August 29, 2009

Legends

Let's talk about Aravinda

Sambit Bal
Aravinda de Silva plays the flick, Kent v Sri Lanka, Canterbury, 27 April 2002
Mad Max was an exhilarating player when on song  © Getty Images
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This message landed in my Facebook message box: "How good are u as an editor I wonder? Why don't u ponder how really good the likes of Laxman and Sehwag are?"

I wouldn't say I am surprised by the feedback to my previous post. But a bit disappointed, yes, because the point I was trying to make seems to have been largely missed.

My intent was not to put Thilan Samaraweera, or Sri Lanka batsmen, down. I was trying to use Samaraweera to illustrate the devaluation of batting averages in the 21st century. I pointed out how reality has caught up with Mike Hussey too. Perhaps a lot of you have responded to the headline, which read: "How good is Samaraweera?" With hindsight, we could perhaps have used "The truth about batting averages".

Now let me use the example of another Sri Lankan batsman to further argue my case.

Aravinda de Silva played his Tests between 1984 and 2002. He was a breathtaking strokeplayer who came to be called Mad Max after he brought up his first Test hundred hooking Imran Khan for six. He scored another century in the same series, 105 out of a team score of 230. The second-highest score was 25. By then he had been promoted to No. 3; and his runs came against Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir.

His next century came in Australia, a quite brilliant 167 in Brisbane, in only his second Test in that country. In the following Test, in Hobart, he scored 147 (75 and 72). And his next hundred was 267 off 380 balls, in his first appearance in New Zealand.

He finished with an average of 42.97 from 93 Tests. It felt right. De Silva was a good batsman who played some great innings. He could have scored more runs, but he played too many strokes for his own good. He left a lot of memories, perhaps none better than the half-century and hundred in the semi-final and final of the 1996 World Cup.

In a few months we will be picking an all-time Test XI for Sri Lanka. I will bet that de Silva will be one of the first names on the shortlist. I am not so sure about Samaraweera.

VVS Laxman? He is perhaps a bit like de Silva: a good batsman with some great innings. But is he as good as GR Viswanath, who had a lower average? I love watching Laxman bat, but he wouldn't make my all-time Indian XI. Vishy would.

Sehwag is a different story. I don't think he would have averaged 50 in the 1990s. But wherever he has played and whoever he has played against, he has made runs. Big runs and in an emphatic manner. But is he as good as Sachin Tendulkar? Let's not even go there.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Keywords: Legends

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Posted by Saumya Garg on (February 19, 2010, 17:59 GMT)

Sambit the article is okay but saying that Sehwag wouldn't have averaged 50 in the 90's doesn't suit a man of your reputation and position as an editor of one of the most followed cricket websites in india. The kind of pressure's faced by players of either generations were different...today's players live under the camera 24*7...isn't that pressure enough....when u cant even scratch ur nose while batting bcs the whole world in watching imagine wat it will do to ur psyche........

Posted by waspsting on (November 23, 2009, 19:18 GMT)

I haven't seen enough of Samaraweera or Viswanath to comment on their comparisons, but with respect to Tendulkar/Sehwag, I have something to say. Tendulkar is the better player because he has fewer weakness' - in terms of being able to play all types of bowling, handle all types of pitches and consistency in scoring. However, there are areas where Sehwag is better than him - destroying the attack, seizing the initiative and making very big scores. Tendulkar might be better overall, but that does NOT mean he's better at everything. And it just so happens that some of the things he's not better at are among the most EMOTIONALLY COMPELLING aspects of the game.

Posted by Jeevan on (November 16, 2009, 16:12 GMT)

Refer to the above post for part one :-)

Part two The bowlers are as quick as before and swing the ball as much as before and bowl as good a lines and lengths as in the past era but there hasn’t been a change in equipment for the bowler. Arguably the bowlers have better plans and tactics to get batsman out due to the current level of professionalism (again I say arguably) and is better backed up by the fielders. So I find it amazing that you can talk about the “truth of batting averages” and compare different generations as you do without considering what has lead to the batting averages being better. As for greats of the game a fair judgment can only be made at the end of each players career and at present Samaraweera has all the right attributes, l watch with anticipation to see where he ends up in the history books :-)

Posted by Jeevan on (November 16, 2009, 16:10 GMT)

Part one

Sambit you make a good point about the bowling of the 90's. What you do not take into consideration is the modern games advantages in the following areas Equipment - we all know that you can be much safer with helmets and other protection, which helps the batsman mentally. Bats are better and the ball goes further with modern bats. Professionalism - When players like Aravinda started out they were not full time cricketers not to the same extent of the current era. In the current context every facet of every players game is developed. More time is spent on batting, bowling, fielding and mental preparation. Which means memory recall for current players fielding, bowling & batting is better. This helps the modern player to perform at a higher level and closer to their full potential. The big advantage batsman of the current era have over the bowlers of the current era is modern equipment.

To be continued as I have run out of space. Check below for part two

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (October 19, 2009, 7:15 GMT)

Madmax played in an era, when there wasn't any great support from him. Besides Ranatunga and to a much lessor extent Gurusinha, Tilakeratne and Mahanama were providing some useful contributions. On top of it there weren't any great bowlers from the island nation. Due to this, unlike today, Sri Lanka were not tasting a lot of victories and a win outside the sub-continent was a rarity. Had Madmax been a part of today's Sri Lanka, his greed for scoring runs would have been much higher than what it actually was.

Posted by Rohan Morais on (October 9, 2009, 7:14 GMT)

I don't know if there was a comparison between Aravinda and Samaraweera, but if there was, it's absolutely rubbish. Aravinda, after his first stint with Kent (before the '96 world cup), changed his technique and started playing with a heavier bat. This, he later confessed, helped him play in the 'V' and also lesser shots in the air. After this reform in his technique, he became a run machine for Sri Lanka, in both tests and ODIs. He was a far better technician than Samaraweera can or ever will be and he was a treat both to the purists and the lovers of 'slap, bang' cricket. His greatest ability was to pick up the length of any bowler and as we all know, this is the hallmark of great, if not the greatest, batsmen. In no way am I putting down Samaraweera, but just pointing out that the former is a far, far superior batsman.

Posted by Sudhi on (September 16, 2009, 5:58 GMT)

Aravinda Desilva is one of the classiest and elegant stroke maker the game of cricket has ever produced and he is still the best batsman srilanka has ever produced till now. i agree with ali that sanga might level to his status in the coming years. samaraweera has just started his journey and we dont need to make any critical analysis of comparing him with the greats as even samara would be unaware of such chaotic issues being discussed in some part of the world and kindly abstain comparison of averages. i have been watching cricket closely from 1996. i still remember in the 1996 sharjah cup, india crossed 300 for the first time and we all indians were happy for at least 3 days. a score of 280 was considered as difficult and at times impossible to chase, but wat abt now? no team is secure unless they score 350 on a belter pitch. free hits for no ball, new ball in the slog overs, 20 overs powerplay, one bouncer per over, shortened boundaries, flat wickets, quick outfield....

Posted by ali on (September 8, 2009, 16:36 GMT)

Arvinda for me is the best batsman Sri Lanka has ever produced todate. Only other name close to him that I can think of is Sangakara though Kumar is left handed whereas Arvinda was right handed. Sri Lankan batting legacy is as good as it could be for anyone for such a young sport as cricket is in this beautiful country.Having said this i concur to the point editor has raised and surely averages these days do betray us somewhat. When Dasmond Haynes played in the opening match of 1992 World Cup against Pakistan, simply slaughtered them and that tournament is the first major event I still remember.Echoes of heroics by Hynes and Greenidge as opening partners in test cricket are legends in their own right and those they did against bowling monsters like Lilly, Imran and Hadlee.Having known all this I was stunned to know Haynes averaged 42 and Greenidge 44 in tests which are too mediocre compared to modern day standards.Some of the causes hav been discussed but a lot research is stil rquired

Posted by yash on (September 3, 2009, 10:01 GMT)

well no doubt about arvinda but the comarisson beetween samerweera and arvinda and sachin v/s sehwag its not right bcoz they all are great players .

Posted by chandana on (September 3, 2009, 4:43 GMT)

first of all, i am a sri lankan..i think that vvs laxman is a superior batsman than aravinda in test matches..laxman has played a lot of great inningses against world class bowling attacks uner pressure.aravinda looked as an ordinary player against mcgrath and warne..he should be proud to be compared with laxman..

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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