Sir Don Bradman vs Sachin Tendulkar

Who is the Biggest Cricket Legend of All Time?

By Adrian Meredith
It has always been a hot discussion that who is the biggest cricket legend of all time, Sir Don Bradman or Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Our Australian cricket writer Adrian Meredith has a valid take on this discussion. If you have something to add to the discussion, you may either use the comments section of you can send in your response to this article for publication.

Melbourne, Australia (TheSportsNEXT) October 27, 2012: Outside of India, and especially inside Australia, people would laugh at the very notion that anyone, let alone Sachin Tendulkar, could possibly compete with the great Sir Donald Bradman.

Surely the only player ever to compete was the all-rounder Sir Garfield Sobers, or perhaps the wicketkeeper and batsman Adam Gilchrist, or perhaps even a bowler like Muttiah Muralitharan. Surely no batsman could ever come close. Surely the closest a batsman has ever come was George Headley from the West Indies. Surely Sachin Tendulkar is nowhere near that.
But within India, a lot of cricket fans seriously believe that Sachin Tendulkar is superior. They will cry until they are blue in the face of various reasons and rationale that is why Sachin Tendulkar is superior. So I thought to answer some.

Sachin Tendulkar had to play tests, ODIs, and recently even T20s, while also playing first-class cricket, while Bradman only had tests and first-class cricket in his era

In Don Bradman’s days, players didn’t play as much international cricket simply because they weren’t paid to play. They had to hold down a full-time job and play cricket for Australia as part of their holiday. If that doesn’t make you tired, I don’t know what does! Can you imagine having to work full time just to scrape together enough money to afford to play for your country?
While Sachin Tendulkar might play cricket 100+ days per year, Don Bradman would be working pretty close to every single day of the year, either in his full-time job or as a cricketer. There is no question in my mind who had it tougher.
To make matters worse, in Bradman’s time it wasn’t a level playing field because in England, and only England, they already had professional cricket – giving English players a significant advantage, as they didn’t have to hold down a full-time job. While the wages weren’t close to what they are today, they were paid to play county cricket. Bradman was up against a team of professionals, while he and his team had to hold down a full-time job. There is no comparison really. Modern-day cricketers have it easy in comparison.
Sachin Tendulkar has to play against a wide variety of different teams, with as many as 10 test teams, plus various others in ODIs and T20s, while Bradman really only had to play against EnglandBradman only played against four other countries – England, South Africa, India and West Indies – as he never played against New Zealand because the one time he was supposed to he was in the middle of protesting against his cricket board that he should be allowed to work as a cricket journalist and report about games that he played in.
It is probably a valid point overall, perhaps nullified slightly by the fact that with fewer teams it is more competitive, plus the fact that England and Australia loved cricket far more then than they do now – then with almost as much excitement as Indians feel now. It also perhaps should be noted that there were no commercial airlines in those days and traveling to another country meant several months at sea before getting there, a much bigger task than it is nowadays.
Batsmen in Bradman’s days weren’t as good as they are today. With professionalism and modern technology, all areas of cricket have been improved, including batting; but whilst we can’t directly compare Bradman with Tendulkar, we can compare players who they played against. Bradman played against West Indian George Headley, who in turn played alongside Garfield Sobers, who in turn played with Viv Richards, who in turn played with Brian Lara, in turn, played against Sachin Tendulkar. Bradman was significantly better than Headley – Headley was a significantly better batsman than Sobers (though not necessarily a better player), Sobers was a better batsman than Richards and Richards was only slightly behind Lara – while Lara is roughly at par with Tendulkar. Therefore, Bradman is worlds ahead of Tendulkar. Fairly simple really!

Fielding in Bradman’s days was a lot worse – and with modern-day fielding, he wouldn’t have done half as well

The one significant change since cricket has become professional is in the fielding. While there were occasionally great fielders even in Bradman’s time, they were something of a novelty and most of them let a lot of runs go, dropped a lot of catches and generally were pretty sloppy. This is highlighted with the quality of wicket keepers – there can be little doubt that no wicket-keeper prior to the professional era (1979+) compares with the very best since then, which would, of course, be Gilchrist and Boucher. We have also had the likes of Gibbs, Jonty Rhodes, Ponting and so many amazing fielders from every side. While in Bradman’s era it may have gone for a boundary, today it may have been cut off. He may have been caught today while in his day it would have been dropped or let go. To combat this, running between the wickets was a lot worse too, costing a lot of runs – in today’s professional era Bradman may have got 2s sometimes instead of 1s, he may have got a lot more quick singles and so forth – and, without having to work full time to afford to play, Bradman would have been able to have done the extra work required too.

In Bradman’s days, they bowled very aggressively, going for the wicket rather than the kinds of containing fields they use today

Typical run rates per over are currently a lot higher than they were in Bradman’s era. Don Bradman was one of the fastest scorers of his time, scoring at 61.5 runs per 100 balls, while the average in those days was around 40 or 45. Today 55 or 60 is typical, evident that nowadays they score a lot more quickly than they used to.

Sachin Tendulkar is so far ahead of his contemporaries while Bradman was just one of many.

Tendulkar isn’t ahead of his contemporaries at all. Even within the Indian team, there are some who argue that Rahul Dravid is a better player, or even Virender Sehwag, while Brian Lara is often regarded as superior, as are Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis. If Tendulkar is ahead of the others, it isn’t by much. Don Bradman, in comparison, stood head and shoulders above the others. Indeed, nobody in Australia considers Ponting to be in the same league as Bradman. So if Tendulkar is considered to be comparable – either slightly worse or slightly better – than Ponting, then surely Tendulkar is miles behind Bradman.

Sachin Tendulkar has united India far more than Bradman ever united Australia

Don Bradman didn’t just unite Australia – he was also well-loved in England too, and all across the world. When World War II finished, all that anyone wanted was to see Don Bradman bat again. People came with bodies blown apart by war just to see him bat. He was well past his prime, over 40 years old, and hadn’t played professionally for some 7 or 8 years, yet they wanted to see him. While Tendulkar is undoubtedly the most well-loved cricketer in India, and probably the most well-loved throughout the world, his level of fame is nowhere near Bradman’s. Tendulkar doesn’t even have a knighthood yet.

Bradman’s technique was so unorthodox that it would never survive today

We can look at the disaster of Phillip Hughes to suggest that Bradman could be found out with modern technology; but there are plenty of players with unorthodox techniques that have done very well, even in recent times. Just take pretty much every decent bowler in Sri Lanka – Lasith Malinga is about the only bowler in the world that bowls roundarm yet he hasn’t been widely found out. Kevin Pietersen does a switch hit, Tillekeratne Dilshan does a dilscoop and MS Dhoni does a helicopter shot. Unorthodox techniques don’t have to mean that they are bad or that they will be found out. Bradman practiced by throwing a golf ball against a tin rainwater tank, with grooves on the tank! His eyesight for tracking the ball coming at him was amazing.

Bradman didn’t play many games – he only played 52 tests. How do we know that over 100+ tests that he would have still done as well?

In actual fact Bradman played test cricket from his early 20s until his early 40s – a good 20 years – and in that time he played well over 100 first-class matches. He also scored more than 100 centuries, in first class and test cricket combined – and still averaged almost 100 in first-class cricket as well – in spite of them being four-day games and often wanting quick runs for a declaration, hence making averages smaller. It is often said that Tendulkar’s 100 international centuries are proof that he is longstanding, well, Bradman still has had more first-class centuries than Tendulkar – and played a lot fewer matches. They have both played cricket for about the same number of years too.

Bradman only played cricket for, on average, three months per year, while Tendulkar plays on average 5 or 6 months per year – Bradman wouldn’t have coped with that much cricket.

In Bradman’s days, they didn’t play as much international cricket – though if they went for an overseas tour the travel itself was often 1-2 months long – but they did play a lot more first-class cricket than they do now. In England, of course, they played twice as many matches as they do now – largely because the county cricketers were professionals – but they also played about twice as much in Australia too. The difference is that they didn’t have to take time off work to play first-class cricket, as they could do it on weekends, or working around their work – but for international matches, they had to take a holiday. Overall, they probably played a similar amount of cricket. But the difference is that Bradman had to work full time on top of it, while Tendulkar doesn’t. Tendulkar has a lot more free time than Bradman had.

Bradman played more than half of his games against England, the same team, and would have become familiar with them, working out all their tricks, making it easier for him

England were ranked either 1st or 2nd in the world for the whole of Bradman’s career, and, if Bradman wasn’t in the team, England were clearly number 1. It was in many ways Bradman vs England – as if Bradman failed Australia invariably lost – but if he did well they generally won. It would be like if Tendulkar had to play against Australia or South Africa all the time, and never got to play against the weaker teams. International matches were so few and far between that, it was hard for them to get used to each other. The technology was not what it is now, so analysis would just be chatter amongst themselves, but mostly just gut feel.

Bradman said that he saw a lot of himself in Tendulkar, even saying that Tendulkar was how he wished he could bat, which surely proves that Tendulkar is better than Bradman, as admitted by Bradman himself

Except that Bradman said that about a lot of people. Bradman never wanted to be known as the best ever. He was always saying that someone or other was better than him, especially fellow Australians. Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, and Ricky Ponting were all told by Bradman that they were better than Bradman, as was Viv Richards and several others. Granted that that was a huge honor and only a few players ever got it comparative to how many play, but it was still around 100 different players that he talked about like that. So all that that means is that, per Bradman’s opinion, Tendulkar is in the top 100 best players in the world. It is just that Bradman didn’t say that about anyone else from India. About half of the players he referred to in that way were Australians – and most of the rest were from West Indies or England.

Sachin Tendulkar is feared by opposition sides. They know that if Tendulkar does well, India does well, and if he fails, then they lose

Statistically, that isn’t the case, as India have won a lot of times in spite of Tendulkar failing. Also, India have lost several games in spite of a Tendulkar century. Overall, India have done better when Tendulkar has done well; but the influence on victory is not as big as with some other big-name players, like Brian Lara or Viv Richards for example. When Don Bradman scored a century, Australia usually won, while if he was out for under 20, Australia usually lost. So big was the influence that England devised the leg side trap to try to minimize his damage, in a series nicknamed bodyline. That was designed to stop Bradman’s influence, as he was believed to be poor at playing bouncers. He still topped the averages for the series though! But he scored a lot less than he usually did – as did everyone else. Tendulkar hasn’t led other teams to try to cheat in such a major way to get him out.

Sachin Tendulkar is such a nice guy and is loved all around the world – nobody else is loved so much

Tendulkar is loved throughout India; but outside of India, while he is liked a bit, they usually prefer people from their own team. It is just that people don’t tend to talk negatively about Tendulkar in public because his fan base will get so upset about it that it is like their life is in danger. Don Bradman was loved too. In terms of pure numbers, obviously India has more people live there than either Australia or England; but in terms of the proportion of the cricket-watching public that love Bradman, I think that Bradman was a lot more popular than Tendulkar.

Conditions were easy for batsmen in Bradman’s day. Bowlers weren’t as fast, there was no doosra and it was generally easy

Bradman batted on wet pitches, where the ball skitted and rolled around in all directions at once, as exploited mostly by spin bowlers but sometimes also by fast bowlers. True fast bowlers existed in Bradman’s day – Fred “the demon” Spofforth wasn’t called that for nothing. Though nobody recorded the speed, it is believed that fast bowlers in Bradman’s day would have been roughly the same speed that they are today – some even suggest that they were faster. Batsmen batted with no helmets – or boxes – and pads and gloves were a lot weaker than they are today. There also weren’t any laws about how often you could bowl a bouncer – and there was the back foot no-ball instead of today’s front-foot no-ball law – making it a lot easier for bowlers. The laws on throwing weren’t as severe as they are today – undoubtedly a lot of bowlers got away with a lot that they simply wouldn’t get away with today.

Some pitches in Bradman’s day were designed to be easy to bat on – and it was the time period with the highest batting averages

The number of draws in Bradman’s day was a lot lower than it is today, though this was also due to the fact that – at least partially due to so many wet pitches – spin bowlers were used a lot more in Bradman’s day than they are today. While the batting average was slightly higher, it is comparable with today’s, and, if you take out Bradman’s average, it is lower. Perhaps they were sometimes deliberately made easy to bat on – perhaps to combat the damage from the wet pitch.

Sachin Tendulkar started playing when he was 16, while Bradman got to wait until he was 20. If they had both started at the same time, Tendulkar’s record would have been much better

If we start with Tendulkar aged 20, instead of 16, he still has basically the same average that he has today. Similarly, if we take Bradman’s first-class average back to when he first started, aged 18, then the average barely changes. They have both had such lengthy careers that the idea of starting early doesn’t really make a big difference. Had Tendulkar waited until he was 21, he still would have done this well.
And here are some issues raised by Bradman fans to prove why he is superior to Tendulkar:
Don Bradman once scored 300 runs off his own bat in a single day. Tendulkar hasn’t even come close to doing that again, nor has anyone else, ever.
Don Bradman fought in World War II. Tendulkar didn’t fight in a war. Bradman volunteered for it too.
Bradman came back to cricket after the break for WW2, some seven years after he had last played, just a few weeks short of his 40th birthday, out of form and well out of practice, yet still did very well, captaining the team known as “The Invincibles” because of how much they dominated England – in England.
Bradman was constantly at war with the establishment, with one of his key fights being that he had to have a full-time job while playing cricket, which Bradman didn’t see as fair. All of this meant that he never had the board’s approval and instead was doing everything himself, all of the time, up against it all.
Bradman is number 1 on almost all lists of best players of all time, while Tendulkar rarely makes the top 10, at least amongst professional lists that include people that are long gone.

Bradman is in all World XIs that are professionally compiled that I have ever seen while even amongst fanatical Indian fans few will put Tendulkar in and not Bradman.

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