With India captain Virat Kohli (28) continues his pruple patch in the top rung of all formats, it has become imperative to bring him into comparisons with few of the yesteryear greats like Sir Don Bradman, Sir Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar. Here SportsCrunch analyses Kohli’s achievements at this stage vis-a-vis the three greats in their prime
Kolkata: True to the adage, it’s an uphill task to compare batting legends, that too if they are from different eras, faced different playing conditions, tackled different bowling attacks across the three formats of the game. Here we are trying to make an honest effort to analyse the legacy left by Sir Don Bradman, Sir Vivian Richards and Sachin Tendulkar. And we also add a legend in the making, Virat Kohli in the list because at a very young age, he has shown glimpses of things to come.
If stats were the ultimate tool for judging a player’s potential, then Richards wouldn’t have featured in the list of all-time greats chosen by cricket experts. But Richards’ greatness cannot be brushed under the carpet relying on statistics.
Let’s start with Bradman. He is the embodiment of consistency, sheer generosity and innovative stroke-making all round the park, ending his career with a stupendous batting average of 99.94 spanning 20 years of Test cricket. Wally Hammond, a former English captain had once said, “I was forced to admire Don the way he batted. On one or two occasions when he was all set, and when he saw me move a fieldsman, he would raise his gloved hand to me in mock salute and hit the next ball exactly over the place from which the man had just been moved.
Reluctantly I had to admit once more that he was out of the ordinary run of batsman – a genius.” Bradman left behind a long list of bating records for generations of new-age cricketers to emulate. Some of his records still stand tall like a score of 309 runs in a single day of a Test, which in those times seemed a dream, with most batsmen ‘boasting’ a strike rate of 30. There are several other records which haven’t been broken.
Richards in my opinion, was the most destructive batsman in both Tests and matches and One-day internationals (ODIs). His exploits with the willow instilled fear in bowlers. He had the swagger of a Jack Nicolson and the arrogance of a young Amitabh Bachchan as he came out to bat amidst loud cheers from spectators. He walked out to bat with a smile of a tiger, chewing a gum set to devour sheep in flannels on his day. He could single-handedly turn the match on his head. A case in point would be the devastating unbeaten 189 made on a summer of 1984 against England in an ODI. With 9 West Indian batsmen back in the dressing room for a paltry 166, it was left to Richards in the company of Michael Holding to set a defending total for the Windies bowlers.
He smacked the English bowlers all around the park. He plundered 93 runs of the last hundred scored off the bat and took the score to 272. His heroics eventually won the game for his team and the innings is regarded as the best ever in the annals of ODIs. Such was the dominance of his bat that the English bowlers got nightmares of him stepping out and belting them all around for sometimes to come.
Richards had a staggering Test batting strike rate of 69 which was way ahead of his time, as compared to his contemporaries, who had a strike rate of 40-50 at best. His ODI strike rate is also 91 which in those times, was unthinkable. Richards scored 24 Test hundreds and 11 ODI centuries and has 31 Man of the Match ODI awards from the 186 that he played. Richards is nothing short of a phenomenon and the moniker “Smiling assassin” suits him aptly.
Words betray me when I have write on Tendulkar, who according to many is an epitome of the aphorism: Cricket is a gentleman’s game. He demonstrated that even without using expletives on the field, runs could be plundered aplenty. He conducted himself with utmost dignity and composure on and off the field for the 24 years that he played cricket for India. His era is nothing short of an epoch in cricketing history. He is regarded to be the most worshiped and revered batsman of all time along with Bradman. His consistency and hunger for making big scores incessantly in all formats of the game, are remarkable.
Having featured in 200 tests and 463 ODIs is in itself an achievement. No other mortals of the game could score 100 international centuries and more than 34,000 international runs. The average of close to 54 in Tests and that of 45 in ODIs stand as a testament to his talent as a batsman. His records with the bat, in my opinion and beyond reasonable doubt, would never be surpassed. His dedication to the game marked with remarkable consistency, endurance and to be phoenix like are commendable.
Tendulkar has left behind several records for next generation batsman to get to, if at all they can, which would be a herculean task in itself. He has 62 Man of the Match awards in ODIs along with 15 Match of the Series awards which prove his game-changing skills. The Australian attack comprising Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Shane Warne faced Tendulkar’s wrath time and again in their careers. The attack considered by many to be the best ever, has been treated with disdain by Tendulkar. To validate the fact, he has 11 Test centuries against Australia with 6 of them coming in their own backyard with an astonishing average of 53. He has aptly been conferred with the Bharat Ratna award for his contribution to sports in India. This is also a first for any sportsman in India and he is widely regarded as the greatest sportsman the country has ever produced. Hats off to the Little Master!
Kohli is regarded to be the perfect blend of Richards and Tendulkar mixing caution with aggression, complemented by remarkable consistency. His antics with the willow of late has been something that a young batsman can ever dream. In 2016, Kohli averaged close to 76 in Tests, 93 in ODIs and a staggering 107 in T20 Internationals. To top it, he also plundered 973 runs at an average of 81 in a single edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the highest by anyone ever. He also has 4 double centuries in as many Test series which is also a world record and his captaincy record of 15 Test wins in 23 matches is also the best ever barring Steve Waugh for the first 23 matches as captain.
That Kohli is already regarded as one of the best batsmen of all time is authenticated by his 50-plus average in all the three formats of the game which no other batsman has. His talent is extra-ordinary and his aggression and never-say-die attitude pervade his team, which is on a roll under him. He donned the Indian captain’s hat in 2014-15 Test series in Australia and early glimpse of his attitude was evident in India trying to chase down 350 plus score on the last day. Since then, his captaincy has been on the ascendancy and it remains to be seen whether he would surpass the records of his predecessor MS Dhoni who till date is the most successful Indian skipper statistically.
The Delhiite also has 16 ODI wins in the 20 that he lead India, which means his winning percentage is 80. He has a swagger of a Richards and can browbeat the opposition into submission by his characteristics volley of intimidating words on an off the field. He has rightly been bequeathed with the epithet, “The fighter” for his attitude of giving it back to the opposition. He had a very modest start in the longest version of the game getting only 76 runs in the first five Test innings.
The early glimpse of his hunger for runs was in display in the series of 2011-12 Down Under where he was inducted into the Test team only in the 3rd and 4th Tests. But Kohli emerged the highest run getter of the series for India with him being the only centurion in that series. Carrying the form into the Tri series, he toyed with the Lankan bowling attack making 133 runs off only 86 balls to power India to a win in under 40 overs chasing a score of 320. His heroics meant that India remained in contention for a place in the finals.
In the same match he made a mockery of Lasith Malinga who at the start looked menacing, belting him for 24 runs in one over which landed Malinga with the worst ever economy rate for a bowler in ODIs conceding 96 runs in 8.2 overs. Kohli has 27 ODI centuries in only 169 innings. His 17 hundreds while chasing, is also equal to Tendulkar’s but came at much fewer innings than the Master’s. He has 16 Test match centuries in only 54 matches averaging a tad below 52. His only blemish remained in the Test series against England in England in 2014, where he could manage only 135 runs in 10 innings averaging a poor 13.5. We all hope that he makes amends the next time he tours England.
This was a subjective and an objective illustration of these four batting greats, giving due respect to references and statistics. There’s no denying these four legends are examples of greatness, hard work and extra-ordinary acumen and are true inspirations for any wannabe cricketer.