Ed Smith
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Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman; writer for the New Statesman

Peaks or high plateaus: what makes a player great?

How do you measure success in sport? Is it about consistency or the ability to dazzle?

Ed Smith

February 13, 2013

Comments: 91 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni sends one through the off side, India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 4th day, September 3, 2012
MS Dhoni: from flashy brilliance to deep-rooted reliability © AFP
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Players/Officials: MS Dhoni | Brian Lara | Sachin Tendulkar
Teams: India | West Indies

Consistency is a vexed subject in cricket. Almost anyone can be accused of inconsistency; the perfectly consistent player is yet to be born, because failure, especially for batsmen, is hardwired into the structure of the sport. Consistency is also deceptive. I finished most first-class seasons with about 1200 runs. Consistent? Not really. Within each season, I was prone to unusually large fluctuations in form.

That point was brought home during a chance conversation with an opposition coach in 2004, just after Warwickshire had won the championship. The coach singled out the contribution of Jonathan Trott, who had made 1200 runs, averaging over 50, with only one hundred but ten fifties. Conventional wisdom held that Trott had a poor "conversion rate". The coach took the opposite view. "From the team's perspective, I can't think of a more useful way to divide up 1200 runs." I couldn't help thinking of the flaws in my own season: I'd scored exactly the same number of runs as Trott, but with a completely different distribution. My season consisted of two patches of high scores, separated by long stretches of disappointment. I'd reached the same destination via a very different journey. Twelve hundred runs at 50 might sound "consistent", but the headline numbers can mask serious inconsistency below the surface.

The same question applies to cricket at all levels, from club to Tests. Is it better to achieve consistent high competence or transient dominance? The answer depends partly on perspective. Fans, I suspect, tend to remember players who achieve moments of brilliance rather than grinding reliability. But within the team, I suspect, the opposite is true. Team-mates like to know what they're getting. The question of how to measure achievement also reveals a deeper divide in sport. We will come to that later.

Statisticians argue about how to measure consistency (on ESPNcricinfo alone, S Rajesh and Gabriel Rogers offer differing methodologies). Sometimes the statistics reinforce our instinctive judgements. A snap judgement about Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis would contrast the instinctive, mercurial West Indian with the methodical, controlled South African. And the stats confirm our hunch. One statistical measure found Kallis to be the most consistent player of all time, and Lara to be the fourth most inconsistent.

Where does Sachin Tendulkar fit in? Lara, obviously, owns the record for the highest score in both first-class and Test cricket. In contract, Tendulkar has made more runs and more hundreds than anyone else. You could argue that Lara climbed the higher peaks but Tendulkar covered much more land. If you wanted to own a stock or a share, buy Tendulkar. But for moments of total mastery - I'm thinking especially his two back-to-back, match-winning hundreds against Australia in 1999 - it's hard to look past Lara.

The same pattern is revealed in other measures of consistency. Lara's career shows slightly more volatility. S Rajesh informs me that Tendulkar has played 64 series. In 21 of those (33%), Tendulkar has averaged more than 70; in 16 series (25%) he has averaged less than 35. Lara had a similar record of stellar series (11 in 35 series - 31%), but suffered relatively poor series slightly more often (11 again). Statistically speaking Lara had slightly more dips - which is probably just how you remember it.

In Federer, tennis has produced one of the most complete examples of greatness. He brings together the artistry, grace and joie de vivre of the perfect amateur, and yet the relentlessness and durability of the ultimate pro

Some bowlers are also justly remembered for their inspired peaks rather than unchanging steadiness. If I had to pick one bowler who, at his absolute best, looked pretty much unplayable, I'd advance the claim of Waqar Younis. When I was a teenager, the most devastating sight in international cricket was seeing two objects going in sharply different directions: the ball lethally swerving in at 90mph, the batsman involuntarily toppling over to towards the off side. If he was lucky, he'd merely be clean bowled. If he was unlucky, he'd hobble off with a broken foot (and lbw to his name). The numbers reflect those facts. Between October 1990 and December 1994, Waqar took 180 Test wickets at 17.

But intuitive judgments can be a poor guide to consistency. MS Dhoni's charisma and dazzling attacking skills suggest a volatile Test career. Far from it. Dhoni makes many more fifties than hundreds, and his average has been consistently in the high 30s. Among modern players Dhoni has the least volatile Test record of any batsman, with the single exception of the ultra-reliable Mark Richardson.

The challenge of measuring success inevitably adds to the complexity of assessing greatness. All sports suffer a version of the same difficulties. Bobby Jones Jr, playing as an amateur, won 62% of the national tournaments he entered. He was far more likely to win, statistically speaking, than Jack Nicklaus, who won 18 major tournaments and is widely regarded as the greatest ever.

Baseball offers a revealing dilemma. Babe Ruth revolutionised his sport as a spectacle. No one had ever hit a baseball with such joy and such power. But his overall batting average is only tenth on the all-time list, significantly behind the leader, Ty Cobb. (A further complication is that Ruth was a loveable character, whereas Cobb was a cheat, a thug and a racist.) Ruth's influence on his sport adds yet another dimension: greatness as an agent of change. Even if you prefer Verdi's music to Wagner's, you will have to concede that the German composer had a far greater influence on the history of music. How do you measure that?

The tennis ace Rod Laver won "only" 11 Grand Slams (Roger Federer has 17). But Laver's 11 included all four in two seasons*, something that only he has achieved. Some pundits rate Laver as the greatest because at his peak his dominance was more complete. And how should we weigh the relative greatness of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi? Sampras won more slams and dominated their head-to-heads. But Agassi won each of the four slams, demonstrating greater versatility.

In Federer, tennis has produced one of the most complete examples of greatness. The striking thing about him is the combination of beauty and consistency. Federer brings together the artistry, grace and joie de vivre of the perfect amateur, and yet the relentlessness and durability of the ultimate pro. He is like David Gower and Don Bradman rolled into one.

Federer's greatness is both "high" and "broad". His play in 2006 and 2007 is often held up as the high-water mark of tennis. But most sportsmen who enjoy such total mastery tend to give up early. Bjorn Borg retired at 26, the Welsh flyhalf Barry John quit at 27, Bobby Jones Jr gave up elite golf at 28. As soon as the magic fades, they rush for the exit.

Not Federer. He was overtaken as No. 1 by first Rafael Nadal, then Novak Djokovic. But Federer reeled them both in, regaining his No. 1 spot (for a while) in 2012. Many tennis insiders rate Federer's resilience as a member of the chasing pack even more highly than his period of solo domination. Something similar can be said of Tendulkar. His consistency and longevity are at least as remarkable as his best purple patch.

The question of whether to judge a sportsman by the height of the tallest peak or the volume of the total achievement reveals our broader attitudes. Is sport essentially like business, getting the job done, winning a series of transactions, securing profit in the bank? Or is more like the arts (as I explored here)?

Ask a businessman whether he'd prefer one astonishing year and nine average ones, or ten very good years straight, and you know he'll choose the latter. But ask a concert pianist if he would rather leave behind one peerless recording or ten merely impressive ones, and you may well get the opposite response. Robert Frost claimed his utmost ambition was "to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of". He was right: quality, not quantity, is the surer guarantee of permanence.

Unable to forget the wristy majesty of his 281 against Australia, you may insist that VVS Laxman is a better player than his more consistent peers. Yes, they can blind you with numbers. But you have the right to judge sport on your own terms.

*09:40:08 GMT, February 13: Changed to reflect the fact that Laver won all four slams twice

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith's new book, Luck - What It Means and Why It Matters, is out now. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by BillyCC on (February 16, 2013, 7:20 GMT)

@Dev_MCT, of course stats indicate greatness. Hunches and opinions will always give you silly results if you can't back them up with stats. Stats are also the only way to separate the greats of the game across different eras. Otherwise, in 100 years time, Tendulkar, Kallis, Lara, Ponting would not be greats in your definition. Because no one would have seen them play and as a result, would not have an opinion or hunch that they were. @Srinivasan Narayanan, yeah there was a bloke called Bradman who qualifies in your definition.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 16, 2013, 6:16 GMT)

If just peak performances were considered then Ian Botham may be rated even above Gary Sobers or Imran Khan if you remember the 1981 Ashes and 1980 Jubilee test in Mumbai.If you consider the pressure in he faced amongst modern greats no batsman was as dominant in test cricket as Tendulkar was from the period of July 1997 to Ocotober 2001 when he averaged over 67 and scored over 3200 runs.If you just have peak performnaces then both Virendra Sehwag and Gundpaa Vishwanath could overlap Tendulkar.Sachin has not equaled Vishwanath's 97 not out at Madras v West Indies in 1974-75 nor Sehwag's 309 at Multan in 2004-both match winning efforts.Similarly if you just consider peak era then Imran Khan would arguably be the best pace bolwer of them all.From 1981-1987 his figures were phenomenal.

Posted by   on (February 15, 2013, 3:58 GMT)

What is the measure of greatness in sports? Indeed a vexed question with as many answers as there are fans. Again assessing greatness in team sport is much more complicated than in an individual sport. So while a Roger Federer's brilliance can almost assure him of a win, a Sachin or Lara playing an outstanding innings can still end up on the losing side when they are largely surrounded by minnows as team mates whereas a Ponting can boast of a sizeable contribution in a winning cause more often. My own patently greedy definition of a great batsman would be one who scores the highest runs, is consistent in the extreme and inspires his team mates also to perform one or two notches above their usual best and thus plays a lead and inspiring role in his team's victories against the best of opposition - home and abroad. Mercifully we have not found such a batsman yet. And that sustains our interest in cricket as metaphor for life.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 15, 2013, 2:41 GMT)

At their peak both Brian Lara and Viv Richards were ahead of Tendulkar.Lara was ahead in terms of his mammoth scores and series run aggregates at his best while Viv from 1976-81 performed better than anyone after Bradman.However overall consistency or high plateaus is the most vital factor.In his peak Ian Botham was almost the equal of Gary Sobers who has not equaled Botham's performances in the 1980 jubilee test in Mumbai or in the 1981 Ashes at home.The fact is that no cricketer ever will equal Tendulkar's record of 100 international centuries.Kallis has great statistics ,better than Sober.However Sobers to me is a street ahead of Kallis as he had far greater match-winning flair with both bat and ball.

Posted by BillyCC on (February 14, 2013, 23:18 GMT)

Bradman single-handedly increased the bowling averages of English Test bowlers throughout their career probably around 5 runs. Just him, not the team. Add to that the contribution of the rest of the team and that's massive. Bradman has it all: consistency, matchwinner, stats, entertainment factor etc. The only thing lacking is performance against the greats of his generation. The fact is, he made sure there were no great bowlers in his generation. And a Bodyline average of 57! An average over 30 would be considered great (McCabe got over 40)

Posted by   on (February 14, 2013, 19:07 GMT)

Great article and each will have his own views. Impossible to agree on this. To me the greatest will be Bradman, longevity,average, winning tests, consistency. But some of the works of beauty will charm one. Sobers, Pollock (G), Vishwanath, Zaheer, Sir Viv etc. also one small consideration. pitches were uncovered till 75, and helmets were not available till early 80s. Keep these two in mind when evaluating batsmen, modern vs old. Hence my own bias is always towards those batsmen.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 14, 2013, 18:16 GMT)

In a crisis the best batsmen were Javed Miandad ,Alan Border,Rahul Dravid,Jacques Kallis Steve Waugh and Ian Chappell.I forgot to mention Dravid earlier ,a champion when the chips were down.To win matches Viv Richards,Don Bradman,potentially Barry Richards,Gordon Greenidge and Greg Chappell were outstanding.For consistency we must never forget Jack Hobbs ,Gavaskar and Geoff Boycott.Great batsman whose averages did them injustice were Rohan Kanhai and Ted Dexter.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 14, 2013, 18:09 GMT)

Great players may be divided into l match-winners like Viv Richards,or Don Bradman or stalwarts in a crisis who could bat for your life like Javed Miandad,Steve Waugh,Ian Chappell or Alan Border.What was unique in Gary Sobers,Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara was that they could do both.The ultimate factor is the ability to turn the complexion of a game in any situation in any type of conditions.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 14, 2013, 18:04 GMT)

Above all the consistency and ability to perform outstandingly under pressure is the true test of greatness.This was the quality posessed by Bradman,Hobbs,Hutton ,Gavasra,Viv Richards,Sobers,Gavaskar,Tendulkar,Lara and Miandad.Some posessed great natural genius like Rohan Kanhai ,David Gower and Vishwanath but lacked consistency.Infact at his best Kanhai even surpassed Sobers.Amongst the great batsmen some have been outstanding matchwinners like Viv Richards while some were oustanding in a crisis like Javed Miandad or Alan Border.To me the greatest virtue is the ability of a batsmen to single-handedly turn games which Lara did more than Tendulkar.All taken into consideration Tendulkar is arguably the most complete of all batsman in the history of the game taking all factors into account.

Zaheer Abbas,Gundappa Vishwanath,Colin Cowdrey or Mark Waugh just miss out in the 'great' category because of lack of consistency.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2013, 16:36 GMT)

Impossible to tell, if Gavaskar is greater than Tendulkar. I don't think Tendulkar agrees, because he doesn't know. Tendulkar seems to be consistent, but Gavaskar cared for the game, perhaps more visibly. It used to be an expectant wait, when Gavaskar didn't score, for long periods, and people didn't complain.

Posted by MostCulturedAussieSirLesPatterson on (February 14, 2013, 16:26 GMT)

..and poor old Garry Sobers, the greatest all rounder of them all, doesn't even get a mention!!!

Posted by AsherCA on (February 14, 2013, 15:41 GMT)

I am not sure I want to waste my time on comparisons, just enjoy the games. We all talk about Ponting, Lakshman, Sachin et al. What about that impact players like Sehwag ? The way he battered England at Bangalore many years ago, converting an imposing task into a walk in the park for the guys who followed him. The impact was not just the one test that India won, there were a lot subsequently that India did not lose with the opposition captain thinking India have Sehwag in the side, 450 on board, they can get it in 4 sessions, we need to get some more - they batted the extra 30 minutes to play safe & ran out of time to bowl India out. This fear of India's batting was not Sachin / Dravid / Ganguly / Lakshman. You can bowl sensibly at them & stop them from scoring... Sehwag...

Posted by JohnnyRook on (February 14, 2013, 14:46 GMT)

Great article Ed. I think while talking about Tendulkar, it is extremely important to differentiate between Tendulkar the ODI batsman and Tendulkar the test batsman. In tests, he had many very close competetors some of whom may have been better performers than him, even though by a split hair. To me, comparing the batting of Dravid, Ponting, Lara, Sachin and Kallis in tests is an exercise in futility since they are so close to one another.

In ODIs though, Tendulkar is absolutely peerless in his era. Only Sir Viv can possibly claim to be better perfromer than him but he has barely scored one-third of Tendulkar's run. In a way, Tendulkar-Lara rivalary in tests gets parallelled in Tendulkar-Richards rivalary in ODIs. Mr Consistent Output vs Mr Dazzling Swashbuckler.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2013, 13:24 GMT)

Beautiful article. I am in favor of the artists, I searched Youtube for Waqar younis LBWs, Warnies turn, VVS 281, Lara's backlift......never ever searched for Mcgrath, Dravid etc. We are not in the age of cricket almanacs, thanks to youtube, the artists are cherished more than ever.

Posted by Jonathan_E on (February 14, 2013, 12:55 GMT)

You might as well say: Which would you rather have in your team, with bat or ball - Botham, Kapil, Imran or Hadlee?

On paper, you have quite a dilemma. Imran has clearly the best all-round figures and the best batting average: Kapil the most wickets: Hadlee the most 5-fors and best innings and match bowling figures: and Botham the most runs, more 5-fors than Imran or Kapil but a worse bowling average than Imran or Hadlee, and more centuries than the rest put together, including the only double-century (which was at one stage the fastest known in terms of balls faced), but also more batting failures than Imran or Kapil (Hadlee was really more of a bowler who could bat a bit, but was never good enough t be considered to bat at 6 like the other three.)

Yet if you wanted one to turn around a lost cause with the bat, score a century out of a lost cause, and then knock five wickets down, you'd pick Botham first ahead of Imran's more consistent higher batting average...

Posted by Vivekaks on (February 14, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

Beautiful Piece Ed....cant agree more... spectators are more enthralled with moment of brilliance than watch someone who consistently rakes up good scores but may be in an unspectacular way... Sehwag vs Dravid. We cant get Sachin into the equation because he has been a marauder and definitely a lot more consistent than his contemporaries. Kallis,Dravid,Chanderpaul, Hussey, Cook are/were consistent players...but they will never be remembered in the same vein as Sehwag,Pietersen,Lara,Gayle,Ponting et al...its more the joy of watchin than reveling in records... I will anyday go watch Laxman than Dravid for the pure joy of watchin, but if the result of a match is in balance, its Dravid all the way...

Posted by   on (February 14, 2013, 6:56 GMT)

Superb article...loved the cross-sport examples and it made a lot of sense. The last conclusion line leaves the readers to make up their minds. Id say the longevity of the purple patch of any sportsperson is to be taken into consideration...coz if they go through a fall, they are the ones who comeback stronger...I hope Kohli will do the same in this season...starting with the Australian tour! Cheers...

Posted by BillyCC on (February 14, 2013, 5:35 GMT)

Consistency, performance against the best of their generation, longevity, home and away statistics with a higher weight to away stats, contributions under pressure/crisis situations, contributions that lead to matchwinning performances, how you increase the confidence of the team around you. These are not all equally weighted and are subjective based on what people think are important, but they should all be used in an evaluation of greatness.

If you look at this list, it is not hard to see why Kallis still struggles to gain the plaudits. He is certainly a great, but when ranked amongst other greats, there are some categories where he does not shine.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2013, 4:27 GMT)

Beautiful read. I think the debate is akin to art vs science, transcendence vs machine-like efficiency. For batsmen, we'd have, say, a Lara and VVS on one side vs Tendulkar and Kallis on the other. For bowlers, Wasim/Warne vs McGrath/Murali. In my case, I'll always - always - pick the former, the artists. Understandably, I do so for selfish reasons: the artists have given me pure unadulterated pleasure at the sheer scope of their abilities while the machine-like efficiency of Tendulkar/Dravid/Kallis/Murali have left me 'merely' in awe. However, I am willing to bet that any batting lineup will vote for the certainty of the 'machines' (I don't use this disparagingly) over the volatility and uncertainty of the artists.

Posted by ultrasnow on (February 14, 2013, 3:16 GMT)

So what is the writer trying to communicate? Please stop being ambiguous. Cricket writers seem to have this name dropping tendency with regard to Tendulkar. The only purpose seems to be - provoke his legion of fans into reading and debating the article. I can't help but think that there would be hordes of people who would run out of business when the great man opts to call it a day. Sports writers stop playing to the gallery, please.

Posted by Matth on (February 14, 2013, 2:16 GMT)

The thing I struggle with here is my Ed Smith's extremely thoughtful piece on consistency and greatness has descended (like every article on cricinfo that mentions batting) into a Tendulkar is better than Lara is better than Kallis - a - thon. It is very boring and most of the comments here end up not being about the actual article.

An interesting case here is Shane Watson. He is derided for his poor conversion rate (only two career centuries vs many fifties), but he averages around 43 opening the batting and has numerous scores in the 90's, etc. Now I'm not saying for a second that Watson is a "great" batsman, but his vaue to the team providing as consistent start is not acknowledged. I think Watson's biggest problem is that he looks like he should score so much more, that his relatively successful career is downgraded. If he batted like Ed Cowan or Jonathan Trott he would actually be appreciated more as a consistent gritty batsman.

Posted by boxer44 on (February 14, 2013, 2:08 GMT)

@supacricfan change ur name to blinded by tendulkar, how on earth can u say Lara is a distant second to Sachin, then to prove that point u talk about India not having bowles, Do u have any idea who was the bowlers lara played with and other than Cchanderpaul, he was always the only batsman WI had? Look at all the support Sachin had around him, im sure at least 4 of them can be considered great. IMHO its Lara, Dravid, Khallis then Sachin, longevity is the only reason he was able to compile so many runs.5oo n.o, 400 n.o, 375 these number look familiar to anyone?

Posted by Matth on (February 14, 2013, 2:02 GMT)

Interesting the comparison between tennis and batting consistency. I would argue that batting results would be inherently more inconsistent. As a batsman if you make one mistake you are out. In tennis you can make a number of unforced errors in a match and you still have a chance to turn things around and win

Posted by Jojygeorge on (February 14, 2013, 1:38 GMT)

Sachin wins this one hands down..... for not just consistency for a considerable length of time but for many many instances of individual brilliance to single handedly decide the fate of a match!! Lara was brilliant at times but not consistent but Sachin has been consistent as well as brilliant...... Just compare the home and overseas test averages of Lara and Sachin just to confirm this.....Sachin is way ahead of Lara!! Not to mention Sachin's ODI records......18000 runs inlcuding one ODI double hundred at a strike rate of 86.00......way beyond the reach of anyone so far!!

Posted by   on (February 14, 2013, 0:39 GMT)

Dear, oh dear! An article about consistency, and longevity thrown in, without even a mention of Jacques Kallis. You've missed a trick my boy. This is like an article about rain without talking about water.

Posted by Alexk400 on (February 13, 2013, 23:27 GMT)

For me greatness comes from many great innings. Great inning is when opposition is equally great and pressure of the situation. Kapil dev master class 175 ranks high on my mind. Without Dhoni can india would have won the world cup in India? Certainly. For me Dhoni is plain lucky. For me sometime lucky is more than great. Dhoni is one of those SKill waise zero but everything else he tower over any player in any sports. Can a player single handedly won games? That is what make greatness. Sachin never won anything single handedly , he is good run accumulator at best. Lara had great highs but never willed his team to win. Win a game you just need all round team. So sachin , lara never had great team around them when they were peak. Sachin atleast start to have great team around him but his contribution win is ZERO. That says lot. Sehwag is great but for me dravid was greatest in indian perspective. Ponting is greatest because he willed his team to win many times.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (February 13, 2013, 22:27 GMT)

This is gem of an article! According to me, greatness would be a combination of "fairly consistent performances" interluded with some "peaks" of brilliance. This is what Tendulkar was during the later part of 90s. However, in the last 5 years or so there are hardly any "peaks", but only fairly consistent performances from him. Another measure of greatness would be how a player responds when the team needs it the most. With this measure in consideration, VVS Laxman and Steve Waugh leave their contemporaries behind.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (February 13, 2013, 21:09 GMT)

comparing Lara and Tendulkar is simple (to me). Tendulkar started 1st. and Lara got to 9,000 runs 10,000 and 11,000 runs before Tendulkar (in fewer games and less innings) with a lower average only because of fewer not outs . Lara IS the fastest batsman to 10,000 runs and 11,000 runs in terms on innings and Deliveries.

now about consistency .. do you know of a player who averaged 40+ in Tests for 2 years without scoring a single Test century ? And then when he started scoring centuries , started picking them up at an alarming rate and raised his overall average from 41 to 51 ? how can we discuss consistency without mentioning him ?

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

Talking of someone outside Cricket, we should not forget Jahangir Khan (a former Squash Player from Pakistan). He won 555 games consecutively from 1981 to 1986.

Posted by warneneverchuck on (February 13, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

Sachin is way ahead of rest all. Playing good for 5 or 10 years is an achievement but playing well consistently for more than 20 years is something only Sachin can do

Posted by supacricfan on (February 13, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

Tendulkar by far is the greatest batsmen,lara is distant second,u mention lara and u mention those 2 test records and thats it not many ODI innings(of course he has played gr8 innings butfades in comparision with sachin) andsachin's test centuries are incredible,dont underestimate the pressure he carries of billion people and no cricketer ever had thatburden and for me that plays a CRUCIAL part to judge a player,his test centuries at perth and oldtrafford when he was barely a teenager,169 in SAagainst donald n co,countless centuries against best team of his time AUS,his average abroad is incredible,lara pales in comparison with regarding to this and dont forget that sachin plays with an indianteam who have never got match winning bowlers and theentire pressure is on batsmen,sheer consistency and the ability to pull crowds notonly in inida but also in AUS,SA,ENG..tell me which player has been getting standing ovations everytimehe walks out to bat in ENG n AUS,not even theirown players!

Posted by sifter132 on (February 13, 2013, 19:41 GMT)

A great peak is my answer. I'd hate to think that a batsman would have to reach Tendulkar's 20 year career length to be seen as great. 10 years of good performance, or even 5 years of outstanding performance should be enough to confirm that someone was a 'great' cricketer.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 18:49 GMT)

Lara. Look back to Lara's retired matches, innings, and runs. Then get Tendulker's stats at the same matches, then the same innings, and then compare the runs.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 18:48 GMT)

Don't think that 2 or 3 innings of Lara is enough to conclude that he is ahead of Sachin in tests....success can also b defined in terms of longevity..the sheer pressure that Sachin had to face by representing India can't b compared to anyone else...for me, Sachin is far ahead of Lara..nd it's absolutly ridiculous to state that Sachin didn't play a memorable innings even after 200 tests....wat abt the innings against Pak in Chennai, 1998? that against Eng in Chennai, 2008? the one against Aus in Sydney 2004 nd 2008..the one against SA at Centurion, 2011....

Posted by Shemz on (February 13, 2013, 18:25 GMT)

@skilebow.. you are wrong dude. If lara had played with the likes of WI greats of 80's, he won't get a chance to score 400, 375 and many heroic innings. Also he has to face lillee, thomson and other many greats of 80's. @princepurple1979: in Lara's time windies pitches are not fast. they are like sub continent dust bowls. Ponting visited 4 times in india but his record in docile indian pitches are very poor. but sachin has very good stats in aus. check the stats mate.

Posted by tests_the_best on (February 13, 2013, 18:21 GMT)

Great article, especially liked the analogy of plateaus/peaks to businessman/concert pianist.

Posted by ashishcooltech on (February 13, 2013, 17:41 GMT)

@tickcric. Very well put.. Couldn't agree with you more... Tendulkar would surely rate as the most complete batsmen.. The closest to him in wholesomeness is Lara.. and the two were considered great batsmen from the initial stages of their careers, owing to this. Ponting and Kallis had their weaknesses which they improved through their career but could never become the master of them.. ( Spin for Ponting and lack of aggression/domination for Kallis ). They gathered stats ( and respect ) as they moved through their career, but somehow could never achieve the same stature as Tendulkar/Lara due to this lack of completeness. Tendulkar/Lara never really had any problem with any particular style of bowling or conditions.

Posted by landl47 on (February 13, 2013, 17:33 GMT)

Sorry, Middle_Stump, but you're talking nonsense with regard to Warne. He may have had lesser figures by his own standards in India, but he feasted on Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the subcontinent when they had excellent batting sides. Even in India he had 5 wickets or more in a match 4 times. To suggest he wasn't great (the only bowler voted as one of the 5 best players of the 20th century) based on the fact that he didn't run through every side every time is ridiculous.

Every cricketer has examples of relative failure; Tendulkar has never made a century at Lord's, Kallis has had a very modest record in England in several tours, the first few years of Imran Khan's test career were very ordinary. They're all still great players- as is Warne.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 17:27 GMT)

Ah this one is truly good. The fact remains, that the moments of inspiration and magic would be few and far in between....else how would you call it magic if it becomes mundane. And magic does not happen all the time. So for an artist, its going to be the best performance while for a businessman as you point out, they want consistent results.....so whats a better profession..:)

Posted by Princepurple1979 on (February 13, 2013, 17:27 GMT)

Lara's 2 inningses in 1999 plus the 277 in Sydney makes sure that he will always be rated ahead of Sachin and rightfully so. It is quite telling that even after playing nearly 200 test matches there is not one singe innings that really holds on to peoples memories like Lara's 153* or Laxman's 281. Plus Sachin had the advantage of playing on the docile Indian & Sri Lankan pitches for far too long, which the other greats like Lara / Ponting missed.

Posted by skilebow on (February 13, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

My favourite batsman has always been Lara for the reason stated here. When he was on form he was unbelievable. I've always felt that if he had had a better team around him, if he had say been born say 10 years earlier or Australian he would have been up there with Bradman

Posted by CoolCharlie on (February 13, 2013, 16:18 GMT)

Yeah i think what makes Tendulkar great is not only his longevity but also that he had consistently made runs and faced bowlers like Akram , Waqar, Ambrose , Waslsh, Mcgrath , warne, Donald, Pollaock, Steyn, Lee, Akhtar, Murli ... not even have kallis has faced them all and scored against them . he has got better as a batsman only in the last 6 years . So there lies a difference between Tendy and Kallis. Kallis has scored runs against less formidable attacks. Yeah he has been scoring runs but there are not many bowlers of that caliber left. He never has to face Steyn and company. Thus Tendulkar is in a league of his on and so is Kallis. Period

Posted by JamesTHEwalldravid on (February 13, 2013, 16:00 GMT)

@ats78 and Gordon Turner, Correction. Tendulkar faced waqar younis in the very beginning of waqar's career and at the very end of waqar's, but he did not "face him" for most of waqar's career especially not during waqar's peak. In ODI's? sure, but not in test cricket. As the author points out waqar was a beast during his peak and I would add Tendulkar was lucky not to come up against him. Ask Lara who never scored a test hundred against wasim or waqar, and only scored his first hundred against Pakistan in 2005! Well after their retirement.

Posted by tickcric on (February 13, 2013, 15:42 GMT)

I believe the concept of greatness is related to the idea of wholeness. Someone having a strong core yet having vast reach in all sides and in all dimensions - geometrically speaking a sphere rather than a pyramid or a cube. Among the players in modern times along this mode of appreciating greatness I would rate Tendulkar above other batting greats. Tendulkar is not just runs, or range & quality of strokes, or longevity, or ambidexterity in ODIs & Tests, or his evolution or role changes as a batsman. He is all of this and much more. And if all these factors could be taken together, he perhaps becomes greatest batsman in modern times. In other words he is closer to wholeness or fullness than say Ponting, Lara or Kallis... Interestingly in cricket and tennis Tendulkar & Federer respectively are often given the title of Master, something, generally, not attributed to their great rivals. I would say this is instinctive acknowledgement of their wholeness.

Posted by vish2020 on (February 13, 2013, 15:35 GMT)

Ed puts it best.. If u are to buy stock or share buy tendulkar because he can do great things at a consistent period. Lara can make greats look average on his days. But at the end, greatest of all time has to come play every time and not just on his day (as they say every dog has his day) so tendulkar wins by a mile. Respect to the master!!

Posted by CricFan24 on (February 13, 2013, 14:36 GMT)

Lara's back to back hundreds vs.Aus in 1999 were undoubtedly great - but they had loads of luck. A point often forgotten in nostalgia.

Posted by bigdhonifan on (February 13, 2013, 14:28 GMT)

So the conclusion is Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest batsman ever..

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (February 13, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

The perfect of consistent brilliance is Ponting and his contemporary graet of this era B Lara being the magnetic but enigmatic genius.... there was no greater sight than Lara at his best taking on the best - read his epic contests .... and the odd conquest vs the dominant Aussies of recent past - may be matched only by sight of express fast bowling spell the like of Lee , Akhtar ...Clearly the greatest of the modern game both Lara and 'Punter' ... Lara just edging the latter for pure genius!!...

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 13:00 GMT)

One of the best article i've read in cricinfo in recent times. It reminded of mohammed ashraful, played some of most amazing innings ever but was extremely inconsistent, in fact he should be the definition of inconsistency.

Posted by BellCurve on (February 13, 2013, 12:50 GMT)

When Ed first started writing I optimistically judged him to be a man who values reason. But time has revealed that Ed has a preference for the heroic, the sublime and the mysterious. Or maybe Ed is just trying to please his editors/readers?

Posted by WrongUnn on (February 13, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

In my view you can't compare Lara and Sachin. Both are greats, I would love to watch them bat, but I always found Lara's unorthodox style more interesting and fascinating to watch.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 13, 2013, 11:56 GMT)

@landl47: IMO, you ask a pertinent question: would anyone name Kenny Barrington as a great of the game? After due consideration, I think I would. Barrington can only be discussed in terms of effectiveness, as what he lacked in elegance (a term never applied to KB) he more than compensated for in his value for England. Figures do tell his story. In his era (1960s), there were three sides which dominated the game: Oz, WIndies & England, although SA became stronger over this period. So his series' averages in Ashes' series (the Eng cricketer's litmus paper test) read: 45.5 / 72.75 / 75.85 / 66.3 / 56.6. V WI: 46.67 / 27.5 /14.75 ( 2 Test only) / 41.1. He was one of those unlovely artisans (I suspect H Sutcliffe & M Leyland were two others) who just ground out their scores, but their value over their careers must remain as lasting testimony to their greatness, as aesthetic delight is only one facet of the game. Jam & cream may be delicious, but they need bread to make them appreciated!

Posted by vumpire-republic on (February 13, 2013, 11:53 GMT)

To a degree, I appreciate this article by Ed, a thoughtful man. However, I am again disappointed by the fact that the majority of English writers (though not all) usually write as if only Test cricket is worthwhile cricket, and as if ODI cricket and the World Cup (the single greatest cricket event by most yardsticks, including all-round pressure) did not even exist. I mean 40 years of ODI cricket, 10 memorable World Cups, 1000s of unforgettable performances and face-offs (between great players, as well as between highly competitive teams) and not 1 reference to any bravura performance with either bat or ball, or as captain or fielder, or even as underdog team (such as India in 1983, Pakistan in 1992 and Sri Lanka in 1996)! Without ODI cricket, and the emotional impact (both ups and downs) upon nations of World Cup journeys, cricket would be a far, far poorer sport. And so I'm very disappointed, Ed (though I'm not suggesting that your piece is without any merit).

Posted by Pappu_bhai on (February 13, 2013, 11:18 GMT)

Why ed has not mentioned about Tiwary?Manoj Tiwary is also one among the greats.Dhonis not giving him chance else he would be greater than Lara any day.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 10:45 GMT)

As a "batsman" alone, Tendulkar's achievements stand out. In a team sport like cricket, it is unfair to label losses or victories on an individual - although there are occasions when ONE person has changed the tide of the game, and how!

Nevertheless, as a batsman, Tendulkar is right up there.

But if you see the "cricketer" as a batsman, bowler and a fielder - in other words, the ideal all rounder - then, look no further than Monsieur Jacques H Kallis' conspicuous presence.

If you say Federer is the paradigm of greatness in tennis today (which I agree), then Kallis is the paradigm of the ideal cricketer. Not just a batsman.

Oh btw, as much as I appreciate and respect the great Rod Laver, it has to be remembered that tennis was only played on grass and clay courts during his time. Roger Federer, on the other hand, has had to contend with hard/carpet courts (and not to mention the varying speeds of each court today), etc.

Tendulkar <=> Bradman Kallis <=> Sobers Federer <=> Laver

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 10:39 GMT)

A great read ... You've added another one to your fan tally, Ed Smith .. :)

Posted by rudsthe2ndcoming on (February 13, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

This is a baseless comment to say Rod Laver is better because he missed five years of tennis being a professional and could have won more titles. He played in an era of tennis where many of the finals he competed in he was playing fellow countryman. No mistake he is great but Roger Federer is better because he is in a more competitive era and has still won with grace, style and power. Great article this is a compelling one question how does A. Cook stack up considering his recent form in India and the leading century maker for England.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 9:35 GMT)

Consistency must be more valuable. Imagine a batsman who scores 50 in every dismissed innings. When the team scores big, he makes a modest contribution - but the team's scored big so that's OK. When the rest of the batting fails, he makes a big contribution.

Posted by Un_Citoyen_Indien on (February 13, 2013, 8:46 GMT)

In the pre Gilchrist era, a wicket keeper averaging over 30 would've been considered very good. Ian Healy who was considered to be a fairly decent 'keeper batsman during his time averaged less than 30. Even established test batsmen like Alec Stewart and Brendon McCullum average less than Dhoni. Only the likes of Flower, Gilchrist and Prior average more than M.S.D.

Dhoni averages more than Boucher, Knott, Marsh and Dujon. This goes to show just how consistent he is lower down the order. In fact, his average is comparable with Shane Watson and Imran Khan (both bowling all-rounders) so there is no questioning Dhoni's abilities as a test match batsman in the lower middle order.

Posted by Ankur_cricinfo on (February 13, 2013, 8:40 GMT)

Woe... that was some analysis..!! Here's what one can further extent on greatness:

Great players are leaders, grinders, match-winners and some-time match-savers, Leading, grinding, winning and saving consistently enough to create a lasting impact in our minds & hearts.

One moment of mastery, of class, of genius-ness or of sheer magic cannot be greatness. Its can be the compilation of a few of those for some cricket-buffs.

Multiple Innings of hard-earned runs, many long spells of tight bowling, consistently staying on crease in high pressure situations, or not dropping a single catch in 50 odd games will be greatness for cricket-lovers with a different view.

A player is a human and thus will have different characteristics... it is what he does, if he does best lead them to greatness.

Posted by Un_Citoyen_Indien on (February 13, 2013, 8:37 GMT)

Sehwag is a good example of an occasional performer (and in my book, there's no such thing as an 'occasional performer' who can also be termed 'consistent').

For me, the ideal test batsman is someone who averages about 120 balls per dismissal (i.e around 20 overs) and has an average scoring rate of at least 40%. So in other words, his batting average would be at least 48 (or in other words, close to 50 which is considered to be exceptional). As an added advantage, batsmen who average a very high number of balls per dismissal often ensure that test are at least drawn if not won

It needs to be noted that Sehwag averages about 60 deliveries per dismissal over his career (a figure that has deteriorated even further over the last couple of years), making him unsuitable for the role of opening the innings. Thanks to Sehwag, India have usually been able to count on being at least 1 wicket down in the first 10 overs over the last 2 years or so (definitely not a happy situation for any team)

Posted by Un_Citoyen_Indien on (February 13, 2013, 8:18 GMT)

Kallis is certainly the most consistent performer of all time and I'd always prefer a Kallis to a Lara (i.e. ruthles efficiency over occasional flashes of brilliance).

Interesting to note Ed Smith's observations about Dhoni: "Dhoni makes many more fifties than hundreds, and his average has been consistently in the high 30s. Among modern players Dhoni has the least volatile Test record of any batsman, with the single exception of the ultra-reliable Mark Richardson".

And that is something that Dhoni bashers should take cognisance of! Not only is Dhoni the greatest ODI finisher in history and one of the best ODI batsmen in the world, he's also a more than handy test match batsman! No other Indian wicket keeper batsman in memory (Mongia, More, Kirmani, Karim, Dasgupta, Ratra, Tamhane, Engineer, Kunderan etc. etc.) has achieved as much batting success as Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His most recent test innings was a gritty 99 against an English attack that included Anderson, Swann and Finn.

Posted by landl47 on (February 13, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

I should just point out that Ed's tennis stats are a bit off with regard to Rod Laver. Laver is the only man to have won all four grand slam titles in the same year TWICE- others have done it once.

In addition, talking about Laver's 11 grand slams is misleading, because in the peak years of his career, 1963-1968, between ages 25 to 30, he wasn't eligible to play in grand slam tournaments because he was a professional. In his last year as an amateur, 1962, he won all four and in his first full year back in 1969 when the open era started he won all four again. Who knows what he might have done had he played in the intervening years? Take out ages 25 to 30 in Federer's wonderful career and he would have won 7 titles, as would Pete Sampras.

No-one should doubt that in any fair comparison Rod Laver stands alone.

Posted by 9ST9 on (February 13, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

while it is truly a treat to watch Lara bat, Tendulkar has done more service for his team. Lara could be compared to a flashy Ferrari while Tendulkar could be compared to a solid reliable BMW.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 8:01 GMT)

There is a huge difference between Lara's achievements and 'climbing peaks'. If you tried to climb hundred peaks but succeeded only at the highest one, would you be considered greater than the person who didn't climb every peak except for the couple of highest ones?

Posted by landl47 on (February 13, 2013, 7:59 GMT)

Isn't the answer that the truly great players have both? They put in good performances consistently and are also able to raise their game when necessary. Consistency is great, but without the ability to elevate performance when needed, it's short of greatness. I'm sure many people would be amazed to learn that the highest test average of any batsman who has played more than 30 tests (surely the minimum for greatness?) since WW2 belongs, not to Kallis, Tendulkar, Lara, Richards, Ponting or even Sobers, but to Ken Barrington of England- 58.67 in 82 tests. Would anyone name Barrington among the greats of the game?

On the other hand, players who are brilliant occasionally don't cut it either. Laxman is not one of the greats of the game, nor is Shoaib Akhtar; and Ian Botham, despite having scored 100 and taken 5 wickets in the same game 5 times (the next most is 2) wouldn't make even my 2nd XI of the best players I have seen. Nor would KP, despite his brilliance when on form.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 13, 2013, 7:55 GMT)

As ever, a stimulating read, Ed. Thanks again. So - that much discussed aspect of human behaviour, greatness, depends on how you slice it &, as you intimate, all cuts are legitimate. For me, greatness in cricket is found in an imprecise mixture of context, style & substance, with context being the most important. As we know, the powerful (in sport, the winners) tend to write history & therefore these historians so often claim more greatness for their own than is their due. Greatness also tends to shine more brightly when there are few other stars visible in the sky. For these reasons, a close consideration of acknowledged greats in weak sides merits everyone's attention: NZ players fulfil this criterion most often for obvious reasons. Martin Crowe (av.45.3), Stephen Fleming (40.0), Bert Sutcliffe (40.1), Glenn Turner (45.6) would all have had higher figures if they'd played for say, Oz. Likewise, How (much more) brillant would Sir R Hadlee have been (431 wks@22 & 3,124 runs @ 27.2)?

Posted by ats78 on (February 13, 2013, 7:21 GMT)

@Gordon.. Excellent point you made about tendulkar and i think most of us should agree.. Did Ricky ever play the likes of Glen McGrath or warne or lee, did kallis face steyn and co. did inzi play waqar and wasim or saqlain shoaib .. Tendulkar has faced them all and still been consistent averaging near 55 at the end of his career, i think thats what people dont see they just judge him with his milestones.. And FYI to create such milestones against such bowlers is also not easy.. Great article..

Posted by Josh1942 on (February 13, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

The answer is Kallis consistent, reliable and deadly effectiveness. All his stats including bowling strike rates and scoring of 4's and 6's are up there with the very best flashy players. He was the fastest to get to 13,000 test runs and scores more boundaries per innings than any other batsmen in the top 5 and far more than the flashier Sobers ever did.

Posted by sensible-indian-fan on (February 13, 2013, 6:53 GMT)

One hell of an article. Sooo true. Best example is Sehwag (the guy who has crazy peaks and crazy lows). How do you judge him? The answer will vary from person to person.

Posted by hst84 on (February 13, 2013, 6:46 GMT)

Great article Sir, Consistency remains a major part of a mediocre player transforming into a great player and a great player into a legend. Great players that have gone by have played their roles for their teams in terms of consistency, whether it was Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Donald Bradman or any other player. Consistency is not only about making runs, the better part of it remains to eradicate the inconsistencies prevailing in one's game.

Posted by PadMarley on (February 13, 2013, 6:45 GMT)

How about Muralitharan? I guess he had better consistency than anyone else in the modern day cricket.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 6:36 GMT)

I think any of the players you have mentioned would feel that even making it into the conversation is good enough. I think you need to look at who they scored their runs against and to me the standout is Tendulkar. He scored big runs against every great bowler of the last 20 years. The only one he didn't have to play against was Kumble. Walsh, Ambrose, Wasim, Wakar, Donald, Pollock, Steyn, Gough, Warne, Gillespie, Flintoff, Anderson, Hadlee. That is a fact that the stats don't tell you!

Posted by Supratik on (February 13, 2013, 6:30 GMT)

I have stopped coming to CI site for quite sometime now, but I like most of your articles Ed whenever I do come in. Especially as you bring in the great Fedex in cricketing musings. Indeed while most Indians still gloat over a myopic/cheapened game that cricket is increasingly becoming (it saddens me no end to say that of a game that I have loved over 37 years), Roger had brought life into Tennis when it was becoming a one-dimensional game. The fact that his domination inspired Nadal to incredible heights, followed by Djoker to take it up even further and now Murray making up the rear of the 'Fab Four' of Tennis (this reminds one of the Fab Four of Team India till not so long ago!!). As you rightly mention Fed went high & broad - and also ethereal! But cricket is a little different and more unpredictable. Indeed, its a privilege to be alive to watch Federer magic as it was with a Gavaskar, Richards, Gower or a Lillee, then SRT, Lara, Warne and Wasim. Where are the game changers today?

Posted by BellCurve on (February 13, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

Every time a first tier Test batsman faces a ball delivered by an average Test bowler there is approximately a 1% chance that he will be dismissed. If you accept this premise as self evident then the vast majority of "slumps" can be dismissed as mere statistical noise.

Posted by Gurram on (February 13, 2013, 6:08 GMT)

Very well written article, and the topic selected is so valuable, that applies to any walk of life. My answer to one and only question in the article happens to be a question again, how lucky is a player or a human being and how often does he get lucky? :D

Posted by Ranta on (February 13, 2013, 6:03 GMT)

A very good read. Very nicely written. I can add one thing to debate here. An Indian domestic cricketer ambati rayudu has scored 7 fifties & 1 century this season. total of 666 runs at avg of 66. Most times these runs were scored on tough conditions & in times when team required them most and batted with the tail to take his team to knock outs as a stand in captain most of the season. And just recently while playing in Irani trophy while playing for Rest of India, former Indian cricketers like Kapil, Shiva, Sidhu, Sanjay said his conversion rate was poor. My question. Is it about scoring runs on flat decks and racing to top of the tree or being effective and helping your team win. In a sport like cricket. Numbers play the role of casting illusion. And may be for this reason its on what basis that you select a player that could never be defined.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 5:59 GMT)

Even Lara says Sachin is greatest of his time and in fact anybody's time.! Stop comparing GOD to human.

Posted by Romanticstud on (February 13, 2013, 5:56 GMT)

Let us take this article into another dimension ... there is only one batsman in the modern era that started their cricket in the 80's ... SRT ... Now if you had to take it to the field of road running ... The Comrades Marathon in South Africa is a Stern Test of one's running ability ... The Great Wally Hayward won the race as a youngster at 20 and then came back to win 4 times in his 40s ... He came back at 79 to complete it in 9h45 min an age group record ... Now that is a true test of endurance ... Bruce Fordyce won the race every year from 1981 to 1988 and then in 1990 ... but since then has run the race as a celebrity rather than competitively ... If you look back at Cricket SRT is the master of endurance ... but for consistency you need to look at Kallis ... Even Ponting, player of the 2000s is not consistent as Kallis ...

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 5:09 GMT)

Brian Lara was an artist. He used to take the bull by the horn and was not one who liked to poke around not risking his wicket.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 5:09 GMT)

Excellent read...Defining greatness

Posted by   on (February 13, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

Middle Stump, a bad series at a particular place is not a measure to bring down a player's greatness. Lara for example had a poor series against Eng in West Indies itself, until that 400*. Its a matter of form ,than the playing conditions.

Lara has an equally bad record in INdia, but he is one of the best players of spin. Warne could turn square in England whereas its known for seam and swing and could nt take wickets in India where it turns square.

Posted by N.Sundararajan on (February 13, 2013, 4:26 GMT)

N. Sundararajan from Chennai---how is that you did not consider Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting in your analysis of consistency? and also of the peaks? A full analysis of Sachin, Rahul. Jack and Ricky would be a delight to the reader! That would indeed be a very interesting and revealing comparison !

Posted by CricEshwar on (February 13, 2013, 4:05 GMT)

Excellent read but too much deviation.

Posted by dinosaurus on (February 13, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

Probably a typo in the record of Rod Laver. Laver is not the only player to have won all four grand slams in a single season (/Donald Budge is a member if that two-person club) but Laver is the only person to have done it twice. What in my view makes Laver's record unassailable is that the two years in which he did it are exactly 10 years apart. And he was not allowed to compete in any of those tournaments over that decade. How many grand slam tournaments would he have won in that interval if he had been allowed to compete? Many players don't even have ten years at the top!

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