Rudolph Lambert Fernandez’s book provides insights backed by irrefutable data
Here is a book that tells you why Sachin deserves a title greater than the Bharat Ratna. This author has had this faith for the better part of Sachin’s 25-year-long career that he deserved a different title—the greatest ever batsman in the history of cricket. Ironically, faith is rarely backed up by science. Not any longer in Sachin’s case. Cricket enthusiast Rudolph Lambert Fernandez has come up with a book as stunning as a typical Sachin innings that backs up this faith with science and statistics never seen before.
‘Greater Than Bradman: Celebrating Sachin – The Greatest Batsman in Cricket History’ (Cinnamonteal Publishing), which came out last year, is the most insightful account of Sachin’s career not only because it proves Sachin is the greatest batsman but also because it demolishes much of the mythology around Don Bradman. Where does Rudolph place Bradman then if not higher than Sachin? Bradman, the book says, was the greatest batsman of his era. Not the all time greatest. That title is long overdue to Sachin and the book is an attempt to defend Sachin against Bradman, and tell the world a new story about Sachin that should have been told when our boy wonder was still wearing those India whites. Sachin has walked into his sunset without ever getting the tribute he deserved the most. This is a tribute India owed to Sachin. It is high time we repaid this debt and hailed Sachin as the greatest in the world.
This is no ordinary book worthy of a mere review or mention in a mainstream newspaper. It is a different matter that much of the mainstream media has ignored it altogether. This book deserves a pitch because it has the potential to make all of us very proud of Sachin, one of our own.
The book is an outstanding achievement for someone who has not been our regular cricket commentator. Even more ironic and rather sad is the fact that the mainstream clan of cricket journalists in India, most of which have made their careers by merely reporting on Sachin’s career, has almost completely ignored this book. This irony hurts more because the great, nay the greatest, Sachin has retired from the game without ever getting the title he richly deserved for the better part of his career. In his book, Rudolph seeks to right this wrong done to Sachin. The book deserves to be celebrated as does Sachin as the greatest ever to have held the cricket bat.
Most Indians would probably agree Sachin is the greatest batsman India has produced. An overwhelming majority of cricket fans, players, and experts around the world would also have a consensus on Sachin being the greatest Indian avatar of the game the Englishman brought to this land of the other world. But for those Sachin fans like this author who have always believed that Sachin is the greatest batsman ever and not only the greatest ever Indian batsman, there has been a severe drought of literature translating this faith into unimpeachable arguments. Rudolph comes up with an arsenal of astute arguments to quantify this faith.
His book is that much-needed point of reference to settle the debate once-and-for-all in Sachin’s favour. Rudolph tells the story of an Indian we all think we know everything about but not what we ought to know about. In these 200-odd pages lives an Indian who is unarguably the greatest in his chosen craft. This story gives Indians what we lack and crave the most—a truly Indian success story that beats everyone else in the world. In Sachin’s case, though the world has hailed him as one of the greatest Indians, that’s not the title we should be content with, Rudolph argues with oodles of passion and proof. For, this title almost always comes with a suffix—greatest ‘since Bradman’ or ‘after Bradman’. Rudolph hits this suffix out of the ground with so much of force that one is left wondering why this fiction of Bradman being the all time greatest lives on.
Rudolph, however, insists that this is not yet another Sachin biography. He only attempts to set the record straight between Bradman and Sachin. Also noteworthy is the fact that the author looks at both Bradman and Sachin as batsmen, not as cricket players or as statesmen beyond the field. This is not a Sachin hagiography that defends each of his moves off the field and Rudolph mercifully recognises and presents Sachin as human. The focus here is on the reality of the field and on discovering a new reality by presenting new data or re-analysing the existing one.
Rudolph’s approach is also dismissive of the general refusal to compare Bradman and Sachin on the grounds that they played in different eras. He questions the logic of the inference drawn without ever making this comparison that Sachin is the greatest batsman since or after Bradman. Here is what Rudolph says in the introduction : “Critics are quick to dismiss such comparisons as futile and stupid, cunningly suggesting that they are an insult to the gentlemen being compared. But that is disingenuous. It is also lazy. Having brazenly declared Bradman the favourite, it is poor form to deride comparison”
So the Bradman profile that is described here seeks to take away the halo from the Australian great who retired from the game more than six decades ago. The famous figures get questioned like never before and statistics appears too inadequate a way to measure greatness. Here are some of the very interesting findings:
— In the analysis of cricket history to find out who is the greatest batsman ever, Bradman’s career of only 50 Tests (not 52 as is generally accepted) does not make it a long Test career. Does a playing span of 50 Tests in ten years justify greatness across generations, the author asks. One example from contemporary cricket is revealing. Bangladesh’s top Test scorer Habibul Bashar, ended his career after 50 Tests. Sachin obviously played 200 Tests over a period of more than two decades.
— Some 72% of the time of his 50 Tests, Bradman’s opponent was England. 66% of his Test centuries were against England. 79% of his Test innings were against England.
— By the time Bradman was into his 33rd Test, Bradman had played England alone in 23 Tests. By the time Sachin had played his 33rd Test, he had already played against eight nations. Sachin’s Test runs came against the cricketing world as against the 72% runs Bradman scored only against England.
— 64% of all matches in Bradman’s Test career were in Australia, his home. Sachin played the first 32 matches of his career on 32 different grounds. Bradman made 29 centuries in his entire career. Sachin made as many on hostile grounds alone. 57% of Sachin’s Test centuries were scored outside India.
Tendulkar, as Fernandez establishes in his book, personifies that contemporary greatness which India must be proud of, and which it can rightly lay claim to.
What is unique about Rudolph’s research is its remarkable simplicity and accessibility. In a prose impassioned with stirring metaphors and revealing statistics, Fernandez makes the strongest ever case for Sachin and against Bradman’s permanent claim to the summit of batsmanship. The book has well-contextualised comparisons, revealing statistics, enlightening parallels with other sports and greats from other sectors of human excellence; and, a clinical but not uncharitable investigation into the so-called phenomenal records that Bradman is credited with. There are two absolutely riveting chapters on what the author calls ‘the 99.94 error’ referring to Bradman’s Test batting average, that near sublime statistic which continues to place Bradman in the realms of immortality. If you are besotted with this number you have to read this book to know how mundane it looks when put to a real test.
As the author maintains, no cricket analyst has ever subjected Bradman to this kind of clinical scrutiny. Yet what is immensely commendable about this book is that there is not a word in there that even remotely disrespects Bradman or mocks him as a relic superimposed upon batsmen whose achievements dwarf his.
To quote from the book itself: “I take a close look at Sachin…by taking a closer look at Bradman. I take a new look at Sachin…by taking a newer look at Bradman. Unlike Bradman, Sachin has no veil that hides him from our eyes. Unlike Bradman, he is not hidden in the clouds.”
In taking a closer and newer look at Bradman, the author does justice to not only Sachin but a whole gamut of other great batsmen who have achieved greater feats than Bradman in far more testing times, against tougher teams, and on terrains not considered home or friendly.
Though this book makes passionate arguments, presents newer ways of studying statistics and records, and produces heaps of data rarely offered before, it is far from being a polemical exercise. This is a work of extreme serenity, an object of beauty like the Sachin straight drive that makes a point without sounding pugnacious. Another redeeming highlight is that Rudolph does not apportion the blame for this injustice to Sachin to the inane charges or racism or cultural hegemony or grand design. He merely points out that Sachin has not been given his due and Bradman has received more acclaim than is due to him simply out of errors of judgment. This quality of research makes this narration a thoroughly objective work.
In questioning the mythology around Bradman, Rudolph does not make the mistake of deifying Sachin. Yet this must-read-book also makes Bradman, the holiest shrine in the world of cricket, look more human. Sir Don Bradman, who very early saw and recognised Sachin for what he was, would not mind that. Thanks Rudolph Fernandez for writing this up.
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