Australian cricketers have been displaying a bad habit of late of going back on their words especially if it concerns players from India. This golden tradition started with the greatest leg spinner of our times, Shane Warne, who stated after the 1998 series with India that he was having nightmares of Sachin Tendulkar taking his bowling apart. However, a few years back he said that his words had been taken out of context and he was never really afraid of any cricketer. Matthew Hayden, of the 380 runs in an innings fame, was eloquent in his dismissal of the way Indian batsmen played only for their averages and then proceeded to pummel the Zimbabwean bowling for the world record individual score in tests.
During the ill fated 2007-08 series against India Hayden came back to life and called Harbhajan Singh an “obnoxious weed”. He also said that he wanted to take on Ishant Sharma, then a gangly young fast bowler, in a boxing ring to supposedly test his strength. Later on in 2008 itself, Hayden appeared to have mellowed down at the prospect of appearing at the cash rich Indian Premier League’s first edition and said that he wanted to let bygones be bygones and be friends with Indian players especially with Harbhajan “The Weed” Singh.
A couple of days back former Aussie great Ricky Ponting added his name to the golden club. According to him Brian Lara was a much better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar when it came to winning matches – he also said that Brian Lara gave him more sleepless nights compared to Sachin Tendulkar when he was a skipper. However, statistics tell a different story. As far as tests are concerned, in games where Sachin has played India has a success rate of 35.35% compared to West Indies’ 24.42% in games featuring Lara. In terms of runs 37.01% of Sachin’s runs have come in winning causes whereas for Lara the statistics says it is 24.5%.
If big runs are the marker then too Sachin has an advantage over Lara – 39.01% of his centuries have helped India win whereas in case of Lara it is 23.52%. Lara’s record in Australia is slightly better than Tendulkar’s however. Even if we leave aside the statistics, the very idea of such a childish suggestion coming from a cricketer of Ponting’s class and experience is very funny indeed.
We, here in India, are used to having these discussions over cups of tea to make our social gatherings more entertaining and riveting. The question is how can you determine who was the better batsman of the two – Lara was hampered throughout the majority of his career with the weak batting performances and later on some deplorable bowling resources after the retirement of Ambrose and Walsh. Sachin was able to see more wins due to class of the Fab 4 of Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman and the presence of bowlers like Zaheer, Harbhajan and Kumble.
Cricket, at the end of the day is a team game and it does not matter how an individual performs – it is always about the team. Certain players happen to end up on the right side more than others but even that needs to be attributed to the overall quality of the team that he is part of. It necessarily does not make him a better cricketer than somebody else from his era. And, finally the team stays in public memory, not the cricketer. It is strange that somebody of the stature of Ponting forgot that.
Australia, at this moment, are going through one of the worst phases of their cricketing journey and are losing to one and all. They look set to be plastered 5 to zilch in the ongoing Ashes against the arch rivals, England and the prospects of the repeat encounter down under in 2013-14 don’t look too good either. Going by their present form, a series against Zimbabwe too may pose some serious challenges and that says a lot of the present condition of their game.
In these tumultuous times, it is the duty of seniors like Ponting to come forward and help the young batters, who are evidently a liability, and not comment about the cricketing achievements of two of the greats of the game. We, as fans, can only hope that he keeps such things in mind before deciding to speak on the quality of players from other countries.