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Bradman Vs Tendulkar Vs Richards
I had planned to publish this article after the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. However, he is still going strong and shows no signs of fatigue after 23 years of international cricket. The first point is to conclude whether such a comparison can be justified because the three played cricket in different periods and had to face different conditions. For this reason alone, it is brave to compare who was the greatest batsman of all time. First, let us take a brief look at their careers.
Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was probably the most destructive batsman of all time. He played his smashing shots against the best bowlers of his era and crushed them into submission. Viv Richards made his test debut in 1974, and was instantly recognized as a great fielder. Along with being a deceptive off-break bowler, the man was easily the most destructive batsman of all time. His batting gained an air due to his arrogant and aggressive presence on the field and his swagger while he walked while batting. This clearly told the opponents that the King was here and that they preferred to watch out. The term “master blaster” was coined to describe Viv Richards. He played 121 test matches and scored 8540 runs, an average of 50.23 with 24 centuries. He still holds the record for the fastest ever test century, which he scored in 56 balls against the UK during their tour of the West Indies in 1986. He was also a member of the famous West Indies team in the 1970s, which won the first two one-day International World Cups. His batting style and versatility as a part-time fielder and bowler made him an ideal one-day player. He scored runs in one day internationals at an average of 47 and a strike rate of 96. He also took more than 100 wickets in one day matches. In 2002, Wisden awarded him as the greatest ODI batsman of all time. He was also the most successful West Indies captain of all time and never lost a test series as captain.
In 1976, the West Indies were due to visit England for a highly anticipated test series. The then England captain said in bravado in the media that he would make the West Indies team tired. Grovel is a term associated with slavery and the statement did not go down well with the public, the media and least of all, the West Indies cricket team. What followed that statement made history as the West Indies destroyed the England team with their four pace attack led by Michael Holding and Viv was at his devastating best. He scored more than 1000 runs in the series with a brilliant 291 at Oval to finish things off. The West Indies won the series 3-0 and Tony Grieg later said that he felt like a bush off the field. In my opinion, Viv was the best batsman ever against genuine fast bowling and he showed almost contempt against the best of them, like Imran Khan and Dennis Lille as he grabbed and pulled their short pitch stuff with tremendous power. Remember that these were the times when helmets were yet to come and eventually when they did arrive, Richards refused to wear them saying he didn’t need them. Viv Richards retired in 1991 from both forms of international cricket. If you ask any cricketer of his generation who was the greatest batsman of all time, he will invariably say that it was Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.
Don Bradman is considered by most to be the greatest batsman of all time. He has a record that can be considered the greatest sporting achievement in any sport. No prizes for guessing it’s right; his test match batting average was 99.96. How he practiced with a golf ball and a single cricket stump are stories that are part of Australian folklore. During the years of the great depression, he lit up the cricket fields with several records that stand even today. Getting him out was the equivalent of getting three batters out. Much like Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar, he attracted crowds in huge numbers. However, the man was a complex person and did not mix with team members easily. Nevertheless, his opinion was much sought after, even after his retirement. Bradman scored 29 hundreds in 52 matches. That’s a hundred of every other game, really, which is unbelievable. For another unbelievable record he hit 12 double hundreds out of 29. He even hit three double hundreds in a single test series against archenemy England in 1930. He made centuries in six test matches on the trot. He is also the fastest ever to reach 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 runs in test cricket. He was short of 7000 runs by four runs. This, by the way, was because of that failure in his last test appearance, when he fell for a duck and came back to the pavilion half laughing at the irony.
The only test series where he performed below par was the corpse series which was very malignant. In a visit to Australia in 1931, England captain Douglas Jardine designed a technique called bodyline, mainly for stopping the running machine called Don Bradman. Working on an observation made during Bradman’s pub in England, he decided to attack Bradman with short-pitched bowling. He, along with the selectors, selected three fast bowlers for the tour under the guidance of Harold Larwood and Bill Voce. This tactic worked well against the Aussies and Bradman. Although Bradman hit a hundred to secure victory for Australia, they only won that one test match in the series. Aussies were routed in the series. Bradman’s batting style changed forever. There was great excitement about the tactic and much has been written about it. However, when I try to imagine Viv Richards in the Don’s shoes I feel that the tactic would have failed. Viv would probably have hit half the shorty stuff in the stands. This is a guess of course, but something to think about nonetheless. This weakness against short pitch bowling is the only flaw one can find in Bradman’s repertoire.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is in my opinion the greatest all-round batsman of all time. I will rank Bradman ahead of Sachin in tests and Viv Richards joint number one in one day with Sachin. Much has been written about the little maestro from India and I can only add one point that has not been discussed very much about Sachin. That’s his balance at the crease. He seems to put little effort into his footwork, yet he gets into position so quickly that it is deadly effective and combined with the enormous talent, no batsman is more complete in his abilities at the top and he never was. Sachin has been around for 23 years of international cricket and bowlers are still looking for a weakness that they can exploit. His record of 100 international centuries is unlikely to ever be broken, much like Sir Don Bradman’s 99.96 batting average. He has broken almost every batting record and is still playing at the highest level. The desire for runs has not diminished after 23 years of tough international cricket. I think the readers of this article should go to Wiki or other such standard pages to see the list of Sachin records. He has acquired so many that I cannot list them here. However, it is significant to note that he has scored the highest number of test runs/centuries, and the highest number of one-day hundreds/centuries. Would Bradman have been able to make the mental and technical adjustments needed to continue playing this much cricket and against so many quality opposition teams? Well, we’ll never know for sure, but I don’t think so. So, at the risk of much controversy, I rate Sachin as number one and Sir Don as a very close number two.
A number of other batsmen have come extremely close to these three in their claims as the greatest batsman. These include Walter Hammond, Garfield Sobers, Len Hutton, Brian Lara etc. However, these three players have been the most effective for their teams, and they remain the best batsmen of all time.
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