Monday, September 14, 2009

How can they?

Compare Sachin to Ricky at all, was my feeling as we won yesterday's match with his special effort. Forget statistically. Gazillions of international centuries more than Ponting. With hundred times the pressure from Indian fans. And facing first names like Shane, Glenn, Craig, Brett, Jason, etc- something Ricky as been singularly lucky with. No offence Ricky, you are a nice player, but I'd like to have seen you face your team mates and come up on top like my man did. Sorry for sounding like a rabid supporter- but I am one, and shut this blogpost away if you dont like what you are reading.
You know what- they used to call Ricky "Sachin" at his training camp in Australia- because he had potential. I'd like to end at this note.


  1. The comparison between Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting would provoke consternation in some, while some may dismiss it as a risible activity. After all, the comparison is between the best-in-show, well pruned, noble mutt on one side, and the perpetually hungry, unrepentant, proud street dog who claims his turf with hegemony on the other. There is decorum, the royalty of batting in one basket, and a fisticuff street fight in the other.

    Notionally speaking, Ponting may not deserve to be compared with Tendulkar. Sachin Tendulkar has earned credibility and respect from peers, foes and spectators more so than perhaps anyone else. No other cricketer is more revered and worshipped. His batting transcends past the boundaries of bat and ball. It sends viewers into trances of exaltation as he performs his art. He has an effect that no other batsman can seem to possess. He is the ‘purushottam’ of cricket. Not many would argue that Sachin Tendulkar will comfortably perch among the 10 greatest, most beautiful and most admired batsmen of all time under all contexts and all criteria considered. Ponting is the scar faced buccaneer of modern day cricket. He is a fearless charlatan, known at times to put reward before ethics, and unclad power before grace. He is incorrigible and unafraid to gamble with his own repute or credit in the quest for the bounty.

    That’s that for notions. Factually speaking, very few compare up to Ponting where the rubber meets the road. When cricket breaks down to a simple game of bat and ball, Ponting is undeniably one of the giants of the game, as good as anyone. To dismiss Ricky Ponting as a secondary satellite among a line up of illustrious planets would be unjust.

  2. If the rookie Ricky Ponting was bestowed with the label of 'Sachin' on basis of potential, then a decade and a half later he has more than fulfilled it, perhaps even exceeding expectations on the way. Dozens of upcoming players get coronated as the next 'Sachin' on the basis of their technique, temperament or potential, but like typical restaurant-startups, 99 % of them fail miserably to survive or to measure up. Ricky Ponting is an exception to the dozen's of those “Sachin's” who never made it. He may even have outdone the master on a few counts.

    I liken Sachin Tendulkar to the full size Lexus sedan of cricket (try the LS-460). A sublimely sophisticated, well appointed ride. Like a perfect harmony of regal luxury and competitive performance. A benchmark of overall excellence. His cricket manifests the very same "everything is just perfect" aura that the Lexus tag carries. But a Lexus saloon doesn't always take you to the farm. One has to, at some point, also think of the hefty pick up truck that will carry the bales and crates over the unpaved bends to the weekly farmers market yonder the hill. Ricky Ponting is the not so subtle Chevy Silverado 3500 heavy duty truck of our time. Ponderous, obnoxious but powerful, productive and almost unassailable. Upon retirement his on and off field persona may get remembered for the wrong reasons, but he will still have accumulated substantial credit for the right reasons too.

    Regardless of how uncommon their cricket and cricketing style may be the common sufferers of both Ponting and Tendulkar, of course, are the members of the bowling community all over the world. The brawling bat of Ricky Ponting may not show up as artful as the dainty Sachin Tendulkar’s in the scorer's sheet, but it is tantamount in effectiveness, and then some more.

  3. If 9 years is enough time for evaluating a person's deeds, then no other batsman comes close to what Ricky Ponting has done in the current decade of Test cricket; I am ready to repeat this. One can always throw about singular instances of how Ricky Ponting failed to produce at a particular occasion, or how he failed to master a particular bowler on a particular day, (as one could for any other player), but the bottom-line is that there hasn't been a stronger batting performer than Ponting in this decade of Test cricket....and by a good margin. You may hate him and his ways but you can't dismiss his batting.

    Since Jan 1 2001, in the last 8 completed years of Test cricket, Ricky Ponting has racked up 4-figure annual aggregates on 4 occasions. As a side dish, he also became one of only 3 batsmen to ever to average 100 or more over a calendar year of Test cricket (the other two being Sobers and Bradman).

    If that is not a stupendous achievement, he has already produced an unprecedented 31 Test centuries in this decade, with 15 more months still left in it. The next best in this chart is his ex-teammate Hayden with an equally ridiculous 29, followed in the distance by Kallis, Sangakkara, Jayawardhane, Brian Lara, Mohammad Yousuf and then Sachin Tendulkar (18).
    To put things in perspective, Don Bradman scored 29 centuries and ~6000 runs in 59 tests in his career. Ricky Ponting at one point scored the same number of centuries with 7500 runs in just 73 tests and 7 years flat, at batting average of 70. Except the Don, perhaps no one has had such a long period of sustained high performance as Ricky Ponting in the history of the game.

    Ponting's overall aggregate of 9250+ runs in this decade is about 1200 runs above the next in the list (Hayden); 3000 more than Sachin Tendulkar.

    Ponting's batting average of 59 in the same period is only topped by Mohammad Yousuf and Kallis from among the prominent. Sachin Tendulkar is at a distance with an average of 52.

    Ponting's strike rate of 62 is the highest among the best, rivaled only by Hayden and Lara. Sachin's strike rate at 54 is marginally better than Dravid's and Kallis'.
    Some would argue that there should be more value to runs and centuries than just accumulation. Sure. Of the 31 Test centuries scored by Ricky Ponting this decade, 23 have come in victories for Australia, a statistic which spaces him even further from his contemporaries. Of the 38 that he has overall, 27 centuries have been in a winning cause. No player, living or dead, has scored more winning centuries than Ricky Ponting has. Sachin Tendulkar has 16.

  4. It would be fair to say that only Brian Lara, had he been playing today, and had he maintained his flourish, would have usurped some of Ponting’s achievements in this decade...(but then as very few people know, Brian Lara is the biggest loser in Test history. Factually speaking, no other individual has been on the losing roster on more occasions than Brian Lara. On the count of ‘batting effectiveness’ Lara bites the dust altogether against Ricky Ponting no matter how great his numbers may be).

    Ricky Ponting has played in 98 of the 103 matches played by Australia in this decade, and remains the most-appeared Test player in the world for this duration. That is a compliment to his fitness.

    One can not be reasonable in blaming Ricky Ponting for not having incurred a tennis elbow or frozen shoulder in his career and hence losing out on potential opportunities; just as one can not really put a fault on him for not getting to face the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. A batsman faces what he gets. Such hypothetical battles usually lead nowhere. For all we know Sachin Tendulkar may have fared miserably against Anil Kumble or Javagal Srinath had they been opponents.

    While we are on individual battles, lets clarify the tad bit of misconception that Sachin Tendulkar has ‘come up on top’ against the better Australian bowlers of recent times. While there is no question of his courage and stance against the successful Australian bowlers of our time, it is a fact that Sachin averages just 6 against Craig McDermott, 22 runs against Glenn McGrath, 27 against Jason Gillespie, a healthy 39 against Shane Warne, and an excellent 50 against Brett Lee. (Interestingly, Warne was never able to take Sachin's wicket in the new millennium). While these numbers could be interpreted as 'decent' considering the quality of the bowlers and the capability of the batsman involved, they are certainly not spectacular enough to be called 'dominant'.

  5. To gain a common reference we may pit Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting’s careers against some of the better bowlers of this era. Of course, this is going away from the romance of batting and getting down to the bare technicalities of it but nonetheless it provides a good proving ground for making a case. The point of the case being that Ricky Ponting is not much behind Sachin Tendulkar, if not better.

    In individual bat to ball contests it is a mixed bag between Ricky and Sachin, with no clear winner. Ricky tops Sachin against Murulitharan, and has never lost his wicket to Saqlain Mushtaq, but his bane have been Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble who have claimed him 10 and 7 times respectively. (Although, one may add that Ricky Ponting scores at a massive average of 88 runs off Kumble before falling victim, which may leave speculation open as to really how effective is Kumble against him). Sachin tops Ricky marginally against Danish Kaneria and hugely against Daniel Vettori, while averaging a good 47 against Saqlain Mushtaq.

    In the fast-medium area, Tendulkar makes a poor show against Shaun Pollock, whom Ponting rather relishes at 58 runs per dismissal. Ponting also easily tops Tendulkar against Chaminda Vaas. Tendulkar’s favourite punching bag was Andy Caddick (avg 123) whom Ponting never could master (avg 7). Both Tendulkar and Ponting were dismal against Chris Cairns. Wasim Akram paid 38 runs for every Tendulkar dismissal, and Ponting, incredibly, hasn’t scored a single run off an Akram delivery in his life. Jaques Kallis is equally generous to both, offering 52 runs for their wicket.

    Among the genuinely quick bowlers Ponting easily trumps Tendulkar against Waqar Younis with a solid 97 average against Sachin's 15. Tendulkar returns the favour against Courtney Walsh with his cost price of 133 runs versus 33 for Ponting. Allan Donald never took Ponting down, but easily won the battle against Tendulkar pocketing him at 12 runs per dismissal. Curtly Ambrose, one of my all-time favourite bowlers, never took Tendulkar's wicket but spent a thrifty 21 runs for every Ponting dismissal. Both have fared so-so against Andrew Flintoff. Tendulkar has a solid 51 run purchase price for Shane Bond, and Ponting takes it even further by not having fallen to Bond in a Test match to date. Tendulkar returns the statistic against Dale Steyn, not having yielded his wicket to him yet, while Ponting struggles against the same Steyn at 12 runs per outing. Makhaya Ntini gets stripped for 55 runs by Tendulkar while Ponting manages only 35 in comparison.

    Shoaib Akhtar, for the sheer pace and aggression in him, is the one bowler against whom both have equally hopelessly failed to produce. Akhtar, in what could be the most fabulous highlight to any bowlers repertoire, has managed to pouch Tendulkar as well and Ponting for just 5 runs a piece in his mercurial career.

  6. Sachin Tendulkar statistically bats better against left handed bowlers. Ricky Ponting does equal justice to both kinds. Numbers indicate that Ponting, surprisingly, fares better against spinners than Tendulkar in general. (Interestingly, Tendulkar has been stumped only once in the 261 innings of his life. The bragging rights for this ultra-unique statistic would go to Ashley Giles).

    There are a couple of stats where Tendulkar cleanly out punches Ponting. The first one being that Tendulkar averages about the same home and away, whereas Ponting shows a heavier preference for home pitches. The second being Tendulkar’s away tally is a monstrous 7000+ runs compared to Ricky Ponting's 5000 (albeit in 27 less tests than Sachin).

    It is a small consolation that Ricky Ponting has a better tests/per century frequency as a tourist, at home and overall too. Ponting, to his credit easily outshines Tendulkar in the last-batting average - a statistic that is often used to measure a batsman’s tenacity on a 5th day pitch. Ponting averages an impressive 53 batting in the 4th innings compared to Tendulkar's 37. ). Ponting’s batting average has never gone below 55 ever since it crossed that level. Among people scoring more than 8000 Test runs, nobody has a better batting average than Ponting, barring Sir Sobers.

    There are many similarities between the two. Sachin Tendulkar has spun 71 century partnerships in his lifetime, Ricky Ponting 75 (in 30 less innings, note). Both have scored 4 double centuries. Both have scored 32 centuries playing in the first innings of a Test. Both have had 5 years of 1000+ runs in their careers (Ponting’s career being 7 years less in duration than Tendulkar). If a score of 50 or above is considered a good innings, then each produces a ‘good’ innings at exactly every third outing, Tests and ODI’s combined. (Ponting has 184 scores of 50+ in 543 innings to date. Tendulkar, 230 in 680).

    Long story short, both the baskets are about even, and equally impressive on numbers and achievements. Ponting’s demeanour may lack the nobility of Tendulkar’s and his batting may not have the visual richness of Tendulkar’s, but the results of his batsmanship are as felicitous as Tendulkar’s, if not more. Equity herself would sit and ponder if left to opine on the impact of the two batsmen under question.

    Despite the long winded write-up above, I still say that 5 of 10 ‘dardi’ cricket spectators would swear by Tendulkar’s effluent artistry. The other 5 would choose Lara’s flamboyant spectacle to satisfy their hidden fantasies of batting.

    And I am sure Ricky Ponting won’t give a rat’s arse to any of them.

  7. Good analysis overall. What about a similar one for ODI's?

  8. Sleeping Ninja: interesting stats, but sometimes statistics do not measure things up in my book. And as cynics twist says: you take ODI's and tests and Ponting stands absolutely nowhere.

    I dont know how to put this across, because it is such a subjective thing. Ponting just doesnt seem to be cut of the same cloth as Sachin is: I'd consider, as a fan, that the journey is as important as the destination, and boy, in batting journeys, there is absolutely no comparison.

    You write well though, and have an interesting point of view to make. Want to be a contributor?

  9. That is the whole point. On a likeability index, (where people like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara stand head and shoulders above the rest), Ponting does not stand a chance even in the top-50.

    A dying fan, with his final $100 to spend would more probably buy a ticket to watch Lara or Tendulkar bat for that one last time...not Ponting.

    Ponting is perhaps the most hated cricketer of our time. Accepted. The media is half to blame, and the other half can be attributed to the arrogance that emanates upon being in a winning team of hard playing cricketers.

    However, on the effectiveness index, he is about as good as anyone out there, and that is undeniable (even if it is not digestible to fans like me, from the Sachin/Lara school of cricket).

    On the ODI side, there is a basic disparity in the comparison between the two. In a 300-ball game, Tendulkar walks in with all the 300 balls left intact to face. Ponting in his career got to bat after the two deadly batsmen - Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden. Any batsman coming in one drop after these two superhumans will most certainly have a limited window of opportunity to do his stuff....certainly so in comparison to Tendulkar's.

    Yet, you will notice that one a cumulative scale Ponting is not very far behind Tendulkar even in the One-Day scene!

    Ponting has appeared in 324 ODI's to date. He has accumulated 12044 runs at 43 rpg, scoring 28 centuries and 70 fifties.

    At the 324th game, Tendulkar had aggregated 12878 runs, at average 45, scoring 36 hundreds and 66 fifties.

    Ponting's 8 less hundreds can to a certain extent be attributed to the fact that he is not an opening batsman. There is little to choose between the two in terms of the strike rate, batting average and aggregate.

    For the same window of reference (324 matches), eliminate the minnows from the picture and Ponting moves further close to Sachin !

    Minus minnows, Ponting has 10,600 runs at avg 43, with 25 hundreds. Tendulkar had 10,300 runs at average 43, with 26 hundreds. How do you pick one from the two?

    I can go into the quality of runs too --> against the best bowlers, in big chases, in pressure situations, in crucial matches, finals/semifinals of a tournament etc, and still Ponting matches up very well against Tendulkar, even in ODI's.

    I myself am no big fan of Ponting, but I can not get myself to deny what he has done with the bat.

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  11. As for being a contributor, thanks for the offer mate, but my blogging average is about as sporadic and pitiful as, say, Courtney Walsh's batting average. And not to mention I have a tendency test the readers with dragging and low-strike rate write-ups much akin to Rahul Dravid's batting.

    Both factors go against efficient blogging, so for the time being I'd rather be a spectator to your blogging :) Cheers!