March 28, 2013


What do the numbers say about Tendulkar?

Safi Thind
The stats suggest that as a match-winner Tendukar is below Kallis and Sangakkara and just equal to Dravid but better than Lara  © BCCI

After tackling Andrew Flintoff I've decided to go for a less emotional subject this time around: Sachin Tendulkar. Some of you may not know who he is but imagine the lovechild of Gandhi and Mother Teresa, then multiply by 100, double it, and you still wouldn't get halfway to the adoration meted out to this greatest of all cricketing names.

Tendulkar's twilight years have clearly not progressed as they should. Like an old bear trapped in a maze the Little Master has stumbled into a labyrinth of his own mind, scratching for an exit as he advances into old age. The signs haven't been good. No match-winning knocks or battling rearguards to grace that good name.

And so the media lets loose an orgasmic wave of schadenfreude, waiting for his final bow. Out come the familiar catcalls: Sachin is not a match-winner; he fails under pressure; he plays for himself.

The criticisms got to me too and I started to think. And the more I started to think, the more I found an unsettling feeling creeping into the back of my mind. Blood has been shed for less but I will say that Sachin is not a match-winner. In fact I will say his decline as a match-winner had begun as long as ten years ago (perhaps longer, but l leave that analysis for another time).

So has Tendulkar really been killing time for half his career? In a period when India soared up to the top of the Test rankings and he himself had his best scoring year, this seems ludicrous.

Now, as I am sure I am already raising wrath by flirting with this opinion, I believe, like Mr Gradgrind, the only way to progress is through analysis of hard fact. So I have been looking through the ESPNcricinfo database and, like a bumbling detective in the mould of Inspector Clouseau, offer my fact-based critique.

In undertaking my examination, I came across a prime defence of Tendulkar by one Arunabha Sengupta which provides excellent analysis of the cognitive fallacies that lead us to criticise him.

The author says: "Look at the records and find out which other Indian has played a pivotal role in 61 victories. He has 5431 runs in 61 won Test-matches with 20 hundreds. He scores a hundred in every third won Test match - a rate bettered by only Bradman, Inzamam, Hammond and Sobers in the history of the game."

It is an honest enough statistic, but one which doesn't tell the whole truth. Let's examine then: the game is afoot.

Tendulkar the match-winner

Fast forward two years from when the piece was written--a fallow time for the great fellow-- and the total has changed to 20 hundreds in 68 wins. In other words that is a century every 3.5 won matches.

But I think this statistic needs further filtering because - in my perhaps unfair opinion - the total includes six centuries made against the Zimbabwe-Bangladesh pairing, against whom even a one-legged batsman, with a dose of the trots, in the roughest trot of his career whether he is named Trott or not, really must score runs.

Hence if we exclude Bangladesh and Zimbabwe the total comes to 14 centuries in 58 matches. In short that's a century every 4.1 games.

So how do these stats compare with other great players? I first took Rahul Dravid. Dravid scored 15 centuries in 56 wins. Take away Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, that's 11 out of 44, or one in every four wins. The two records are extremely comparable, and both seem to fire when in a winning team, but Tendulkar's longevity gives him the edge.

Let's take a non-Indian top player then. Jacques Kallis has hit 21 centuries in 80 Test wins, or 18 in 69 if you don't include 'Zimbladesh'. That's an average of one every 3.83 innings. Not the most startling difference I'll admit but still proof seems to be emerging in my favour. Kallis has also played in more wins, therefore has longevity on his side. On the other hand, Kallis has played in a more consistent Test team. His ability to score was no doubt helped by a formidable bowling attack which would have set him up to hit big against wilting opposition.

Let's look at another measure: the win ratio. Kallis scored 40 centuries in total (ex -Zim-Bang), therefore has scored 45% of his centuries in a winning cause. Tendulkar's record is 32%.

The influence of the rest of the team can be clearly seen in the case of Brian Lara. Surely Lara, the great single-handed warrior, would have a vast number of centuries in winning causes? In reality Lara scored six tons in 30 wins, in other words one every five (ex-Zimbladesh). The poor West Indian team he played for won rarely during his tenure, despite his heroics.

Lastly, perhaps a better comparison - Kumar Sangakkara. His stats come to 13 tons in 30 won matches. Remove Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and he has a win ratio of 50%. The stats suggest that as a match-winner Tendukar is below Kallis and Sangakkara and just equal to Dravid but better than Lara. So my thesis gathers momentum. But onwards.

Tendulkar's averages and career split:

Going back to the drawing board. The perception I have of Tendulkar is of a swashbuckling youth batting with a runny nose and no concerns, becoming a staid Test senior, wearing an iron mail jacket to take the weight of a billion expectant people on his shoulders. His shots became technical, riskless, orthodox - from nerveless to verveless. It is this move to orthodoxy which has also eliminated his powers to win matches. So they say.

Let us look at the statistics again:

Tendulkar's career batting average in India Test wins is 56.9, higher than his overall average. His average in winning matches during the first ten years of his career was 59.2, hitting four hundreds in 17 matches, or a hundred every 4.2 matches. In the last 10 years his average is 54.06 with seven hundreds in 33 wins or a hundred every 4.7 matches. Compare this with a current young star like Alastair Cook. Both began in average teams which got better and both were early record setters. Cook has hit 10 centuries in 33 won Tests an average of 60.22. That's one in 3.3 games.

While his batting may not have the charisma of a young Tendulkar he still wins matches for England. Many of them.

Tendulkar the top-scorer:

Hundreds don't always give the full perspective. Examining Indian matches where Tendulkar was the top-scorer in either innings over the last ten years, the results are: India won 9, lost 11 and drawn 6.

So when Tendulkar top-scores India lose more times than they win.

Moreover, despite the huge number of matches he has played Tendulkar remains outside the top five cricketers in terms of Test Man of the Match awards--behind Kallis, Muralitharan, Akram, Warne and Ponting.

Tendulkar: first v second innings:

How about match-winning, final-innings knocks? Ten of Tendulkar's top scores in the last ten years came in the second innings. In those scores India won three matches, lost six and drew once.

Tendulkar the individual performer

Now for the crunch: an examination of individual performances. Arguably, most of Tendulkar's best performances happened in the 1990s - the 136 against Pakistan in 1999; his first century - the 119 against England at Old Trafford; and, as a 18-year-old, hitting 114 against Australia at the WACA.

But his career-best year was 2010. This was a stellar time for Tendulkar, and for India too with six wins (eight including Bangladesh), three losses and three draws, to confirm the country's status as the No.1 Test side in the world. Tendulkar himself scored 1562 runs - his best ever - seven hundreds and five fifties with an average of 78.10, his third-highest yearly average when he has played six or more Tests. Only two of the hundreds in 2010 were against Bangladesh. So what happened?

In his first hundred (ex-Bangladesh) against South Africa in Nagpur he scored 100 in the second-innings total of 319. It was in a lost cause - India went down by an innings and six runs.

His second hundred came in the return match against South Africa at Eden Gardens which India won by an innings and 57 runs. He struck 106 in the first innings total of 643. But this was one of seven hundreds in the match and bettered by Sehwag's 165, Dhoni's 132 and Laxman's 143.

Against Sri Lanka in July, away, he top scored with 84 in the second innings in a game. India lost by 10 wickets.

His second biggest score that year came in the following match against Sri Lanka - 203 out of a total of 707 in reply to Sri Lanka's 642 in which Sangakkara top scored with 219. Match drawn.

Then came the Australia series - Tendulkar's favourite opponents. His highest score of 2010 was in the second match in Bangalore where he got a sparkling 214 in a total of 495 in a match which India duly won. He was undoubtedly the game's main protagonist. Tendulkar's final century of that year came against South Africa in December, a second innings top score of 111 not out. India lost.

Take 2010 as whole, in fact, and it can be said that only one of Tendulkar's main scores - the double-century against Australia in Bangalore - won the match.

Of course one year does not a career make.

What about the other years? In terms of wins, India's next best year of the last ten was 2008 with six wins, four losses and five draws. Tendulkar averaged 48.3 that year (one big-winning innings against England where he scored 103 in the second innings). In 2005, another successful year when India won five lost only one and drew two, Tendulkar averaged 44.4. Both are well below his win average and his career average.

In 2004 he averaged 91.5, though did this in just three centuries, two doubles and a 194, all not outs. India drew one and won two of these matches though one win was against Bangladesh (his top career score).

Tendulkar: the statistical conclusion

So where does this leave us? What one looks for in the truly great is a hunger for winning. The ability to pull out matches from the depths of despair. To win things single-handedly (Maradona, literally).

I for one don't want to highlight God's flaws and ignore the greatness. Because he has those transcendent moments of glory--many, many of them-- which soar over the mortal cricketing world and are stellar beyond mere facts. But, for me at least, the last ten years have eroded the legend of the young God Tendulkar's greatness.

Like a wise tortoise he seems to have hunkered down and accumulated his runs quietly, humbly, without fuss. He doesn't destroy attacks like the lion of old.

The question is what now? Will he explode like a firework and leave us with a majestic 155 or even a tortuous 76 to win the match and retire gracefully? Or will he melt away like a withered candle? It's an elementary question.


A quite passionate follower of cricket and writer of articles, Safi Thind is one of the authors of the cricketerdiaries blog

Keywords: Stats

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2013, 12:21 GMT)

Remember Andy Flower! I haven't looked at the statistics, but pretty sure that such analysis will probably make the Zimbabwean batsmen the worst and qualify him to be the most selfish cricketer.

This game of ours is a team game, individually focused analysis do not work. I am sure Pollock, Donald, Steyn will agree!

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (March 29, 2013, 11:48 GMT)

Agree with @dork29 - The author is right. Tendulkar has rarely been a match winner.I have always maintained that he is a weak man psychologically, unlike Lara, Ponting and other greats. He is a skillful batsman - that's all. There were several instances when he could have scripted an Indian win and walked into the Hall of Fame , but he has almost always stumbled.

What has the GOD been doing the past few series? Bowled against NZ three times. Lowest run getter among the top 6 batsmen against Australia. In fact Dhoni scored in one innings more than what Sachin scored in the entire series!!!He relied on his skill, which is considerable no doubt, but even that is deserting him.Nowadays, he is pathetic : tentative against spinners, unable to read the situation in the game and just accumulating runs doggedly. He has rarely won matches.

Posted by ADI_GUNGALIYA_FANTASY on (March 29, 2013, 11:29 GMT)

Writer is wrong in many aspects, Test Cricket Match is team game where individual performance can't affect whole match result.

If a cricket score 300+ runs & match ends in draw he gets MoM. Does it determine he is match winner ?

Match winner batsmans are who keep scoring big runs & also makes lots of partnership with others.

Sachin is a Match Winner if u see runs he scores & other with him score during his stands.

Nowadays, Sachin(God) not scoring much But Sachin stays more on crease with youngster and share his experience,his way of tackling things. that's more important.

If any player(Sachin) make Century & team(India) loses than it doesn't mean player was bad but team was not good. Player had tried his level best for team win but team was not so good to be able to win.

So,I will say Analysis of Writer about stats of Sachin were too bad.

Posted by jpunter on (March 29, 2013, 10:07 GMT)

First off, good effort on asking questions which make us think about, relish, defend, fight for the best batsman of our ages. Bless Siddhu mate, he said Statistics are like mini skirts- what they reveal is suggestive but what they hide is vital. Here's my armchair take on the analysis provided: First, to broadly discount off Zim and Ban is too casual. Bani bowlers have been pretty decent, and par with Ind foreign performances off late, their batting drops the ball.When Sachin played Zim(thru 2002), they were competitive as any other team etc. at different periods over last years- Streak, Flowers etc. As for winning: Steyn, Morkel, and Anderson/Swann have been outstanding compared to Ind bowling- Zaheer, Ishant, Ashwin/Bhajji esp away recently. If Ind batsman are given a choice to feast on Ind bowling vs facing up to rest, maybe the centuries will stack up. Ofcourse, Sachin hasn't been at his best in last few years but his batting is still poetry and I'll cherish that.

Posted by amitgarg78 on (March 29, 2013, 9:57 GMT)

@dork, Choose what you want to believe. Run a query down on runs scored in victories across all formts and see how many are above him. When a man plays as long, there are bound to be stats both ways. For sheer consistency over career though, there is nobody even close. FYI, the answer to above is 1. Ricky ponting who played for a champion side. Kallis is @3 and no one will disagree, he deserves that spot. Filter for away victories, top 2 remain the same. For teams like India, Lanka, that have started to succeed in test cricket only in recent years, this only reinforces the fact that individual brilliance can't get you sustained success in a team sport ESP when the game lasts longer. But it doesn't take away the achievements of the players like mahela, sangakkara or sachin!

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (March 29, 2013, 8:39 GMT)

I think other batsmen have half a dozen innings of unbelievable courage strength - Gooch 153 in West Indies in 1981, 154* in 1991 vs West Indies, 133 against Australia in 1993, 135 against Pakistan in 1992. Waugh had 200, 63* in 1994 vs West Indies, 120* in World Cup, 2 in a test v/s England in 1997 both top scorer, etc. Ponting had 99/101 at MCG, 2 in a test in Durban, 2 in a test in Sydney. Gilchrist had many of them, Gavaskar had 220 in his 4th test, 221 in England in 1979, 111 & 137 in a test in Karachi, Lara had 153*, 213, 196, 176, 226. Tendulkar may not have played courageously like these other batsmen, But NO ONE HAS HIT THE HUNDREDTH CENTURY AND MADE THE TOP SCORE OF 248* AGAINST BANGLADESH. THIS RECORD WILL NEVER BE BROKEN.

Posted by krishna_mee2004 on (March 29, 2013, 7:36 GMT)

Cricket is team game. Just because a team lost a match despite someone's heroics does not belittle the the man. As per your argument, a player of Lara / Tendulkar's calibre will be the best if he was licky. If Lara / Tendulkar were in the current SA team / the invincible Aussies of 1990s and 2000s, they would be the best batsmen in the world?

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Safi Thind
Safi Thind yearned to play cricket for his country. Unfortunately he had a dual nationality, which made that impossible. After studying in England he lived in France but came back to write on cricket, wine and some other things. He writes the cricketerdiaries blog

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