The greatest Test batsman since 1970: part two

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

 , ,

63 Have your say

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

    Related coverage

    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.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (63)

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 6:45am
      AndyMack said | January 22nd 2013 @ 6:45am | ! Report

      Tough job coming up with this list Glenn.

      For what it is worth I think Viv is the master, I have him at #1. What a player.

      Sachin, Punter, Kallis and G Chappel make up my top 5 (not in that order…)

      Martin Crowe missed your top 10 glenn??? I remember he was amazing against aust in the 80’s and early 90’s, great record and carried the NZ teams batting for some time. I think I would squeeze him into my top 10.

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 7:28am
        Jamiej said | January 22nd 2013 @ 7:28am | ! Report

        I reckon that Viv’s desire to dominate was also his downfall – it’s perhaps the reason that he ‘only’ got 24 tons. Viv was awesome, no arguments, but I would have put Lara just ahead of him and everyone else for that incredible ability to just push on and score so fast and so big after he got in. He also carried the burden of a mightily fragile support crew for a long time.

        Viv, Tendulkar, Ponting and Chappell to round out my top 5. Honorable mentions to Kallis and Dravid.

        Also, can’t believe that Gower and Gooch didn’t at least a mention. I know they were English and all, but they were bloody good!

        • January 23rd 2013 @ 7:40pm
          Stepper05 said | January 23rd 2013 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

          I think that Viv Richards has more than 100 first class centuries to his name. One of only four outside of England.

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 6:52am
      Sailosi said | January 22nd 2013 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      Does anybody have Sangakkara’s stats when playing solely as a batsman.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 9:54am
        Glenn Mitchell said | January 22nd 2013 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Hi Sailosi, as ‘keeper he averages 40.5 while as a specialist batsman he averages 67.3.

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:02am
          Johnno said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Sanga is the man. Clearly based on those stats. I rate him anyway, a really complete batsmen.

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:15am
          WW said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          he is also an amazing public speaker. the cowdrey lecture he presented was outstanding. when he retires he is an ICC president in the making.

          • Columnist

            January 22nd 2013 @ 10:48am
            Glenn Mitchell said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:48am | ! Report

            He is the sort of person WW that cricket cannot afford to lose after he retires. He is a man who could offer so much as an administrator, either in STL or better still through the ICC.

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:23am
          Jason said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Goes to show how Gilly really was being able to average substantially more than as good a batsman as Sanga when both had the gloves.

          • January 22nd 2013 @ 11:10am
            Brian said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:10am | ! Report

            Gilchrist batted 7 coming in after Hayden, Ponting etc. Sangakrra carries his batting order

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 7:25am
      Farmerj said | January 22nd 2013 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Viv is my number 1.

      So destructive and fearless. If a batsman went out now and took on fast bowling without a helmet he would be lauded the world over.

      Martin Crowe is a big ommission. Only averaged 45 but if you take out his first few tests when he was picked far to young, his average comes up massively. Plus it’s not like he had quality guys batting around him.

      Also surprised you couldnt include Andy Flower in the conversation or did he feature in part 1?

      • Roar Guru

        January 22nd 2013 @ 8:31am
        biltongbek said | January 22nd 2013 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        Kallis himself didn’thave the greatest start to test cricket.

        After his first 11 tests he average just over 31. His first 2 and a half years was pretty average to say the least.

        Since march 1998 he averages just a tad under 60.

        His strike rate has also increased since Amla has become a regular and Kallis were able to pplay with more freedom, in the laat four years his strike rate has been above 50, he also has 23 MOTM awards, many more than Lara, Tendulkar and Ponting, he also boasts the fastest test 50.

        Every team needs a rock, and none comes more solid than Kallis.

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 9:38am
          clipper said | January 22nd 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          Agree with you biltongbek – it should also be noted that due to the nature of an all rounder, the matches in which he’s bowled first, his average is lower than when he bats first.
          I also think Tendulkar should have retired earlier, as he has not kept up such a high standard in his twilight years, like Ponting.
          I would have Viv and Kallis higher, Steve Waugh instead of Border and perhaps Martin Crowe in the mix.

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 8:17am
      Jason said | January 22nd 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Top 10 looks pretty close I reckon although, without going into a Johnno-like anti-Hayden rant, Sunny is too high.

      My bias would love to see Tugga in there given he was the equal of Tendulkar and Lara in the 90s which was a golden era of bowling. And, like Border, Waugh averaged a lot higher away than at home.

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:02am
        Jason said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        Further to this – highest averages in the 90s, min 2000 runs:

        player runs Ave
        Tendulkar 5626 58.00
        Waugh 6213 53.10
        Lara 5573 51.60
        Gooch 4176 51.56
        Dravid 2698 49.96
        Ganguly 2432 49.63
        de Silva 4448 46.82
        Saeed Anwar 3366 46.11
        Salim Malik 3126 45.97
        Adams 2326 45.61
        Crowe 2317 45.43
        Boon 4303 45.29
        Jones 2171 45.23
        Slater 4425 45.15
        Sidhu 2517 44.95
        Haynes 2147 44.73
        Ponting 2092 44.51
        Flower 2580 44.48
        Azharuddin 3880 44.09
        Border 2686 43.32
        Inzamam- 3717 43.22

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:05am
          Johnno said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

          ha ha no Matt Hayden, in the toughest era compared to post 2000 pitches.
          Wow Ganguly really surprised me, but after thinking more closely he did make runs against good bowling attacks. Brian Lara and Steve Waugh for mine are still the best 2 batsmen, . If i was playing for my life i’d choose those 2 out of that 90’s lot.
          And Micheal Slater did, much better than I thought. Well done Slats.

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 9:22am
      Anon said | January 22nd 2013 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      I’ll go for Dean Jones.


      (still a selection attrocity that after the 92/93 series in Sri Lanka that a bloke with a return of 5,56,0,0,0,0 would retain his place, whilst a bloke with a return of 10,57 (runt out),77 (top score), 100*,11,21 would never play tests again with an avg of 46.55 and an ability to make a big score compared to the other who averaged sub 42 and only just scraped past 150 for a career top score.

      Ah well.

      Also – from Sri Lanka I was a huge fan of Aravinda De Silva, avg about 43 but he became their first superstar after debuting back in 1984. Test status was a fraction late for Roy Dias or Duleep Mendis to really develop as test stars and De Silva’s peers such as Madugalle and Ranatunga never achieved the heights that PA de Silva did with 20 test 100s.

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 9:40am
      WW said | January 22nd 2013 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      remarkable i’d have the same 10 just in a slightly different order

      V Richards
      G Chappell

    , ,