Three champion players have been in news during the last fortnight, but for entirely different reasons.
While Lara is coming back to form with some scintillating knocks against Pakistan at Lahore and Multan, and Ponting has been dominating a grudge-series with a match-saving and a match-winning century, Tendulkar has once against disappointed with a no-show in the ODIs. His form, and modes of dismissal, do not inspire much confidence ahead of the Test series.
All Tendulkar-related news in the last two years has been dominated by two things - injury and age.
Indeed, Tendulkar has hardly looked the batsman he once was. The 33-year-old has averaged only about 20 runs in eight Test innings this year, while totalling a measly 146 runs.
Rival Lara's average is double, and Ponting has been spectacular with a show that would have challenged the Don of Australia.
The three greats in 2006
Worse, the only series win this year for India has come when Tendulkar did not play any role. As India successfully beat the West Indies after a gap of 35 years, the master blaster was missing from action. It will be cruel to say that his absence helped in the sense that others helped themselves as they had no God to lean on to.
Tendulkar's dismissals in 2006
|Dismissed for||No of times|
|1 - 10||Twice|
|11 - 20||Twice|
|21 - 30||Thrice|
|31 - 40||Once|
Tendulkar's highest score this year has been 34 against England in March before he once again fell to injuries. And that has been the problem. Tendulkar has been getting the starts, but is failing to convert them into big scores.
Of his eight innings, Tendulkar crossed 20s four times, only to fall thereafter. That was not happening in the years before. He would make the opposition pay for letting him settle. And dearly.
In contrast, Ricky Ponting reached at least 20 in 13 out of 14 innings he has played this year and showed his complete dominance by converting three of these knocks into fifties and seven into hundreds.
And this year has not been an exception. Last year also saw Tendulkar trudging behind Lara and Ponting, though not by much in terms of averages.
Ponting was dominant against Lara, but only marginally, with just one century separating the two. Tendulkar, in contrast, had just one century and three fifties to show from his ten innings.
The three greats in 2005
So, if we take just the last two years, Tendulkar has failed miserably with just one century to show against his name. It was the one that broke Gavaskar's record!
In all, the former Indian skipper has just four 50+ knocks to show against his name as against 22 by Ricky Ponting and 10 by Brian Lara.
50+ knocks in the last two years
|Batsman||Innings||50+ knocks||Inns for each 50+knock|
With about four to five innings needed for scoring a 50 in the last two years, Tendulkar is certainly not the key batsman in the side, leave aside being the best batsman in the world.
Ponting is undoubtedly turning out to be the real match-winner with Lara at a distant second.
Ponting also scores handsomely in terms of matches won from his 33 centuries, while Lara and Tendulkar fail miserably in this context. But, to be fair to them, that has also to do with the potency of the bowling attack.
If the Adelaide Test turns out to be a draw, which it will, Ponting centuries will have won his team over 70 per cent of the matches. The corresponding figure for Tendulkar will be around 35 per cent, with Lara faring even worse.
Centuries that won matches
|SR Tendulkar||BC Lara||RT Ponting|
|In matches won||12||8||25|
|In matches lost||8||14||3|
|In matches drawn||15||12||5|
In terms of innings per hundred, Ponting is currently placed much better than Tendulkar, and if his sublime form continues, the Australian skipper should touch 40 Test centuries in next year or two, a record which will be hard to beat.
The trio in terms of innings per century
|Batsman||Inns||100s||Inns per 100|
The recent performances of these three players makes it clear that while Tendulkar is on his way down, barring a miraculous return, which is possible considering his prodigious talent, Ponting is the new king with Lara trying hard to keep pace with him.