’s get to that other problem which might have an impact on an uncovered pitch. Rain. Remember that. A touch of the old “torrentials” can be a bit tricky on an uncovered pitch. A bit more of a problem than “a bit of moisture”. Track gets soft, ball starts moving about off the seam at an alarming rate or rearing up past your nose off a good length. Very disconcerting and I can speak from experience.

          Then, as occasionally happens in Australia – and England for that matter – we get sunshine. The track starts drying and becomes a “sticky” and, unless you know your batting technique, it can be well nigh unplayable. Usually, on these tracks it’s only a matter of time before a batsman gets out – and it’s usually sooner rather than later.

          Indeed, most criticism of Bradman concerns his performances on “stickies” where some labelled him as just average. Hobbs, by contrast, was considered a master on these types of wickets which is one reason – apart from his mammoth run tally – why he is considered an all time great.

          As for being “harder for openers” it is probably just as well Bradman batted at three. In that slot he would never has seen a “bit of moisture” in the pitch. Some guys are just born lucky.

        • November 20th 2013 @ 1:54pm
          ppc said | November 20th 2013 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

          Bradman is highly rated only by the Aussies. Viv Richards, Tendulkar and Lara would all cross 20K runs in Bradman’s era with an average of 100 or more.

    • March 20th 2012 @ 1:25pm
      PeterK said | March 20th 2012 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

      I believe the best measurements of players is the ICC rankings system as opposed to just battaing averages or bowling averages.

      This measures the performance against the quality of the opposition AND the performance against your own players ie scoring a 50 on a batting friendly pitch where a few get centuries is not worth as much. Modern conditions favour batsman with the bats with gaint sweet spots, a forward prod gets you a 4, the roped in boundaries, the helmets, the picthes in a lot of cases are docile.

      Look at Bradman he is rated no 1 for most of his career. He also has a top rating of 961 the best ever by any player EVER.

      Gavaskar comes in at 20 and Tendulkar at 26. Indian batsman get to bat a lot on batsman friendly pitches at home and increasingly away at Sri lanks, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

      Hutton and Hobbs deserve to be way ahead of the other modern batsamn as 2 and 3 in the world. Of course people favour the players they have seen play as has ben noted.

      Out of todays modern players Gavsakar is better than Tendular, but so was Lara, Viv Richards. (Sobers best West Indian batsman of course).

      Kallis is about equal to Tendulkar looking at the ICC rankings over a long period. Ponting not as good.

      Greg Chappel better than Ponting in terms of ranking over a long period and behind Ponting on best ever rating. IMO Greg Chappel was better since he was a far better player of spin.

    • March 20th 2012 @ 1:38pm
      Pope Paul VII said | March 20th 2012 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

      Despite the English obsession with Bradman during the 1930 series, the results table, good old stats, show that Australia were not super dominant winning 2-1. Again England only went down 2-1 in 1934, post bodyline. Then in 36/37 England lead 2-0 before being totally Bradmanned with a bit of help from the weather. Then in 1938 it was 1-1. I’ve often wondered how Braddles might have gone had he been fit to chase England’s 7 for 903? Looking back the English reaction to Bradman seems in proportion to his talent, twice as good, but out of proportion to series results.

      • March 20th 2012 @ 2:12pm
        Jason said | March 20th 2012 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

        ” I’ve often wondered how Braddles might have gone had he been fit to chase England’s 7 for 903? ”

        He might still be batting.

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