Captain’s corner: Sachin Tendulkar vs Brian Lara
Ever since the Cold War ended in 1991, probably few things have divided opinions the way debate to choose the better batsman between Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and Brian Charles Lara has over the last two and half decades.
Lara is the holder of the highest individual Test (400*) and first-class (501*) scores. The West Indian great also happens to be the only batsman to have scored a century, a double century, a triple century and a quadruple century in his Test career. Tendulkar, on the other hand, has under his name 100 international hundreds (51 in Tests + 49 in ODIs) and the distinction of scoring most number of Test (15921) and ODI (18426) runs. The Indian maestro also possesses most Test (200) and ODI (463) caps.
While it is very had to choose between the two in terms of batting capability, today we are going to pit them against each other in an area neither of them tasted much success in.
Captaincy, for both Tendulkar and Lara, proved an albatross around their necks. Despite being two of the greatest batsmen of all time, both of them struggled in extracting the best out of their players.
Still, there were moments when they excelled as leaders.
Let us now draw a comparison between the two leaders using four different variables; overall captaincy stats, home records, away records and performance as a batsman-skipper.
Overall captaincy records
Both the greats registered moderate numbers as Test captains. Out of 47 Tests, the West Indies played under Lara’s captaincy, the team won 10, lost 26 and drew 11. Tendulkar did no better either with India winning only 4 while losing 9 and drawing 13 of 25 Tests under his leadership.
The bragging rights, though, have to be given to the West Indian here for his winning percentage of 21.27 is relatively better that of his Indian counterpart (16).
In ODIs, Lara emerges as a runaway winner with a 50-50 captaincy record in comparison to Tendulkar’s winning percentage of 35.07. Lara captained the West Indies in 125 matches and won as many matches as he lost (59). For Sachin, it was a case of losing nearly double the number of matches he won (43 defeats and 23 wins in 73 games).
While Tendulkar never got an opportunity to lead his side in an ICC tournament, Lara was a captain in two World Cups (1999, 2007) and three editions of the ICC Champions Trophy (1998, 2004, 2006). The Caribbean legend’s best moment as a captain came in the 2004 Champions Trophy where the West Indies sneaked home with a thrilling two-wicket win over the hosts England in a tense final to win the tournament.
Tendulkar, though, could take solace in the fact that India won Titan and Sahara cups by defeating South Africa and Pakistan respectively under his leadership.
Home matches (Tests)
Both Sachin and Lara had started their captaincy stint with a one-off Test in the season of 1996-97 on home soil. Coincidentally, both of them won their first match as a captain as well. While the Little Master led India to a comprehensive win over Australia, the Prince from Caribbean Islands guided his team to a victory over Indians.
Lara and Tendulkar had decent success as skipper in home games. Of the five series India played under Tendulkar at home, only once they had to bite the dust. This solitary defeat came against South Africa in 2000 following which the Indian legend gave up captaincy for good.
Lara recorded series wins against England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, besides drawing a series against Australia at home. He, though, faced three home series losses (Australia, England, India) during his captaincy tenure.
Away games (Tests)
India were regarded as poor travellers during the 90s. The West Indies were no different either. It is, therefore, not a matter of surprise to know that both Lara and Tendulkar have dismal captaincy numbers away from home.
Out of 20 away Tests played during Lara’s captaincy, the West Indies won only one (Zimbabwe, 2003-04). Tendulkar fared even worse as India failed to win even a single away game in 13 attempts under his command.
As a captain, Lara was at the receiving end of a whitewash in South Africa (1998-99), New Zealand (1999-2000) and England (2004) where as Tendulkar faced the same ignominy in Australia (1999). The Mumbaikar had, though, more reasons to feel heartbroken as under his captaincy India once came very close to winning a Test series overseas.
In the 1996-97 Caribbean tour, India needed only 120 runs to win the third Test in Barbados. However, Indian batting collapsed like a pack of cards to hand over the hosts a 38-run win. As all the other four matches in the series were drawn, a victory there would have given India a rare series win abroad.
As a skipper-batsman
As a batsman captain, Lara edges out Tendulkar in Tests while the Little Master returns the favour in limited-overs cricket. The southpaw has 4685 runs at 57.84 from 47 appearances as a leader in the longer version of the game. In comparison, the Indian batsman’s tally of 2054 runs at 51.35 from 25 Tests appears a bit less impressive.
In ODIs, though, Tendulkar’s tally of 2453 runs at an average of 38.83 from 73 matches looks a tad better than Lara’s 3725 runs at 35.82 from 125 matches.
An interesting point to note here is that the West Indian’s batting average as captain in Tests (57.84) is more than his overall career average (52.89). Contrary to it, Sachin’s batting average drops during captaincy (51.35 as compared to career average of 53.78). This shows that while the burden of leading the side took a toll on the Master Blaster’s batting; it had no effect on the southpaw’s run-scoring ability.
In the end, it has to be said that Lara the skipper is a shade better than Sachin the leader considering the statistical edge the West Indian legend has over the Indian stalwart in terms of overall captaincy records and superior batting numbers as a Test captain.