Sydney:By any stretch of imagination Sir Donald Bradman was the greatest batsmen ever to walk the earth. Statistics give a decent enough idea while comparing sportsmen of different eras, but Bradman, like his fool-proof and compact technique, has kept his statistical graph so high that no batsman could get anywhere near his staggering figures.
The debate though is not whether Bradman is the greatest of all, but who is the second best. Here comes Sachin Tendulkar in the picture. Is he behind Bradman in all-time greats list?
Even Bradman applauded Tendulkar's greatness when he said the Indian's batting style is somewhat similar to his.
Cricket writer Peter Lalor puts out some interesting facts in his blog while discussing the finer points on Bradman and Tendulkar in The Australian.
Some felt that Sunil Gavaskar implicitly rated Tendulkar higher than Bradman, but a careful reading of the veteran Indian maestro's statement reveal he was talking about technique, Lalor writes.
"For all Bradman's achievements, Tendulkar is the closest thing to batting perfection I've seen, in terms of technique and temperament," Gavaskar said when Tendulkar passed Bradman's record for Test centuries.
"If you have a look at some of the film of Bradman, you see his bat came from third man. Because Bradman was Bradman, he could see the ball incredibly early and score at a phenomenal rate.
"Tendulkar's bat comes down very straight, he is perfectly balanced off either foot, and there is not a shot he cannot play.
"He is probably the most complete batsman the game has seen."
Gavaskar noted when he passed Bradman's record of 29 centuries in 1983 that there could be no comparison. "Bradman's tally is still the record. It will only be surpassed if a batsman gets 30 hundreds in 52 Tests," he said.
Gavaskar got his 30th hundred in his 99th Test, Tendulkar took 93 Tests.
One of the great cricket writers, EW Swanton, explained some of Bradman's domination in an article he wrote in 1998. "For the benefit of the generations who have been born to the game since Bradman's retirement in 1948, here for digestion are a few facts," Swanton wrote.
"His Test average is 99.94. Only three other batsmen in history have achieved as much as 60. He is the only man who has scored over 300 Test runs in a day. His 974 in 1930 is far and away the most scored in a Test series.
"The most detailed analysis of his batting, from his arrival aged 19 to his retirement at 40, is to be found in BJ Wakley's Bradman the Great, published in 1959. There one may learn not only that he made hundreds (117 of them) in more than a third of his innings, but that of his 338 innings 16 were ducks while 37 were upwards of 200. He was run out only four times, only once after he reached the age of 21. He scored almost half as fast again as his partners. He made all his runs at 42 per hour, and his average stay at the wicket was 2hr 14min."
Detractors will argue that Bradman played against a limited number of cricketers and limited his appearance to 10 grounds in Australia and England. Tendulkar has carted his kit to almost 50 different arenas in almost 15 countries. Travel fatigue, however, cannot explain the 44 run gulf between Bradman's and Tendulkar's average.
Tendulkar and Gavaskar were a starting point in this discussion because nowhere is Bradman more revered than in India, even today when Indian cricket seems cynical about all things Australian, the Don remains untouchable -- in the nicest possible way. Cults have waited 2000 years for Jesus to return, one mathematician has pointed out that cricket fans will be waiting 6000 for the return of another Bradman.
The question was put to readers of The Weekend Australian in a poll whose results are not so surprising. Bradman came out a clear leader from a field of seven with 29 per cent of the vote, second was Muhammad Ali (23), then Tiger Woods (15) Pele (13), Rod Laver (10), Emil Zatopek (6) and Michael Jordan (4).
As was noted in The Weekend Australian by Jenny McAsey last week, biochemist Charles Davis crunched numbers across sports and concluded that "no other athlete dominates an international sport to the extent that Bradman does cricket".
According to Davis, Bradman is not your run-of-the-mill, once-in-a-generation genius. The author concluded we will have to wait around 6000 years for somebody so good again. Healthy cricket fans would be advised to be on the look out for a young genius making his debut sometime around 8028.