RARELY do critical wisdom and the popular mind agree so resoundingly: So what light can cold statistics throw on a batsman about whom every superlative has been used? Quite a lot, says CricketX, a sophisticated analytical system that rates cricketers by measuring current form and career performance after adjusting scores for rival strength and pitch quality.
Once scores are adjusted, CricketX derives index points for each innings. Indexing allows Test and one-day cricket points to be compared, which means we can make a composite index. Now, is Sachin No.1?
For one, don't be in a hurry—not yet. But several indicators, much like the ones that the stock market uses, point to a future place in the pantheon of greatness. AD 1998, though, has really been his. The raw numbers don't reveal that; CricketX does. To understand why, think overall domination.
The word 'overall' is the key: we use average form to measure it, and there are arguably stronger claimants to the Batsman of the Year 1998, in both Test and one-day cricket. It's when you combine the two that Tendulkar comes out as the 1998 champ.
Domination impacts more than consistency or averages. Tendulkar with his elegant savagery stays in the mind more than an equally effective Michael Bevan, squirrelling away singles (ask Shane Warne). CricketX measures domination by averaging index points over a month. So if you are No.1 for two or more months, you are on a streak.
Test cricket: Despite his high conventional average (54), CricketX finds that Tendulkar's Test career is not yet in the same league as Gavaskar's (average form 497 vs 453, peak form 851 vs 605). Both Gavaskar's conventional statistics (18 centuries and 4,947 runs) at the same stage of his career (93 innings) and his adjusted scores are much better. Tendulkar is yet to peak. But just as the stock market prices a share on a company's anticipated earnings, not merely on its past record, buy Tendulkar now! It's been a consistent Test year for Ten-dulkar, though he has yet to be No.1 in a monthly ranking. Our order: De Silva, Tendulkar, Anwar, Lara, Dravid and Malik. His adjusted average was 41.2.
One-Day Cricket: Tendulkar is the 16th in all-time career rankings. Among current players, he is fourth, behind Lara, Bevan and Anwar. But not in 1998. Tendulkar's remarkable one-day successes can make you forget the others. He is just fifth in the average form list—Pont-ing, Williams, Bevan, and Anwar all lead him. So much for average form; but in the monthly rankings, Tendulkar has been on top since May and has stayed there to date, an amazing eight months. Now that's domination.
Tendulkar illustrates the phrase overall domination when you index Test and one-day cricket. He tops the overall composite average form list with 568, ahead of Anwar (561) and Lara (540). And in the monthly composite rankings, he has been No.1 since May. That's an eight-month streak. The last examples of such domination were Richards in '80 and '86 (10 and 11 months) and Lara in '95 and '96. So this is the real thing.
Anwar and Lara are surprisingly close, but Tendulkar shows the most improvement (year on year). If you had bought into Tendulkar's stock a few years ago, you'd be a millionaire today. But its bullishness carries the fund manager's fine-print: past record is no guarantee of future performance!
Surjit S. Bhalla & Itu Chaudhuri