Cricket Batting Records In Perspective

Cricket Batting Records In Perspective
Cricket Batting Records In Perspective

It is considered fashionable to argue that in sports (e.g. cricket and tennis) players of the past shouldn’t be compared with players of today, that cricket and tennis are entirely different games now, and that any such comparison is meaningless. By this argument the records of Tilden and Gonzales cannot be compared to the records of Nadal and Federer in Tennis.

Such an argument may be valid in respect of Tennis (or any other similar sport) but does not work with cricket.

This is because :

The changes in cricket’s rules, and the following improvements favour batsmen.

They are:

  1. Improvement in quality of bats (its ‘curves’, ‘edges’, ‘sweet spots’, weight etc.) made today. In other words there is a greater area on the bat, available for a batsman to hit the ball. That’s the reason one sees greater number of big hits- sixes and fours today.
  2. The limitation in respect of the size of stumps have made it difficult for bowlers to get batsmen out by getting them clean bowled or out with their leg before wicket (during the days of Bradman even the size of the stumps was increased and the leg-before rule broadened to the disadvantage of back-foot players. Bradman, however played some of his best strokes on the back-foot also, though it was his devastating pull which was the greatest stroke in the whole of Cricket.
  3. Pitches today are covered so that overnight rain does not make them soggy resulting in unpredictable bouncing of the ball. In Bradman’s time, overnight rain made the ball skid and turn, unpredictably and therefore dangerously, giving the bowler an unfair advantage.
  4. There are now restrictions on bouncing, and placement of fielders. No Jardine can set a field today to enforce anything like Bodyline / leg theory. The helmet, the heavy padding, and other protective gear, cover almost all vital organs, eliminating the risk of death and injury. No batsman will suffer the kind of injury that Oldfield or Woodfull sustained. On the other hand the Don faced Larwood, Voce, Bowes, and Tate at their peak employing Bodyline /leg theory wearing only a cap made of soft cloth.
  5. Gautam Bhattacharya quotes Larwood as having said after watching Tendulkar “Ask him not to wear that Helmet. Don never wore one.”
  6. All this is in addition to the availability of excellent medical facilities, wherever the cricketers play. Bradman had to cover the long voyage to England by sea and travel by train within Australia, and England, whereas all players of today including Tendulkar only fly Business class or even First class in comfort, in huge Jets between any two points – they are rested in luxury hotels, with nutritious food. All these factors have decisively shifted the advantage in favour of batsmen. Even a small injury or sprain is immediately attended to, right on the ground itself !.

While on this point, I cannot avoid mentioning Tendulkar’s views on the helmet. He reportedly stated that he as well as others are wearing helmets because they are available now whereas players of the past didn’t because there were no helmets then. Therefore this charge cannot be levelled against him. Tendulkar conveniently and deliberately ignored the fact that he himself had been hit on the head several times when he had been wearing the helmet. It is anybody’s guess how many times and how many serious head injuries he would have sustained, had he played pacemen without a helmet throughout his career! Would he have been able to score so many centuries? Most definitely not! On the other hand, even Gavaskar played throughout his career without a helmet and registered very impressive scores against dangerous bowlers. No need to elaborate further.

Cricket is a batsman’s game. Some batsmen paint beautiful pictures with their strokes and score runs. Some make runs with patience and grit. Some destroy bowling attacks with an onslaught.

At the end of the match, what counts is how many runs are scored, no matter how they come.

Players can win matches with their batting. They also can save matches.

Let us consider the 50 best match-winners/savers with the bat in cricket history according to one cricket writer, Bradman is at the top with the first rank. Yuvraj Singh is at the bottom with fiftieth rank. Everyone else falls in between

Note: To qualify, batsmen must have a minimum of 5,000 runs in international cricket. For players who played before the introduction of One Day International (ODI) matches on Jan. 5, 1971, only Tests are considered.

Bradman stands apart on many parameters. No one comes close to him.

Beyond Bradman, you can keep arguing who was next best, or the next 10 best, till the cows come home. Those who just talk of statistics have not heard of the likes of Grace, Ranji or Trumper.

You have to talk about the pitches and weather conditions, dominance, match-winning players, players who turned around matches and series, not just numbers.

Sutcliffe, Chanderpaul, Kallis and Smith have been good, but all-time greats? They weren’t better than the likes of Macartney, McCabe, May, Dexter, Vishwanath , Kallicharan Martin Crowe, Aravinda de Silva, Laxman, Mark Waugh and some others who did not average 50 in Tests.

Players can win matches with their batting. They also can save matches.

Among those who have scored more than 5,000 runs, I would obviously rate Bradman as No 1. Thereafter, I would pick nine other batsmen and not rank them from 2 to 10 because they are the very greats and very little separates one from the other. These other nine batsmen in chronological order would be:

Hobbs, Hammond, Sobers, Gavaskar, Vivian Richards, Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting and Dravid.

Bradman is the greatest batsman of all time. His average of 99.94 in Tests — 38.07 ahead of the next best, Adam Voges (61.87) — is one record that is certain not to be broken, till cricket is played on our planet.

When Bradman went to bat for the final time, he needed to score only four runs to mark a phenomenal average of 100. But he was bowled by a “googly” off Eric Hollies.

Still, Bradman’s consistency and ability to play long innings were unmatchable. He notched 12200-plus scores and scored six hundreds in six consecutive matches in the 1937-38 season.

The Australian legend also holds the record of most runs in a Test Series as he scored 974 runs from seven innings at an incredible average of 139.14 in the Ashes in 1930.

Here was a Bradman – when comes such another!


  • Indra Vikram Singh (author of “Don’s century” and India’s greatest authority on Don Bradman
  • Tevin Joseph (Eminent Cricket writer)


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