Sachin Critique!

It ends the era of Sachin Tendulkar who bid farewell to International Cricket in an emotion packed speech on Nov 16th, 2013.

Straight Drive - One of Sachin's favorite shots
Playing it Straight – One of Sachin’s favorite cricket shots

Every celebrity has his/her share of fans and critics who follows him/her positively or negatively. The only consideration in Sachin’s case is that the fan/critic following deserves more mention, because of the extremely passionate motives behind each party’s choices. The motives range from:

  • die-hard idol worship by Sachin’s fans on any of his successes or failures, to
  • stark criticism by his critics questioning his every performance or existence beyond cricket, to
  • business over millions of dollars generated out of Sachin as a brand, by corporates and sport bodies

His fans treated him “the God of Cricket” while his critics questioned his every ability –  so much so that huge hue and cry was raised on the recent award of Bharat Ratna to Sachin, which is the highest prestigious civilian honor for any Indian.

Personally, I am no die-hard fan of Sachin, nor do I treat him a God, and nor am I his critic. But I am a great sports lover, and an ardent follower of cricket as a game, which includes Sachin as one of the cricket players in my watch list. We would have read way too many passionate articles (positive or negative) on Sachin in the news depending on whom they benefit. The source of most critical allegations on Sachin has been based on attempted analysis of statistical data by comparing with other cricketers. How true or false is this? Is the perspective and benchmark in which one states the analysis the same?

One of the recent sites I went through ( has a good collection of their views on the cricket stats against this cricket icon. I would suggest going through these links, which summarizes the most common allegations against this player.

Allegations Against Sachin

  1. Sachin is not a match winner
  2. Sachin is selfish and playing for records
  3. Sachin fails to perform under pressure
  4. Sachin fails to perform outside India
  5. Sachin scores only against weak teams

Interestingly, these allegations are not only raised by the expected critics (the media, foreign cricketers, or cricket analysts). Rather, many of these allegations are also raised by our own Indian cricket fans (not fans of Sachin of course, but fans of other peer cricketers). It’s no surprise that some of these allegations are amazingly also raised against other cricketers in the Indian team, including the current dream boy of Indian cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But that’s a topic which may need a new blog for discussion later.

Achievements By Sachin

  1. Sachin’s Achievements
  2. Sachin’s Records
  3. Check out on google  – its out there anyway

Lies, Deep Lies, and Then Statistics?

Let’s take an example of how restricted or biased analysis of data can portray a skewed view. Especially if this analysis is done by not considering other constraints. I have these data collected through some readings on the online cricket channels, and apologize to not have the source right now (but will try to update this later).

A common allegation with Sachin is that he does not have a good WIN rate when he scores a hundred vs other cricket icons like Ricky Ponting. Yes, India has won 39.22% of the matches in which Tendulkar has scored a hundred. The figure for Ricky Ponting is 71.05% (not 73.17% as offered by some, because we do need to adjust for centuries in both innings of a Test match. One of the basic mistakes in such analysis is to count the same thing twice).

However, in no way can it be concluded from this data that Ponting is a better match winner than Tendulkar — simply because the assessment looks at the wrong numbers to arrive at the wrong result.

The numbers could have been significant if and only if the rest of the parameters had been the same for these two batsmen. We can perhaps even ignore whether the two masters played against sides of the same strength and had the same batting depth in their own sides to support them. However, when it comes to comparing match-winning capabilities, this method holds water if and only if the bowling firepower to demolish the opposition was the same in both cases.

And that is absolutely not true. Ponting went into most of his victorious matches with Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne bowling for Australia. India never had bowlers of that quality. The average of the Australian bowlers while Ponting batted for them was 28.96. The corresponding figure for Indian bowlers with Tendulkar in the side was 35.35. The gap is too wide to even merit a comparison.

It is simple enough to understand. Both batsmen put runs on the board, but the Australian bowlers bowled out the opposition far more cheaply and frequently than the Indian bowlers.

My Summary

Sachin’s critics will vehemently say numbers reveal more than they hide, while his fans will exactly say its the converse. I would say, there is some element of factual data which supports both. And I definitely do not personally feel that Sachin is the God of Cricket. But he definitely was one of the major achievers in cricket. To put things in perspective, I can summarize that statistical comparison of data needs to be done with an equally comparable and equally large sample size.

Sachin has played over 200 cricket tests (the highest by any player) and played for over 24 years. The fact that he could manage this which no one else has, is in itself a great feat, and we should leave it at that. A player can be brilliant for 2 or 3 years compared to rest (take the case of the breathtaking triple test centuries by Viru Sehwag), but to play consistently for ~24 long years in an international sport is not common. Maintaining the physical fitness, adapting and improving cricketing skills, and maintaining the mental motivation needs to be applauded (in spite of the huge fan following and expectations pressure).

Lastly, it’s not just data which dictates performances, but also how inspiring cricketers have been (both to the cricket following public and to the future lot of upcoming cricketers). In the early 1990s, how many people used to watch India play ODI with the same interest before and after Sachin got out? The Indian cricket situation since has seen a good change. We have many such cricketers in the current generation which people find inspiring to watch.

By Kartik Visweswaran

Its been a long time since 1996 that I ventured into the vast area of information technology. I love to read, research, and write on technologies for the web and mobile. In this weblog, I mumble out on my views on technology, my life and my travels. Read more about me and this weblog here. Browse through my list of blog posts and feel free to share, leave your thought or drop a comment.