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Stats Analysis

The Kohli v Tendulkar comparison

While the raw stats indicate Kohli is ahead on all the key parameters, a comparison based on the norm for each era reveals something slightly different

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli share a light moment, Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2018, Mumbai, April 17, 2018

Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli share a light moment  •  BCCI

Given that they are arguably the two most iconic modern-day ODI batsmen, it was quite fitting that Kohli emulated Tendulkar in reaching the 10,000-run mark in style: Tendulkar had reached his landmark by scoring 139 against Australia in Indore in 2001; Kohli went past the landmark with an unbeaten 157 against West Indies in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. They are the only batsmen to reach this landmark with centuries. With Kohli smashing Tendulkar's record of fastest to 10,000 ODI runs in terms of innings, it is a good time to compare Kohli's current stats with Tendulkar's, at the time the latter reached the landmark.
The overall numbers
When looking at the stats in isolation, there's little doubt that Kohli bosses the numbers. In terms of innings to reach the 10,000-run mark, he is 21% better than Tendulkar; in terms of average and innings per century, he is 40% better; his strike rate advantage is relatively lower at 7%.
Based on these numbers, there is no doubt who wins the contest, but some of those comparisons are a bit unfair to Tendulkar. It's clear that ODIs are far more high-scoring now than they were when Tendulkar scored his first 10,000 runs; any comparison of numbers, especially strike rates, needs to take that into account.
In the 266 matches that Tendulkar played to reach the 10,000-run landmark, the average strike rate by other batsmen was 71.51; in Kohli's era it is 85.99. The average for other batsmen during Tendulkar's first 266 matches was 27.90; for Kohli it is 31.73. Taking that into account, it is clear that Tendulkar exceeds the average strike rate of his era by a much higher margin than Kohli, though Kohli remains better in terms of the ratio of averages. Tendulkar also won more Man-of-the-Match awards, but that is, to some extent, also a factor of the quality of his team-mates during that period.
Kohli v Tendulkar
Attribute Virat Kohli Tendulkar (till 10k) Tendulkar (Mar '94-2001)**
 Inns  205  259  193
 Ave  59.62  42.63  46.37
 Ave factor^  1.88  1.53  1.61
 SR  92.51  86.52  89.61
 SR factor*  1.08  1.21  1.22
 Inns/100  5.54  9.25  6.89
^ Ratio of batsman's ave to ave of all other batsmen in those matches
* Ratio of batsman's SR to SR of all other batsmen in those matches
** Since Tendulkar first opened, till he reached 10k
Then, there is also the first 66 innings of Tendulkar's career, when he played in the middle order and wasn't the force he became when he started opening the batting. Exclude those matches, and his average in 193 innings after he started opening the batting (till March 31, 2001) goes up to 46.37, and his strike rate to 89.60. Factoring in the average and strike rate of other batsmen in those matches, his average factor goes up to 1.61, and the strike rate is clearly ahead of Kohli's. Also, Tendulkar's innings-per-century improves considerably.
The century machines
Kohli has racked up hundreds for fun in his ODI career so far, but the numbers below indicate Tendulkar was well ahead of his peers on this factor too. During the period after he started opening the batting, Tendulkar scored a hundred every 6.86 innings when batting in the top four, compared to other top-four batsmen who scored one every 24.7 innings. That means Tendulkar was around 3.6 times better than the others batting in the top four during that period. For Kohli, that ratio is about 3.11, which shows clearly that scoring hundreds has become a lot easier now than in the first half of Tendulkar's era. These ratios indicate just how remarkable both batsmen have been in their rates of scoring hundreds, but Tendulkar was at an even higher level compared to his peers, than Kohli has been in the current era.
Innings per 100 when batting in the top 4
* All other batsmen in the top 4 in all ODIs during Kohli's career/ between March 1994-2001
The chase masters
Kohli's numbers in run-chases are outstanding, but in that 1994-2001 period Tendulkar's stats in chases were pretty good too: he averaged 50.28, at a strike rate of 94.65, to Kohli's average of 68.54 at a scoring rate of 94.51. Applying the same yardstick in case of the overall numbers, Tendulkar's strike rate ratio is better, but Kohli's greatest strength has been his ability to make big scores in run-chases and stay unbeaten. Kohli has remained not-out 28 times in 116 innings when batting second, giving him a much higher average, and hence a higher average ratio.
Kohli v Tendulkar, in chases
Attribute Virat Kohli Tendulkar (Mar '94-2001)
 Inns  116  97
 Ave  68.54  50.29
 Ave factor^  2.2  1.75
 SR  94.51  94.66
 SR factor*  1.11  1.29
^ Average of all other batsmen in those matches
* SR of all other batsmen in those matches
The presence of other big-hitters in the line-up has allowed Kohli to often bat in a more measured manner, but Kohli's special skill is his ability to play long innings at more-than-acceptable scoring rates, while cutting out the risks and increasing the success percentage. Several such innings have led to him smashing the record to the fastest 10,000 in ODI history by a long way, and going by the way he reached that landmark, it looks unlikely his hunger for runs will diminish anytime soon.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats