Tendulkar scales the highest peak
Thirty-nine centuries, 12,027 runs, 152 Tests - the numbers are immense whichever way you look at it. In a career spanning nearly 20 years, Sachin Tendulkar has constantly been India's biggest hope: through the 1990s, he was easily India's best batsman, especially overseas, in conditions none of the others came close to mastering. With the emergence of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, the pressure has eased somewhat, but Tendulkar still remains the most prized wicket for opposition bowlers, which is a remarkable testimony to his skill levels and the high standards he has consistently achieved.
The best measure of the class of a batsman is his performances against the greatest team of his time, and if that is the yardstick then Tendulkar is matchless: in 50 innings against Australia, he averages 55.60, with nine hundreds and an equal number of fifties. Since 1990, he is one of only four batsmen who have scored more than 1000 runs against Australia at a 50-plus average. (Click here for the full list.)
Through most of his career, Tendulkar has been the mainstay of the Indian batting, which is reflected in the percentage of team runs that he has scored. As you'd expect, it isn't as high as Lara's, who has often been West Indies' only hope, but it's only a few decimal points below Dravid's, and a run lesser than Gavaskar's, who was also helped by the fact that he opened the batting and hence had a greater opportunity to bat. The three Australians are at the bottom of the list, which clearly indicates the quality of the other batsmen they played with.
|Batsman||Runs||Team runs in those matches||Percentage|
The champion at No. 4
Tendulkar started his Test journey at No.6, but 22 innings into his career, in the second innings in Adelaide in 1991-92, he was pushed up to No. 4 for the first time as India chased a daunting target of 372. The move failed - Tendulkar made just 17 - but in his next innings, on a bouncy Perth track, he scored 114 sublime runs which virtually sealed his No. 4 slot. Since then he has batted almost exclusively at that position, scoring 10041 runs at No. 4 - the most by any batsman at any position, and nearly 84% of his total runs. Tendulkar averages 56.09 at No. 4 - among batsmen with at least 4000 runs, only three have a higher average at No.4. (Click here for Tendulkar's innings-by-innings list at No. 4.)
The presence of Dravid at No. 3 has bolstered the top order immensely, but the lack of a settled and successful opening pair has meant Tendulkar has often come out to bat early in the innings, when the bowlers are fresh and encouraged by two quick strikes. Out of the 201 times he has batted at No. 4, 78 times he has come out with the score less than 50, of which on 34 occasions the score was less than 20. The table below lists his performances according to the team situation at his entry. When he has come in very early, his numbers have suffered - the average dips to less than 40. However, these situations have also produced some of his really memorable innings: against Pakistan in Chennai in 1999, he made 136 as India fell agonisingly short of a fourth-innings target of 271 after their second wicket had fallen at 6; in the Boxing Day Test in 2000, he scored 116 glorious runs coming in at 11 for 2; at Edgbaston in 1996, he came in at 17 for 2 and scored 122 out of a team score of 219, in an innings in which the second-highest score was a mere 18.
However, there were also other instances when he fell cheaply - 18 times out of these 34 innings he was dismissed under 20.
He was far more successful when he came in with the score between 21 and 50, averaging 54.56. Among his 44 innings in such situations, his two most unforgettable ones were in Bloemfontein, when he came in at 43 for 2 and made a stunning 155, and at Trent Bridge in 1996, when he scored 177 after the team had been 33 for 2.
Most of his No. 4 runs, though, have come when the top three have given India a solid start: coming in at a score of 100 or more, he averages more than 76, with 17 centuries in 71 innings, including three of his four double-hundreds. Forty-one of those innings have been at home, where he averages almost 70. In similar situations overseas, his average is an incredible 87.39, with five unbeaten hundreds.
|Team score at entry||Innings||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s|
|Less than 20||34||1297||39.30||5/ 3|
|20 to 49||45||2346||54.43||6/ 13|
|50 to 99||51||1798||41.81||6/ 8|
|100 and more||71||4600||76.67||18/ 16|
Breaking up those numbers host-country-wise reveals early wickets haven't bothered him as much in England as it has in New Zealand and South Africa. In South Africa, in fact, a solid start hasn't helped him much.
|Host country||Team score at entry||Innings||Runs||Average||100s/ 50s|
|Australia||Less than 60||9||390||43.33||1/ 3|
|Australia||60 or more||11||782||97.75||4/ 1|
|England||Less than 60||10||535||53.50||2/ 1|
|England||60 or more||6||506||84.33||1/ 4|
|New Zealand||Less than 60||6||210||35.00||0/ 2|
|South Africa||Less than 60||13||459||35.31||2/ 1|
|South Africa||60 or more||5||111||27.75||0/ 1|
|Sri Lanka||60 or more||11||600||66.67||3/ 2|
|West Indies||Less than 60||8||419||52.38||1/ 3|
|West Indies||60 or more||6||201||40.20||0/ 2|
|India||Less than 60||33||1374||43.12||4/ 6|
|India||60 or more||62||3280||61.89||12/ 12|
Getting starts and converting them
Comparing the scoring patterns for the seven batsmen in the 10,000-club plus Jacques Kallis, who is only 239 runs away from that landmark, it turns out Ricky Ponting has the lowest failure rate and Steve Waugh the highest. More than 40% of Tendulkar's innings ended before it reached 20 - only Lara and Waugh have a higher low-score percentage. Tendulkar, however, makes up by converting more than 16% of his innings into centuries, a ratio bettered only by Ponting. For Allan Border, the percentage is a poor 10.80.
|Batsman||Less than 20* (%)||20 to 49* (%)||50 to 99 (%)||100 or more (%)|
|Sachin Tendulkar||97 (40.92)||51 (21.52)||50 (21.10)||39 (16.46)|
|Brian Lara||95 (41.48)||52 (22.71)||48 (20.96)||34 (14.85)|
|Allan Border||97 (38.80)||63 (25.20)||63 (25.20)||27 (10.80)|
|Steve Waugh||104 (43.15)||55 (22.82)||50 (20.75)||32 (13.28)|
|Rahul Dravid||71 (35.50)||53 (26.50)||51 (25.50)||25 (12.50)|
|Sunil Gavaskar||81 (38.94)||48 (23.08)||45 (21.63)||34 (16.35)|
|Ricky Ponting||61 (32.28)||52 (27.51)||40 (21.16)||36 (19.05)|
|Jacques Kallis||74 (38.38)||44 (22.22)||48 (24.24)||30 (15.15)|
Series and year-wise stats
Another indicator of the consistency of these eight batsmen is their series-wise averages. Ponting heads that chart again, with only five series in which he averages less than 30. Lara is next in the list, while Tendulkar's ten poor series are more than offset by the 16 series in which his average soared to more than 70.
|Batsman||No. of series||Series average <=30||Series average >=70|
Tendulkar has been around for 20 years now, but only in three of those did his average for the year dip to less than 30 - in 1995, 2003 and 2006. The numbers are even more impressive for Border and Dravid, who haven't allowed their average to dip below 30 at all.
|Batsman||No. of years||Year average <=30||Year average >=70|
Stretches without hundreds
A measure of consistency over a long career is also the number of innings the batsmen have gone without centuries: for Tendulkar the longest such stretch is only 17 innings, the best among the eight batsmen. Gavaskar and Kallis are just one innings further behind, but Border went a whopping 61 innings without a three-figure score in 36 matches between 1988 and 1992.
|Batsman||Innings||100s||Longest stretch without 100 (inngs)||No. of 10-plus inngs stretches without 100|
All stats updated till the end of the first day's play in Mohali.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo