The comparison was on for quite some time which perhaps reached the zenith this time around with Virat Kohli carrying the team on his shoulders with some picture-perfect innings in the shorter format of the game.
Before we start a discussion, let me clarify a few things.
Each of them belonged to the two different eras altogether and hence I am not looking forward to pick one as the greater than the other. The objective of my analysis is just to fathom the impact they have on their sides along with their respective divine strengths and mortal limitations. As experts maintain and also the statistics suggest, Kohli is yet to come off age in Test cricket and as for the T20s are concerned, Tendulkar belonged to a generation that got introduced to the format past their prime and as such stayed away from embracing the format at least donning the national jerseys. As such, the discussion here will be entirely based on the One Day Internationals (ODIs) for that was the only common format where both the master-class batsmen mesmerized the world and went on to own the format.
Before I dissect the stats for the two, let me clarify that it is better to evaluate their impacts on the game without trying to foresee what Kohli can achieve if he had a career on par with Tendulkar. As an author who has seen a lot of players succumb to injuries out of blues that hamper or even put an end to their careers, I feel that such arguments hold little sagacity. Also, I am doing away with home and away comparison as nowadays that mainly matters in the Test cricket.
First, let us have a look at their respective careers.
Kohli’s average and number of centuries look impressive for the moment. And, at this stage of his career as Kohli, Tendulkar was way behind which was due to the fact that early in his career he used to bat lower down the order.
Now, let’s just go through another statistics as how the figures shape up when their team bat first.
Here, the average indicates that Tendulkar had an edge over Kohli while batting first. Quite interestingly, the Little Master had maintained a strike-rate which closely resembles that of Kohli – considering the game has tilted more in batsmen’s favour these days than it was in Tendulkar’s time – the former Indian played with more aggression than that was probably relevant in his playing days.
Now, just analyze how the above data feature in for winning causes.
Again, Tendulkar edges past Kohli with a superior average and this time taking a lead in the strike-rate as well. So it can be concluded that Tendulkar was more effective for his team when the team batted first.
Now, let’s move on to the other side – the chasing game.
Here, clearly Kohli has an edge – with a far superior average and an enviable number of centuries. And now, what is about that in successful chases?
With this, one can admit that Kohli is the ‘God of chases’ as his sublime figures makes ‘God’ himself look pedestrian.
Now, let’s just add another dimension to these figures – in matches where they scored 50 and above. And to understand it better, let’s bisect Tendulkar’s career into two halves – one from 90s (when he was basically a one-man army) and the other henceforth (when he had a better helping hand).
Kohli, once again, looks ominous and clearly betters his guru by a thumping margin. However, in losing causes for the same, Tendulkar’s stats since 2000 give Kohli’s ones a close chase with the former quite impressively wins the bout for strike-rate (99 to 93). Such was the impact of Tendulkar that once his 175 failed to take his team over the winning line.
To add to this, let’s see how they actually finished the game – taking the team home unbeaten in a successful chase.
Again, Kohli seems to have the upper hand. The reason behind this is simply the mindset. In Tendulkar’s time, there was little awareness about the need to ‘finish’ a game – especially, for the top-order batsmen. Neither the techniques of methodical chases were talked about as is the case nowadays when the advent of T20s made modern batsmen, like Kohli, chase targets that demand a high required rate with relative ease. It’s just that Tendulkar never had a chapter on the art of finishing in his batting manual whereas, Kohli perfected that skill which is a part and parcel of his game.
Let’s just have a look on how these two batsmen got support from their fellow team-mates in successful chases. Note for Tendulkar, we have strictly taken the figures for the 90s as that was the era of our weakest batting line-up in the shorter format.
A fact is that, Kohli has got support from his teammates well. Barring him, Rohit, Gambhir, Raina, Dhawan, Dhoni and even a surprise Manish Pandey (recently) have had played significant finishing roles in matches in which Kohli had played for India. However, in Tendulkar’s heydays in 90s, only Azharuddin seemed to have given him fair support to his cause. Although, Ganguly, Sidhu and Jadeja feature in the list of top 5 run-getters in successful chases at that time, however, their relatively poor strike-rates put their effective contributions in a spot of bother. More importantly, Ganguly and Sidhu mainly played in the top-order and hence, Tendulkar used to be more dependent on Azharuddin and Jadeja down the order.
Moreover, if we collect related data for the losing causes (see above), Tendulkar’s strike-rate is quite unmatched for in his supporting players – which points to the fact that once the Master was gone, the rest (even Azhar) just played on without trying to go for a win. Contrastingly, all the significant names in Kohli era boast of strike-rates on par with the superstar – pointing to the fact that they at least give a try to win the match. In a nutshell, we can clearly say that the kind of support that Kohli got from Raina and Dhoni is far more superior to what Tendulkar obtained from Azharuddin and Jadeja.
The last statistics that I am going to put forward is rather an interesting one. It takes into account all those knockout matches in tournaments played by three or more nations.
I have always seen people crucify Tendulkar alleging him for performing poorly in important matches. Now, the figures here certainly refute those censures. In addition, Tendulkar almost maintained his average for both the innings. More importantly, in winning causes, his average sky-rockets to 74 – this plummets to 28 otherwise. In finals, Tendulkar boasts of an average of 54 with 6 centuries. So, it’s just that human memories are fallible that vilifies him of temperament in big matches and perform under pressure. And, as for Kohli, he might be a great chaser, but his stats in big matches look nothing but lukewarm.
Before signing off, let’s provide a brief synopsis. Tendulkar seemed to be a diamond in a coalfield, where as Kohli looked like the most polished piece in a diamond shop. In ODIs, Tendulkar (mainly in 90s) was the overwhelming hope of his team whereas, Kohli played in one of the best Indian batting line-up of all times. Tendulkar is a better batsman overall where as Kohli has the best ‘chasing’ game. And people must see the stats before trashing Tendulkar as a big game player and Kohli needs to improve a lot on that count.
What’s your opinion on the Virat Kohli vs Sachin Tendulkar debate? Comment below!