Three Champions have been in news during the last fortnight, but for entirely different reasons.
While West Indies captain Brian Lara has come back to form with scintillating knocks against Pakistan at Lahore and Multan, Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting has been dominating the Ashes with a match-saving century and a match-winning one. Sachin Tendulkar, on the other hand, has once again disappointed, with a poor performance in the ODIs in South Africa. His form and modes of dismissal do not inspire much confidence ahead of the Tests.
In last two years, almost every story about Tendulkar has been dominated by injury and age. Indeed, Tendulkar hardly looks the batsman he once was. The 33-year-old has averaged only about 20 runs in eight Test innings this year, totalling a measly 146 runs. Lara's average has been twice that, while Ponting has been spectacular with performances that would have challenged even the great Donald Bradman.
With four to five innings needed for scoring every half-century in the last two years, Tendulkar has not been the key batsman for India, leave aside being the best batsman in the world. Ponting is undoubtedly turning out to be the real match-winner, with Lara coming a distant second.
Ponting also leads in terms of number of matches won with his 33 centuries, while Lara and Tendulkar fail miserably in this context. To be fair to them, though, the potency of the bowling attack is a significant factor here.
With Australia winning the Adelaide Test in spectacular fashion, Ponting’s centuries have won his team over 70 per cent of their Tests. The
corresponding figure for Tendulkar is around 35 per cent, with Lara faring worse.
2006: The whole statistical story
The only series win this year for India has come in Tendulkar’s absence. When India won a Test series in the West Indies after a gap of 35 years, he was not part of the squad. It would be cruel, but perhaps true, to say that his absence actually helped the team, as the mere mortals helped themselves without a 'God' to lean on to.
2005: The year that was
If we take just the last two years, Tendulkar has miserably failed in Tests, with just one century to show for — ironically, the one that that broke Gavaskar's record!
In all, the former Indian skipper has just four 50-plus knocks to show against his name, as against 22 by Ponting and 10 by Brian Lara.
In terms of innings per century, Ponting is much ahead of Tendulkar. And if he continues with his golden run in the rest of the Ashes series, he can finish with 40 Test centuries in the next two years — a record that will be hard to beat.
SLOW-MO: Innings played per century
The recent performances of all three players make it clear that while Tendulkar’s batting is in a downward spiral, Ponting is the new uncrowned king, with Lara trying hard to keep pace.
Tendulkar’s Dismissals in 2006
Tendulkar's highest score this year was 34 against England in March, before he again got injured. In fact, injuries have been Tendulkar’s bane. And he has been getting the starts but has failed to convert them into big scores.
Of his eight innings this year, Tendulkar has crossed the 20-run mark four times, only to get out soon thereafter. This is very unlike the Tendulkar of old, who would make the opposition pay dearly for letting him settle down.
In contrast, Ricky Ponting reached 20 in 13 out of the 14 innings he has played so far this year, and asserted his dominance by converting three of those into fifties and seven into hundreds.
Tendulkar’s poor performance is only a continuation of his bad form from 2005. Last year saw Tendulkar trudging behind Lara and Ponting, though not by much in terms of averages.
Ponting was again the most dominant, but finished only marginally ahead of second placed Lara, with just one century separating the two. Tendulkar, in contrast, had just one century and three fifties to show from his ten innings.