The sports fraternity has always given us some epic rivalries. Starting from Pele vs Maradona, Federer vs Nadal or Ronaldo vs Messi, we as fans love to compare the legends and do not leave an inch to prove our favourite players as the best in business.
While the eminent personalities involved in those duels refuse to be drawn in any comparison, their supreme skill set and astonishing achievements in the respective fields make us repeatedly pit them against one another. On most occasions, we fail to draw a conclusion in our primary objective, but at the end of the day, we feel happy talking and boasting about the once-in-a-generation players.
One of those relentless discussions which still make us drool over their staggering records comes in the form of Sachin Tendulkar vs Brian Lara. In this article, we compare the style and grace of the Caribbean legend with the flair and finesse of India’s cricketing God.
Before we start off, a glance at the numbers…
|Player||Matches||Innings||Runs||Average||Strike Rate||Highest Score||100s||50s|
As seen from the stats, in both formats, Sachin dominates Lara in all aspects except the Highest Score in Tests. But as we know, stats are not all in the game of cricket. As Aakash Chopra says, ‘Numbers Do Lie’, the figures are just one part of the story. Hence, we take a deep plunge with an aim to compare these legends from a different angle.
Test average against all countries:
While Sachin averages over 40 against all Test playing nations, his lowest is 42.28 versus arch-rivals Pakistan. On the other hand, Lara too has an average above 40 against every country, except India where he averages 34.55 with just 2 hundreds from 17 tests.
Test average in away matches:
Playing away from home, Lara’s average of 47.80 remains a few notches below his career one of 52.88, but Sachin’s 54.74 is a shade higher than his overall average of 53.78. In this aspect we can keep both at the same level as the pitches in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were much similar to those in India and Tendulkar had the benefit of playing a lot in sub-continent.
The places where they were found wanting:
Sachin’s first test hundred came in and against England in 1990, but the origin country of the sport was not a happy hunting ground for the Master. From 2007 onwards, Tendulkar averaged just 34.12 in England, with just two half-centuries from eight innings in tests. He faced a troublesome period against England’s Anderson-Broad combo, one of the most potent fast bowling pairs in that time. Against them, Sachin scored only 318 runs from 13 innings at an average of 24.46.
Erstwhile, India and Pakistan managed to keep a leash on Lara’s willow on most occasions. Especially against Akram and Waqar, the southpaw’s average came down to 32.18. In 11 test innings versus the fearsome duo, he aggregated 354 runs with no centuries to his name. Lara had a hard time against Kumble-Harbhajan too, though he faced them in only four innings. With a high score of 26, he averages just 16.5 against the Indian spin twins.
The decisive exam: Tests against Australia
It is a known fact that Australia was the team to beat when Lara and Sachin were at their peak. Just the names in the bowling attack comprising of McGrath, Gillespie, Lee and Shane Warne were enough to put the batsmen on the back foot even before the match started.
Among those, Sachin-McGrath duel was one which always kept us glued to the TV screens. The Indian batsman relished the challenge of facing the machine-like line length and probing questions from the Aussie pacer. At times, it was the Little Master who had the upper hand, but tall lanky pacer had his share of moments too.
Interestingly stats suggest both Lara and Sachin struggled more against McGrath-Gillespie than the pair of McGrath-Warne. While Sachin averages 42.28 against the latter, the same against the pace duo falls to 37.4. Similarly for Lara, his average versus McGrath-Gillespie is 47.35 but against the other, it shoots up to 51.03.
Sachin’s overall performance against Aussies is outstanding, but many of those memorable innings came against a Kangaroo attack sans McGrath, Warne and Gillespie. His arduous knock of 241* in Sydney, where he did not play a single cover drive had no McGrath or Warne in the bowling line-up. Lara though maintained his performance against the Baggy Greens and remains the only player expect Kevin Pietersen to score more than 1000 runs versus Australian attack comprising of Warne and McGrath.
Keeping all these factors in the loop, maybe we can say Lara was slightly better than Tendulkar in test matches.
As far as the ODIs are concerned:
While many people believe that had Lara opened the innings like Tendulkar in ODIs, his records would have surpassed the Indian’s record. But logically, it is difficult to predict that as we never know how Lara would have performed against the new, hard and swinging white ball at the top. Maybe better, perhaps not. Lara’s test match temperament might have given him an edge to play big knocks in ODIs, but simultaneously his vulnerability in the early part of the innings would have stacked the odds against him.
The first player to rack up a double ton in ODIs, Sachin Tendulkar also has a World Cup to assert his superiority over his counterpart. But, Sachin’s 33 ODI centuries out of 49 came in winning causes, whereas for Lara the same is 16 out of 19.
Very difficult to say, but still we can say Sachin enjoys a significant dominance over Lara in the limited overs format.
To round up, we tried to judge these players on certain aspects. There are many more parameters where one can compare them. However, for most cricket-lovers, these two were a treat to watch and they find these comparisons pointless.
Hence, we leave it for our readers to decide:
Who do you think was a better player – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar or Brian Charles Lara?