Is Sachin Tendulkar the greatest 25-year-old to have played the game? Thats an easy question to answer. Yes. No other greatDon Bradman and Gary Sobers includedhas stepped on the escalator of international cricket at 16, as Sachin did, and gone only one way, up, every year for nine years. No other great, Bradman and Sobers combined, has played as many Tests61or even a fraction of the one-dayers (196) by the time he was 25. And, as a result, no other great has managed to score 33 international centuries, 61 fifties and 11,622 runs so quickly.
And if your random access memory is a mere 8 MB (months per batsman) it gets even more easy to get the adjectives flowing: 446 runs of emphatic arrogance against Shane Warnes Australia; five centuries, six fifties and 1,235 runs in 23 one-dayers this year; a century apiece in all the big finalsin Sharjah, Calcutta, Colomboand at Lords for those who had missed. And already the leading ton-getter (17) in instant cricket alongside Desmond Haynes.
|THE GREATS AT 25|
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These eight months of carnage have conclusively put the Butcher of Bandra ahead of the Prince of Port of SpainBrian Lara. What they have also donecourtesy television, courtesy one-day cricket, courtesy Warne who thinks Sachin is the best since Bradman, courtesy Mike Atherton who thinks even Dr W.G. Grace couldnt have batted better than Sachin in the Diana Charity matchis open up a whole new can of Pepsi: "Is Sachin already the greatest player ever to have played the game?" This, again, is an easy question to answer: No.
To see what Sachin is up against, get a handle of Bradmans average: 99.96 when he retired after 52 Tests; 99.71 after 23 Tests when he was 25. If cricketing ability was distributed normally (as most other human attributes are), a table of Test match averages should have looked something like this. Number of batsmen with an average of 100; one; average of 95-99: two; 90-94: four; 85-89: seven; 80-84: 11; 75-79: 16; 70-74: 22; 65-69: 29; 60-64: 37 and 55-59: 46. Yet, no batsman apart from Bradman has achieved an average greater than 61. And although Sir Don himself is reputed to have said "This fellow is playing much the same way as I used to," Sachins career Test average of 54.84 just about touches the lower end of that scale. So, there is a long, long way to go. Its not a reality lost on Sachin. "Id rather prefer to average 99.95 than sign all these contracts," he said somewhere.
"Much has been said of Sachins greatness... and it shows the dangers of attempting value judgements in an atmosphere of euphoria," says the online cricket-zine Googlers Gazette: "To compare his batting style with Bradman is bafflinghe hits more sixes in a busy month than Bradman did in his entire career. To compare him to Pollock (Graeme) or Richards (Vivian and Barry) is to compare unlike geniuses. To compare his 1998 to Laras 1994 is equally incongruous. Perhaps with his new-found versatility in bowling he is aiming for a comparison with Sobers."
Yet, probably because of their similar physiques, probably because of their voracious batting appetites or probably because of their common desire to pulverise the bowling, comparisons with the Great Donwho totted up that stupendous average in spite of losing eight years during World War IIare perhaps inescapable for Sachin. In an opinion poll conducted by the Internet cricket magazine Cricinfo, to the question "Is Sachin the greatest batsman since Bradman?", an amazing 64 per cent (3,247 votes) said "Yes"; only 35 per cent (1754 votes) said "No".
Bradman or Sobers or just himself? At 25, and hopefully only beginning to peak, the answer will soon be evident. But as cricket writer Scyld Berry points out Sachin is already the "Master of his Generation". Expand on that, and all doubts about whether he is merely the greatest 25-year-old or the greatest ever will cease. In an age when one-day cricket sets the standards for the longer version of the game and is the arbiter of whos hot and whos not, Sachin is clearly the winner as the master of the one-day generation: With 7,070 runs at 41.10 in 196 matcheswith 4,944 of those coming as an openerSachin is up there as the greatest one-day player of all time.