Tendulkar is no Don Bradman
I am sure neither Nasser Hussain's Indian background nor his lack of affinity with Australians had anything to do with his statement about Sachin Tendulkar being greater than Sir Donald Bradman. We have grown up in the belief that no one could come near the great Australian, and Hussain's opinion has to be respected because he has been an international captain - a successful one too - but it is not an opinion which will be supported by even some of Tendulkar's most ardent fans.
Hussain said Tendulkar is a greater player than Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards. Huge praise indeed, since Gavaskar played against some of the best fast-bowling attacks in his 16-year international career. Thirteen of his 34 Test hundreds came against the mighty West Indies and Richards decimated, demolished and destroyed attacks with powers of a sheer genius. It is not Tendulkar's fault that he did not face the same quality attacks that Gavaskar and Richards did, but, the fact is, he did not. That said, only a fool would believe that he would not have had the measure of the express fast bowlers.
Dennis Lillee, arguably the greatest fast bowler of all-time, gave me one of the best quotes of all time about Tendulkar when I asked him during the India and Australia Test at Bangalore in 1998 how he would have bowled to the little Indian. "With a helmet on," he said, just after watching Tendulkar score 177 against Mark Taylor's Australians for his second hundred of the three-Test series. So why should Tendulkar not be rated higher than Bradman? Old timers would point to uncovered wickets which batsmen of yesteryear had to put up with.
Hussain can surely only shudder at the prospect of how challenging uncovered pitches in England would have been. The quality of both pace and spin were of a high standard, although one must stress that Bradman played only against England, India, South Africa and the West Indies. A minimum amount of protective gear has to be a factor. A batsman's protective gear for the abdomen region was minimal in size, shape and probably protective value.
Tendulkar has also played under the intense pressure of an expectant India but Bradman experienced more than his fair share of pressure in the Bodyline series of 1932. Douglas Jardine, England's India-born captain, instructed his bowlers to persistently bowl round the wicket in an attempt to contain Bradman, who had taken England's bowlers apart in the previous series. But he stood up to the task, although his series average of 56.57 was way below his career average of 99.94.
It would be interesting to see if Tendulkar reacts to Hussain's claim. I suspect he will be embarrassed and leave the compliment in much the same way he would shoulder arms to a delivery outside off stump. So, Mr Hussain, as much as you have made yourself popular with Indian fans, there is no guarantee your statement will attract universal approval. We will still enjoy your commentary and opinion pieces though.
Now, to that one-day double century last week. Not only did the South Africa attack comprise the world's finest fast bowler in Dale Steyn, the Proteas also pride themselves on their fielding. How someone could play that innings at the age of 37 against that quality of opposition is the amazing part of the feat. Some of the Indian newspapers had "God" in their headlines the following day. Little did those headline writers know the fascinating exchange the Little Master had encountered with some star-stuck fans the previous night. As Tendulkar made his way to the media conference in Gwalior a group of fans yelled: "We have seen our God."
Tendulkar is believed to have stopped, smiled and replied: "I am not God. I am just a human being." Tendulkar's greatest gift is the ability to stay grounded and he has his upbringing to thank for that. When we spoke some time after midnight following the Gwalior innings, he shocked me by saying that he had not been celebrating. And in his message to his fans, who have good reason to believe that there is more brilliant performances in store, he said: "All I can say is, the passion is still there. I will always go out and give my best and whatever has to happen will happen. From my side, there won't be a lack of commitment."
Cricket has proved several times it can be cruel and players have come out saying that there is no justice in the game. Tendulkar's latest record ridicules that theory because it could not have happened to a better player. Bradman does not fall into the one-day category. How he would have coped with the rigours of limited-overs cricket one would never know. Just like Tendulkar is no Bradman, the legendary Australian cannot be a Tendulkar.
Clayton Murzello is the Group Sports Editor of the Indian newspaper Midday firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: March 3, 2010 04:00 AM