Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sach vs. Sunny

I am sure this one will open a huge debate, but I am starting a thread on this nevertheless :)

Over the last 40 years, Indian cricket has seen many a gifted batsman. Rahul Dravid, Gundappa Vishwanath, Dileep Vengsarkar, Saurav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin....the list goes on. Of course the two who have stood heads n' shoulders above the rest have been Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. I want to try and understand who is the better batsman of the two. And open up what is seemingly an endless debate.

Sunny Gavaskar stands for all of what India in the 1970s and 1980s hoped to be. Defiant, independant and consistently excellent. He was probably hands down the greatest opening bat ever to have graced the game. 13 hundreds against the most fearsome pace attack of all time (West Indies), several astonishing innings on greentops, that 221 in an almost historic 4th innings chase at the Oval and the supremely crafted 96 as his last test match innings on a day 5 minefield against Pakistan.

Sachin Tendulkar has been voted (internationally) as the second best player to have ever wielded a bat on a cricket field. He holds almost all records there are to own in the game. He has, like Sunny, batted against the very best pace attacks - McGrath, Donald, Akram, Waquar, Ambrose, Walsh..the list goes on. He has also played against extraordinary spinners of his time - Murali, Warne, Saqlain. And he has scored against every single one of them. In all forms of the game. When his own team was repeatedly faltering in the 1990s.

So who do you believe to be the greater bat of the two? Can they even be compared? If yes, how should we go about that comparison?


  1. Ummm... it's futile to compare the two. Generally, we compare things to make choice/decision abt using/listening them. eg Depending upon who we think is better (Aamir or Shah Rukh), we go for their movies in case we are in doublemind. Or if we are in mood to listen songs but not sure where to start, we may begin with our favourite (seemingly better) artist. In this case (SMG vs SRT), comparsion is not required. However, I would like to point some inferences in the article: that SMG's 13 hundreds against fearsome attack of all time. Hold on, hold on.
    Let's go hundred by hundred and try to figurte out which one is REALLY OUTSTANDING of them: hundred numbers 1 to 4 (in 1970-71 in WI) against sobers and co which were not really fearsome attack. even sardesai, otherwise not so consistent, scored runs in that series; hundred number 5 and 6 (1975-76 in WI): fifth only against holding and roberts (not quartet) and sixth in that great run-chase only against Holding and Julien!! Mind you, Lloyd opted for all-pace attack AFTER this port of spain test.
    Let;s move on: Hundred number 7 to 10 (Mumbai, two in Kolkata and Delhi) attack was Phillip, Clarke, Marshall and Holder. Is it really fearsome? really "west Indies"?
    Now hundred No. 11 (Georgetown 1982-83). Attack: Robers, Holding, Garner, Marshall. But there is one hitch to call it a great knock. Windies scored 470 and during their innings, so much play was lost due to rain that India's first innings began on Day 5, taking out the competitive edge from the match.
    Hundred No. 12: when he hooked Marshall and equalled Bradman's record of 29 test tons. That was the quality hundred in all these. A fantastic counter-attacking knock, showing he has got balls.
    Hundred No. 13: 236 not out against good attack batting at No. 4 with India down zero for two runs. Super knock; highest quality of concentration and defence. But a question remains: why bat at No. 4 when the team needs you as an opener. Even on the Lankan tour SMG batted at No. 4 and India lost the series against minnows in the mid-80s.
    All in all, i feel sunny must have a great, great batsman. But to talk abt 13 hundreds against windies doesn't convey that point at all. If you go in deep in those 13 hundreds.

  2. Basic question is, are we qualified to speak on the two ? :)

    There is an art and a science to every skill. I do not think anyone of us is qualified to speak on how artful these two players are in their trade. If Wasim Akram and Shane Warne say Sachin is the best, then we should shut up and accept. If Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee jointly thought that Gavaskar's was the best show on earth, then we should let that be. The best we mortals can do is to crunch numbers and analyze the science part of their batting.

    Discipline, resolve, grace, hunger and unsurpassed technical skill are the common mark of these batsmen; both blessed with huge (metaphorical) shoulders that have carried their teams through the passage of time. However, you are talking about two players who functioned under different themes. The idiom during Gavaskar's era was to not lose; the paradigm under which Sachin Tendulkar plays demands that his team wins. The short answer to your question is that both of these players evolved to the highest heights possible for a human being, in their respective timelines. Gavaskar was the Mercedes sedan of his time - well engineered, precise, classy, solid and trustworthy. Tendulkar is the Lexus sedan of our time - super refined, sophisticated, able to adapt to any driving conditions without breaking a sweat, highest standards of quality, and a benchmark in everything. They are the untouchables of their own time. Gavaskar retired with practically every batting record under his belt. Most of those are owned by Sachin now.
    One is knighted by the janata as a Master Blaster, the other as was the original Little Master.

    Sachin Tendulkar plays in a media-propelled era of spectators that is over reactive, low on patience and high on drama. A single failure can rouse an extreme reaction from the hero-starved janata of our India. No other player in the history of cricket, or perhaps any game, has been subject to more intense scrutiny and expectation of performance, than has Sachin Tendulkar. Gavaskar predominantly played on the Radio. Tendulkar plays on TV and the internet, thus appearing before an audience a thousand times bigger than Gavaskar did; where even the way he chins up his helmet is observed and scrutinized by millions instantaenously, even before he takes guard. There was a period in Tendulkar's career that he was considered to have 'failed' if he returned from the crease without scoring a hundred. Even today, if India doesn't win a match, the first person to get singled out for criticism is Sachin Tendulkar. We would never know how Gavaskar would have taken to such extreme exposure. -contd-

  3. Sachin's aggregate of 6207 Test runs in century scores is unlikely to get overtaken by anyone in near future. A testimony of a batsman's ability to play a long innings is his average century score. Tendulkar's average century score of 214 easily surpasses Gavaskar's 177.

    Ever since Sachin's Test batting average touched 50 (initially he played at the #7 spot), his cumulative batting average has dipped below 50 just twice in his entire career thereof, never going below 49.3…and of those two instances, one lasted for just a single match after which it popped right back above the 50 mark. Sunil Gavaskar's cumulative batting average dipped below 50 thrice during his career, his longest lean patch lasting from January 1977 to October 1978.

    Sachin has scored an unprecedented 7000+ Test runs on foreign soil, and he is still an active test player. Just the sheer weight of this number is enough to set him apart from any batsman in the world, from any era. Add to it no less than 24 centuries on foreign turf and we can see why this small man is such a giant in the record books. The other little man, Gavaskar, too scored 18 neat test hundreds on foreign soil, in just 60 tests, which technically is a better ratio than Sachin's, and an achievement in itself considering that Gavaskar spent almost all his career playing for the Indian side that was considered as a minnow, especially when it came to touring outside.

    That Sachin is a role model for professionalism, and has the highest morals, is an undisputed issue. One can not imagine Sachin walking off with his batting partner after being annoyed at a decision by the umpire, a la Gavaskar at Melbourne in 1981. There is a silent strength in Sachin's demeanor that accentuates his tendency to let the bat do the talking. Gavaskar had a bit of a cheeky, pugnacious streak in him and it seemed like he wouldn't hesitate to take on a Malcolm Marshall or a Sarfraj Nawaz with more than just the bat, if pushed to the edge.

    Gavaskar platooned with the elite such as Greg Chappell, Geoff Boycott, David Gower, Javed Miandad, Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Zaheer Abbas, Alan Border, Clive Lloyd, Doug Walters, Allwyn Kallicharan, Graham Gooch, Desmond Haynes etc. for his spot of respect. Tendulkar hustles alongside the equally impressive club of Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Jaques Kallis, Steve Waugh, Rahul Dravid, Inzamam Ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Matthew Hayden, Virendar Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist et all, for his honours. -contd-

  4. On the prospect of facing some of the premier fast bowlers of their respective time zones, the argument may be even. Tendulkar averages just 8 runs against Shaun Pollock in head to heads, 12 against Allan Donald, 5 against Shoaib Akhtar, 22 against Glenn McGrath, 15 against Waqar Younis. Gavaskar? Just 1 against John Snow, 12 against Bob Willis, 12 against Len Pascoe, 12 against Malcolm Marshall, 15 against Andy Roberts. However, what increases the credibility of all the successful batsmen of the past era is the simple fact that they played in a more balanced game of bat and ball. The bowler of the past had a bit more to his assistance than the one today. There were really no rules against intimidatory bowling as they are nowadays. There were no disciplinary committees listening in on hidden microphones and camera's in stumps to assess player behavior on the field. A hot headed fast bowler, aided by 10 of his mates, sledged and threatened the batsman unbarred. Helmets were unknown, as were the myriad of body protection accessories. The batsman of the past was not as cushioned and protected in body and mind as is the batsman today. Umpires were not 'neutral', and umpiring was not aided by technology as is today.

    What could be more thrilling than to see a tiny Gavaskar, with not even a hat on his head, take on Jeff Thomson on the first morning at Perth ? Today even the wicket keeper wears a helmet while keeping to a spinner. It isn’t Tendulkar's fault that the trends and technology in the game have changed. But on the issue of sheer courage I think Gavaskar should involuntarily score over Tendulkar, with no discredit to Tendulkar.

    Here's one more interesting analysis. Tendulkar has played 261 Test innings, and 140 individual bowlers have claimed his wicket so far. Gavaskar played in 214 innings and lost his wicket to only 91 individual bowlers. This indicates Tendulkar's propensity to fall to a bowler who was not expected to take his wicket (I can myself remember so many ocassions where Sachin has fallen to a blatant rookie)…which conversely means that Gavaskar was a bit more stable against non-regular relief bowlers than Tendulkar is.

    Despite his feeble record as a Test captain, Gavaskar seemed to be a better leader / man-manager than Tendulkar. It may have to do with the fact that Gavaskar's persona effused shrewdness, craftiness and tactical manipulation. Tendulkar never came across as someone more than a simpleton enjoying his game. Even today, at the twilight of his career, Tendulkar has a tinge of boyish innocence even in the most intense moments on the field.

    Gavaskar was supremely fit. An awesome fact is that he appeared in 125 of the 129 Test matches that were played by India during his career. Sachin may have had his share of absences by injury, but the argument could be that he also had an even more successful and hectic parallel career going on in One Day matches, which means his body has been abused more than Gavaskar's. For every 100 runs in tests, Sachin has 133 in One dayers. The body is naturally going to be rattled more. Gavaskar's bane was the One Dayers. Though a decent ODI batsman, Gavaskar never really made it to the list of even the top 25 one day batsmen of his time. -contd-

  5. There is one area where Gavaskar easily tops Tendulkar, namely the innings split. For every 100 runs that Gavaskar made, 40 came in the second innings of the match. Tendulkar's corresponding number is just 27. Gavaskar's 60/40 split against Tendulkar's 73/27 is an easy indicator that Sachin is top heavy while Gavaskar's scoring is more balanced across the two innings of a match.

    As a subsidiary analysis, Gavaskar excels over Tendulkar on the fourth batting average (i.e. 4th inning of the Test). Playing 4th in a test, gavaskar averaged a solid 57, compared to 36 for Tendulkar. On the other hand, Tendulkar's first batting average (i.e. batting in the very first inning of the match) is 71, compared to 41 for Gavaskar.

    While we are on averages; Tendulkar averages 65 in his 51 won matches. He has scored 16 centuries in those 51 won matches. Gavaskar only averaged 44 in his 23 victories, with 6 century scores. 22 of Gavaskar's centuries went into drawn matches, indicating that his role was more that of an anchor who should see his team through the 5 days without losing. Tendulkar, on the other hand, with Dravid-Ganguly-Laxman at his side has played the role of an aggressor. One could conclude to a certain extent that if God were to choose one of these two to better his chances of winning a match, the he'd pick Tendulkar. However, if God wanted to bet his last dollar on someone to play the entire 5th day to save a match, then he'd probably pick Gavaskar.

    Should I go on? :)

  6. probably not ...cause i dont agree about the ' should we comment theory' cricket is not a game its entertainment or else how would u explain the t/20 bonanza ? so we as the viewing public have a say and a very big one at that...