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A unique champion

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SummaryOnline polls and the Twitter world seldom care for perspective. And though popular choice makes Sachin Tendulkar overwhelmingly superior to others, some facts can never be ignored

To say Sachin Tendulkar is the best ever is demeaning to past legends and some of his illustrious contemporaries who’ve “honoured” cricket with their batting exploits.

Online polls and the Twitter world seldom care for perspective, and popular choice makes Tendulkar overwhelmingly superior to others. But some facts can never be ignored.

Sir Donald Bradman towers over the rest with a superhuman 99.94 Test average. But even his most superior status is not unquestioned. The Australian legend arguably played just one fast bowler of top quality in his prime and Harold Larwood had brought his average down to a more human-like 57-plus with the use of “leg theory”. Make no mistake, it was exceptionally creditable against a tactic that could have, at any time, killed a batsman bereft of a helmet and chest guard. At the same time, it was not Bradmanesque. Also, Bradman never came to India and faced Indian spinners on square turners.

The late Lala Amarnath had rated Sir Walter Hammond higher than Bradman in certain conditions. According to the former India captain, Hammond  looked “more assured” on crumbling surfaces and “sticky dogs” (wet pitches).

Hammond was princely in every aspect. He scored 7,249 runs in 85 Tests at 58.45, took 83 wickets at 37.80 with his medium pace despite his reluctance to bowl regularly and was one of the best slippers ever.

Then came the “three Ws” from West Indies—Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Clyde Walcott. Sir Garry Sobers, the ultimate cricketer, followed them. Neil Harvey led Australia’s batting during that period, while Ken Barrington and Colin Cowdrey were the stars in the England batting set-up.

They were all great players in their own rights and enriched the game with their talents before walking into golden sunsets.

“Pace age” arrived on the heels of their retirements. It started in the 1970s and lasted for close to two decades. Cricket became fast and furious. West Indies unleashed their pack of “bloodthirsty” fast bowlers, Australia responded with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

England had John Snow, Bob Willis and Sir Ian Botham. New Zealand banked on Sir Richard Hadlee, while Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz paired up for Pakistan. Only India was lagging behind, waiting for Kapil Dev’s emergence.

Suddenly, batting became almost an impossible task. Sunil Gavaskar scored 34 centuries during that period, 13 of those came against West Indies, playing without a helmet. He became the first batsman in the history of

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