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I had planned to issue this article after the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. However, he is still going strong and showing no sign of tiring after 23 years of international cricket. The first point is to conclude whether such a comparison is justifiable because all three played cricket in different eras and had to face different conditions. Due to this reason alone, it is brave to make a comparison of who the greatest batsman of all time was. First, let us take a brief look at their careers.
Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards was probably the most destructive batsman of all time. He played his pulverizing shots against the best bowlers of his time and smashed them into submission. Viv Richards made his test debut in 1974, and was immediately recognized as a brilliant fielder. Along with being a deceptive off break bowler, the man was easily the most devastating batsman of all time. His batting gained an aura because of his arrogant and aggressive presence on the field and his swagger while he was walking while batting. This clearly told the opponents that the King was here and they had better watch out. The term “master blaster” was coined to describe Viv Richards. He played 121 test matches and scored 8540 runs, an average of 50.23 with 24 centuries. He still holds the record for the fastest test century ever, which he scored in 56 balls against UK during their 1986 tour of West Indies. He was also a member of the famous West Indies team of the 1970s, which won the first two one-day International World Cups. His batting style and versatility as a fielder and a part time bowler made him an ideal one-day player. He scored his runs in one-day internationals with an average of 47 and a strike rate of 96. He also picked up more than 100 wickets in one-dayers. In 2002, Wisden adjudged him as the greatest ODI batsman of all time. He was also the most successful West Indian captain of all time and never lost a test series as captain.
In 1976, West Indies was to visit England for a much awaited test series. The England captain at that time in a bravado stated in the media that he would make the West Indies team grovel with misery. Grovel is a term associated with slavery and the statement did not go down well with the public, media and least of all, the West Indies cricket team. What followed that statement made history as the West Indies annihilated the English team with their four prong pace attack led by Michael Holding and Viv was at his devastating best. He scored more than 1000 runs in the series with a magnificent 291 at Oval to finish things off. West Indies won the series 3-0 and Tony Grieg said later that it was he who felt like groveling off the field. In my opinion, Viv was the best batsman ever against genuine fast bowling and he displayed almost contempt against the best of them, such as Imran Khan and Dennis Lille while hooking and pulling their short pitch stuff with tremendous power. Remember these were the times when helmets were yet to come and eventually when they did arrive, Richards refused to wear them saying he did not need them. Viv Richards retired in 1991 from both forms of international cricket. If you ask any cricketer from his generation who was the greatest batsman of all time, he will invariably say it was Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.
Don Bradman is rated by most as the greatest batsman of all time. He holds a record that can be considered as the greatest sporting achievement in any sport. No prizes for guessing it right; his test match batting average was 99.96. How he practiced with a golf ball and a single cricket stump are stories that are part of Aussie folklore. During the years of the great depression, he lit up the cricket fields with several records that stand even today. Getting him out was equivalent to getting three batsmen out. Much like Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar, he drew crowds in huge numbers. However, the man was a complex person and did not mix with team members easily. Nevertheless, his opinions were highly sought, even after his retirement. Bradman scored 29 hundreds in 52 matches. That is a hundred every other match, actually, which is unbelievable. For another unbelievable record he hit 12 double hundreds out of the 29. He even hit three double hundreds in a single test series against the archenemy England in 1930. He made centuries in six test matches on the trot. He is also the fastest ever to reach 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 runs in test cricket. He fell short of 7000 runs by four runs. This was, incidentally, due to that failure in his last test appearance, when he fell for a duck and came back to the pavilion half laughing due to the irony.
The only test series where he performed below par was the much maligned bodyline series. In a 1931 visit to Australia, the English captain Douglas Jardine designed a technique called bodyline, primarily for stopping the run machine called Don Bradman. Working on an observation made during a Bradman inning in England, he decided to attack Bradman with short pitch bowling. He, along with selectors, picked three fast bowlers for the tour down under led by Harold Larwood and Bill Voce. This tactic worked well against the Aussies and Bradman. Although Bradman did hit a single hundred to set up an Australian win, they won just that single test match in the series. Aussies were routed in the series. Bradman’s batting style changed forever. There was a huge uproar about tactic and a lot has been written about it. However, when I try to imagine Viv Richards in the Don’s shoes I feel the tactic would have failed. Viv would have probably hit half the short pitched stuff in the stands. This is conjecture of course, but food for thought nevertheless. This weakness against short pitched bowling is the only flaw one can find in Bradman’s repertoire.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in my opinion is the greatest overall batsman of all time. I will rate Bradman ahead of Sachin in tests and Viv Richards a combined number one in one-dayers with Sachin. There is a lot written about the little maestro from India and I can only add one point not discussed very much about Sachin. That is his balance at the crease. He seems to be putting little effort in his footwork, yet he gets into position so quickly that he is deadly effective and combined with the massive talent, there is no batsman more complete in his abilities at the crease and there never has been. Sachin has been around for 23 years of international cricket and bowlers are still looking for a weakness they can exploit. His record of 100 international centuries is unlikely to be ever broken, much like the 99.96 batting average of Sir Don Bradman. He has broken practically all batting records and is still playing at the top level. The hunger for runs has not diminished after 23 years of tough international cricket. I think the readers of this article should go to Wiki or other such standard pages to see the list of Sachin’s records. He has acquired so many that I cannot list them here. However, it is significant to note that he has scored the highest number of test runs/centuries, and the highest number of one-day hundreds/centuries. Would Bradman have been able to make the mental and technical adjustments required to keep playing this much cricket and against so many quality opposition teams? Well, we will never know for sure, but I reckon not. Therefore, at the risk of facing a lot of dissension, I rate Sachin as number one and Sir Don as an extremely close number two.
A number of other batsmen have come extremely close to these three in their claims as the greatest batsman. These include Walter Hammond, Garfield Sobers, Len Hutton, Brian Lara etc. However, these three players have been the most effective ones for their teams, and remain the greatest batsmen of all time.
write by bennett