Arguably the world’s greatest batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, is in the crosshairs of some misinformed fans. During the World Cup match with Afghanistan, Sachin Tendulkar criticized the low strike rate of MS Dhoni. And as if almost on cue, the fans of MS Dhoni took to social media to tear apart the hallowed edifice that is Sachin Tendulkar’s records. The criticism reeked of iconoclasm more than it did of objective analysis. Sachin was accused of playing for himself, his mountain of centuries going in vain and not really contributing to the cause of the team, his low strike rate while approaching century and other such assorted inanities. Let us have a look at some stats and see if the accusations against Sachin are validated.
First, let us see whether the accusation against Sachin that his strike rate dipped considerably while approaching century, holds against the stats. An analysis of his innings from 2001 to his retirement in 2013 (based on Cricinfo data) reveals an interesting picture. Sachin’s average strike rate in this period was 95.94 (0-90) and 103.60 (91-100).
Cricinfo commentary is only available from 2001 so the stats of last 20 hundreds of Sachin Tendulkar is :
0-90 runs – 95.94
91-100 runs – 103.60
100+ runs – 138.12
— Cricketopia (@CricketopiaCom) June 25, 2019
As is evident, contrary to the popular opinion, Sachin’s strike rate actually increased while reaching century. Mind you, this was the phase where 90 above strike rate in ODI was considered the hallmark of an explosive batsman. For comparison, Sehwag’s overall ODI average strike rate is 104.33.
Now, coming to the second accusation, Sachin only played for himself and not the team and often his centuries were for the losing cause. As per Cricbuzz, out of 49 centuries Sachin scored in ODIs, only 13 were for the losing cause. But, the stats ignore the kind of dependency the erstwhile Indian team used to have on one batsman, Sachin Tendulkar. In the 90s and early 2000s, Sachin’s presence on the field was of utmost importance for India to win the match. The Indian team in this phase was comparable to the West Indies’ team which relied heavily on Brian Lara on the batting side. Another factor that is often ignored while making comparisons to post-2010 batsmen, is the favorability of the game towards the batsman. With T20 formats and batsman friendly rules in modern cricket, the comparison of talent between likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli is skewed.
It is futile to go into details of other exemplary records Sachin holds for it would still serve no purpose to dissuade those who are hell bent on demolishing an icon, guided by some sort of misplaced zeal of iconoclasm. The criticism against Sachin cannot be driven by some sort of compulsion to pull a great man down and disregard the immense contributions he made to cricket in service of the nation, a game he still very much loves. It is precisely out of this love for the game, his criticism against Dhoni cannot be seen as a personal one. It was for the greater good of the team, a team which is a formidable force in International Cricket now, a team which the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble contributed in building.