Is comparison between Virat Kohli & Sachin Tendulkar justified?
- Comparisons are never good in sport. It fails to do justice to the players involved and puts unnecessary pressure on the current player.
Comparison is the death of joy - Mark Twain
If one were to name cricketers who have given Indians the maximum joy over the past two decades, then Sachin Tendulkar & Virat Kohli would surely figure at the top of this list. But more recently these two names have been the subject of debate about who is the better between the two.
Not the first time that two greats from different eras have been compared
It is neither the first nor the last time that such a comparison has been made or will be made in cricket. In the 1990s during his prime, Sachin Tendulkar himself was compared with the original Little Master Sunil Gavaskar. But this time around, the surprising aspect has been that even few former greats have jumped into the debate.
Some time back, speaking on Kohli; legendary all-rounder Imran Khan had said, “Apart from his talent and technique, he has a very good temperament. His temperament is better than Sachin’s. Kohli performs at the most difficult of opportunities, which Sachin sometimes wasn’t able to.”
The Pakistani legend is not the only one who has an opinion on this subject, even Tendulkar’s long-time opening partner and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly did not stay away from this debate. Talking to a news channel few months back; Ganguly had said, ”I have been playing one-day cricket since 1992 and I know this format very well but, I have never seen anyone play so well as Virat is playing now, not even Sachin Tendulkar. ”
Now when such a comment comes from a player who has played with Tendulkar for so long, it makes everyone sit up and take notice. To be fair to these comparisons; there has indeed been a striking similarity between Tendulkar’s & Kohli’s career so far.
Striking similarity between their records so far
Apart from the fact that Tendulkar was the number one batsman in the team for a greater part of his career and Kohli is currently the best batsman in the team; their records are also quite similar. In 51 test matches played so far, Kohli has scored 3959 runs with 14 centuries at an average of 48.28. In comparison, Tendulkar had scored 3534 runs with 11 centuries at an average of 49.77 in his first 51 test matches.
In ODIs, Kohli has overtaken Tendulkar in the matches played until now. Kohli has scored more than 7500 runs in the 176 matches played, whereas Tendulkar had scored 6000 runs in the same number of matches.
Are these comparisons justified?
This brings us to the question, are these comparisons justified? In my opinion, it is good for the sake of having academic discussions but may not do justice to the players involved. As Gavaskar had once rightly said, “Comparisons are really no good in sport, especially if it is a comparison between different eras and generations, for there are so many variables that come into play, starting from the quality of the opposition to playing conditions.”
Take for instance Tendulkar’s ODI record in the 1990s, statistics will never be able to do justice to the impact that he had on the Indian batting. So, Kohli might have a better record till now than Sachin; but there is no parameter to measure Sachin’s impact.
Another drawback of such comparisons is that it puts unnecessary pressure on the current player. Virat Kohli, in this case, knows that his every performance will be scrutinized and compared with that of Tendulkar’s. An incident in my workplace gave me a remote idea of what could be going inside Kohli’s mind.
Recently there was a reshuffle of few managers in my office. In one of the projects, Vikas a capable man was replacing Ramesh - a person who had been in that role for close to a decade. The first question that Vikas was asked on day one of his new role by one of the clients was “Are you the new Ramesh?” And his response was, “No I am not the new Ramesh. I am Vikas, for I can never be Ramesh. So, let me be Vikas only.”
“Honestly I feel embarrassed” - Kohli on the comparison with Sachin
So I wonder if Kohli would be having similar response every time he is compared with the great Tendulkar. In fact, comparisons with Tendulkar have always irked Kohli. Speaking in an interview to India Today he had said, “Honestly, I feel embarrassed. It is unfair. Sachin cannot be compared with anyone.” He added that he had been only playing for few years whereas Sachin had served the nation for twenty-four years.
Tendulkar on his part has always lauded Kohli’s dedication to the game. He had in fact once said that Kohli could indeed break his own records. But in a recent interview, he put to rest any comparison between the two; Sachin said, “I don't see similarities in the playing style. He (Kohli) has his own style. He likes to flick the bat in hand before every ball. It's part of his preparation. I never did that, each batsman does things differently.“
But in spite of the clarifications by the two great players, the unfortunate part is that this comparison is not going to stop. Probably it is something to do with human psychology. And this comparison is only going to increase with each of Kohli’s great performances.