Sachin vs Bradman: A collision of different cricketing eras

Sachin Tendulkar Donald Bradman
Sachin Tendulkar with Donald Bradman’s statue in the background at the SCG

Cricket is said to be a game dominated by the batsmen. Although the argument is debatable, it seems more than partially true to the naked eye. Our human mind is programmed to relate and picturise events, ideas, objects and persons. So whenever the word 'batsman' pops up, we either relate to Sachin Tendulkar or Sir Donald Bradman.

Now the question arises - Why only these two and not some other greats? The answer lies not in their records but in the stature and respect they hold in the eyes of their followers and opponents. The duo played the game not just for a living but for survival as their life without cricket would have been meaningless. While Bradman was an image of revival for Australia after the ‘Great Depression’ of 1930, Sachin was an inspirational figure to a country rising from economic backwardness.

Bradman scored runs on uncovered, uneven pitches at a staggering average of 99.94 per innings. This stat in itself is a conversation stopper. But his average is not to be taken as just a mere stat. It represents the mental toughness that this man had. Even when England devastated Australia in the body-line series of 1932-33, it was Bradman who stood apart with an average of 56 with pretty much deprived of half of the protective gears that are available to the modern batsman.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was certainly no less. Finding those batting records which doesn't belong to this man is like finding a needle in a haystack. His longevity, consistency, balance in posture and a deep understanding of the game is what every layman to cricket has even taken notice of. He served his country for 24 years, played in almost every corner of the world where the game of cricket lives and scored heavily against every opponent. A real Run-Machine!

Now it is obvious when two players are so highly revered, there will be a comparison – a comparison as to who is the greatest. It is something where even the experts of the game have failed to come to a conclusion. So instead of comparing the two batsmen, let’s try to analyse what would have happened if they have played in the same era.

Part 1 – Sachin Tendulkar playing in Bradman’s era

In this part, Sachin is surely up for a stronger battle than ever before. It was the phase where the Australian team were being hailed as the ‘Invincibles’ and the man captaining the side was Donald Bradman.

Bradman was at his very best for almost all his career. His average of 99.94 speaks volumes about his consistency. He played 52 international matches in 20 years – around 2.6 matches per year – with 37 of them against the same opponent – England. Now if Sachin played alongside Bradman in the same era, the first change would have been his records.

India was not an established team then and were the newcomers to the international stage. They played fewer matches then as compared to the later era so there would have been fewer opportunities would have been there for Sachin to amass huge runs. Even international cricket was discontinued during Second World War which stretched from 1939-1945. Hence, Sachin would have had far lesser opportunities then.

The gears used in batting not only serves as a protective agent but also has a deep psychological impact. It makes the batsman fearless and confident enabling them to handle whatever may come. Sachin has been pretty conscious about his protective gears right from the start of his career. Not as many gears were available to batsman then as it is now. That would have certainly affected his batting.

Today, the pitches are even and, frankly, safe to bat on.The pitches then were dry in most parts of the world leaving England, Australia and New Zealand. Sticky dog, as they used to call those pitches in Australia, were very uneven with no assumptions as to what to expect. Some balls used to shoot up from full length while some kept incredibly low even from a good length. So batting for longer duration on those pitches with gears was multiple times difficult compared to now. Sachin would really have had a harder time on the pitch then.

Bradman played under these tough conditions and scored runs at will. He was unmatched in his batting skills. His captaincy was also an area where no one can raise a finger.

The mega star that Sachin is today would somewhat have taken a major hit if he was in the era of Bradman. But still, he wouldn't have been unknown in the light of the biggies.

Part 2: Bradman playing in the Master's era

This era as we all know belongs to Sachin Tendulkar, the ‘Master Blaster’. He stood the test of time, developed his skills, changed his approach and thus became a yardstick of batsmanship. He didn’t just rewrite the history books, he made them his own.

Sachin played 664 international matches in 24 years. It means around 27.67 matches per year and still maintained an average of approximately 45 and 59 in ODIs and Tests respectively. So although the average is less than Bradman, the matches are way higher. His consistency, keeping in mind his longevity in the game, the varying opponents and conditions, is probably the best at the international stage.

Certainly Bradman would have found maintaining that average way more difficult in the era of Sachin. This difficulty is even more when the different formats of Cricket that Sachin played is also taken in consideration.

Talking about playing in varying conditions, Sachin outplayed Sir Donald Bradman even in that department. Sachin played in 105 grounds in 16 countries whereas Bradman played on a little more than 10 grounds in less than 5 countries. So even if the pitches were even, the other factors guiding the play were more challenging than ever before.

The team that played along with Bradman was one of the best in Australia's cricket history. Sachin, on the other hand, was a lone warrior until the trio of Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman started playing their parts. His ‘sandstorm’ innings at Sharjah is a proof of that. Bradman did single handedly win matches for Australia, but the support he got from his teammates was greater than what Sachin got. The Master still continued on his merry way, unperturbed.

Let's consider a psychological fact now. Sachin carried the hopes of more than a billion with his utmost dedication, grace and for a humongous period of 24 years. This is a psychological factor that destroys players. Coping under that pressure would have presented unimaginable obstructions in Bradman's performance and a setback on his stats is expected.

The role of media has progressed geometrically in the last 3 decades. This also creates mental exhaustion which takes its toll on player's performance. Sachin's performance standards still never showed a sign of compromise even though he was a hot topic for media for all his cricketing career. To maintain the high standards that Bradman did earlier would have taken a lot of courage and strength in this age.

Considering the factors in the Sachin's era, Bradman records would have certainly seen a downside in the numbers. It will not be wise to think that Bradman would have same stats in this era. But even though, he would still have been among the greats of the generation.

It’s not that Sachin's era or Bradman's era was deprived of other greats, it just that they outshone all others. Having looked at different factors above, it is evident that both players couldn't have created the same impact if they played in the same era. They are best placed where they are. An outlook of comparison is not needed regarding these two greats. An instinct for learning, a desire to adopt and a sense of admiration for Sachin Tendulkar and Sir Donald Bradman will be a fitting way to remember them.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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