Who is the world's best batsman ? This question has been a favourite of cricket analysts, commentators, critics and aficionados alike. The debates until now have been inconclusive but with Ricky Ponting's 33rd Test century, it has become sufficiently conspicuous that he is, by far, the best batsman in contemporary times.
Opinions may vary, for people have different parameters to draw conclusions. Some champion Brian Lara to the coveted title and some others have their loyalty with Tendulkar. While these two batsmen have a class of their own, from performance perspective, Ponting wins the race hands down.
Brian Lara, the top scorer in Test cricket has played 131 Tests scoring 11953 runs at an average of 61.02 with 32 centuries. Tendulkar on the other hand has scored 10469 runs in 132 matches at an average of 64.14, leading the top century makers' list with 35 centuries. Ponting has scored 9239 runs in 107 matches at an average of 67.12 with 33 centuries.
From the numbers perspective, Ponting is way behind. But when we analyse the qualitative aspect of the above quantum, it becomes manifest that Ponting is on his way to romance the cricketing history.
In the 107 matches that Ponting has played, Australia has won on 75 occasions, a success rate of 70.09 per cent. Twenty-six of his 33 centuries have won matches for his team with a success rate of 78.78 per cent.
In case of Tendulkar, India has won only 41 matches in his 132 appearances, a success rate of 31.06 per cent. Only 12 out of his 35 centuries have won matches for India. The success rate is 34.29 per cent.
Lara on the other hand fares no better. West Indies have won in only 32 matches out of 131 played by him — the success rate is 24.43 per cent. Worse still is the success rate of his centuries. Only eight out of his 32 centuries have won matches for the Caribbeans with a success rate of an abysmal 25 per cent.
The above statistics are irrefutable testimony to Ponting's dominance. He may not match either Lara or Tendulkar as far as elegance and class is concerned but when judged by temperament, he has more of it than both Lara and Tendulkar put together. More than anything else, modern day cricket is all about results and Ponting has produced results with unfailing consistency.
Another aspect of Ponting's supremacy is the speed at which he has scored his runs. When he debuted in Tests in December 1995, Lara and Tendulkar were already considered veterans of the game. The ground which he has covered is simply spectacular. Moreover, he is the youngest among the three. It can well be concluded that he will outscore his peers in due time.
Comparisons with Don Bradman are inevitable. But for most of us he is the best of all times, as we haven't seen Bradman play.
Lara and Tendulkar will have to pull up their socks to remain in the race, thinking beyond personal milestones. For the moment, Ricky Ponting is primus inter pares.
Email Kamal K Agrawal: k firstname.lastname@example.org