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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

The Sachin Tendulkar-Virat Kohli debate: Numbers paint a revealing picture

We start the comparisons, one of the inherent traits which make us humans. Was Tendulkar that good, or is Kohli better? Kohli’s process is eerily similar, and yet distinctly different from Tendulkar’s.

cricket Updated: Oct 31, 2018 12:49 IST
Manish K Pathak
Manish K Pathak
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
File image of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli.
File image of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli.(AFP/Getty Images)

Mundane is boring, it is so out of sync with the ever-evolving perceptions, it is distended, it is not what we want on a cricketing field.

Unless Sachin Tendulkar walked out to bat, that fidget at the crease, the nodding of the head, the guard on leg-stump, the shuffling of the abdominal guard and then that straight bat thumping the ball back down the ground. Bowlers on their haunches, gaping at the wide blade of the bat and labouredly turning back to watch the ball belt the advertisement hoardings!

Who said mundane is boring? It is the coming together of valour, practice, and smatterings of genius, who said mundane is boring, it was watching Tendulkar creaming oppositions; it is Virat Kohli slicing through egos and bowling attacks.

Kohli’s process is eerily similar, and yet distinctly different from Tendulkar’s. Kohli marches out to bat, thumps his bat while taking guard and then surveys the field before caressing the drive through covers.

So, two mundane processes, two giants of the game, two careers and one comparison. It was fitting that Kohli got to the 10,000-run mark with a brilliant 157 against West Indies in Visakhapatnam. Tendulkar achieved this feat by scoring 139 against Australia in Indore in 2001.

We start the comparisons, one of the inherent traits which make us humans. Was Tendulkar that good, or is Kohli better?

As far as bare statistics are concerned, Kohli smashed Tendulkar’s record; he is 21 per cent better than Tendulkar. In terms of average and innings per century, he is some distance ahead of Tendulkar – 40 per cent better.

These are mind-numbing numbers, and we can gape in bewilderment, but then there is only so much numbers can reveal. And thus, we take a deeper plunge.

Two geniuses, let’s dissect them. Oh, the thrill!


Cricket in this modern age has galloped along, rules have been tweaked, boundaries have been pulled in and bowlers have been handed two new white balls and have been asked to pray, rather than bowl. The average strike rate of batsmen around the world is 86. Kohli’s strike rate is 92.5.

When Tendulkar enamoured the world, the others around him merely scored runs. The average strike-rate at the time was 71.51; Sachin was humming along at 86.52. Once again, numbers trying to rip apart common notion.

Tendulkar was while Kohli is the lynchpin of the batting order. They are the fulcrum around which oppositions have planned their mode of attack. Hence, their contribution falls under the scanner. So, when Tendulkar crossed the 10,000-run mark, he had won 38 man of the match awards; Kohli has won 30 so far.

Just the other day, when India’s batting melted in Pune, Kohli was sauntering along until he decided to go back and swat a shortish ball only to miss it and be castled. A unified sigh of surrender echoed through the room I was sitting in – and in many ways, this mirrored the sense of resignation whenever Tendulkar was dismissed back in the day.

We thus compare the rate at which both have scored their centuries as compared to rest of the batting order.

After meandering in the middle order for 66 innings, Sachin was bolted to the top of the order and after this he started peeling off centuries every 6.86 innings. The rest of the batting order could only score tons after 24.7 innings. The ratio stands at around 3.6.

Compare this to Virat Kohli. India’s dominance in the recent past has a lot to do with the consistency of the top order and thus, the ratio of Kohli’s hundreds to the rest of the top order stands at around 3.11.

Tendulkar, Kohli, two geniuses who scorn at treading the beaten path, two geniuses who seek unchartered territory to start a march. Numbers may have a story to say, but numbers cease to exist when imaginations are captured, and the two blokes have captured imaginations and continue to do so.

First Published: Oct 31, 2018 12:49 IST

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