Records: a dime a dozen these days

IT appears that every second day or so a record is broken in international cricket. No, make that more definite, a record is broken every few days, such is the volume of international cricket now being played.

BOB SIMPSON

If Don Bradman had played as many Test innings as Allan Border had done, he would have scored 26,484 runs. — Pic. THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY-

IT appears that every second day or so a record is broken in international cricket. No, make that more definite, a record is broken every few days, such is the volume of international cricket now being played.

This, of course, is immensely helped by the new countries that have been admitted to the international brotherhood.

I, for instance, never even played a Test match against New Zealand. Such was the arrogance and insular attitudes of the Australian Cricket Board that they deemed New Zealand not good enough to play against Australia even though other nations had been playing against them for decades.

In fact, it was not until the 70s that international cricket was regularly played between New Zealand and Australia.

Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, even though they were a separate country played in the South Africa local first class competition and the likes of Colin Bland, perhaps the finest fieldsman ever and a proud Rhodesian, represented South Africa.

Bangladesh in my time was still part of Pakistan, while Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was then known, was only a place to play cricket when the ship stopped for eight hours or so on the way to England.

Now of course all these countries are full-fledged international competitors with varying standards.

How then are records and statistics relevant both at Test and one-dayers level? Very, according to the coverage it receives in the media.

As a comparison basis, however, probably not as useful as it was in the past.

At one time it was said, and probably quite accurately, that if a player averaged a certain figure in one era he would probably do it in another.

I could accept this, for with the lengthy time I spent in cricket I felt I was reasonably equipped to judge whether a player who averaged say 45 per innings in the 50s was the equal of another player who averaged the same in the 70s. As a general rule I would say yes.

Now I am less sure for it is much harder to judge with so many weaker countries about and the extraordinary number of not outs secured by the batsmen.

For instance, Don Bradman only scored a not out every eight innings and Gary Sobers every 7.6. While Allan Border was not out every 6 innings and Stephen Waugh every 5 innings.

Obviously, the more not outs the better the average.

Personally, I feel there should be a cut out system with two groups, those who finished their careers say before 1985 and those after.

Nineteen eighty five was the beginning of the explosion and also about the start of the introduction of new teams.

It would also, I believe, be a more accurate showcase of comparison of players' talents both for batsmen and bowlers.

It is generally agreed that it is almost impossible to compare eras and I have always refused to do this or even try to select the best team ever for I always felt it was a pretty futile exercise.

Conditions, rules, circumstances change so much.

For instance, up to the middle 30s batsmen could only be out LBW if the ball pitched on the stumps. Now, of course, you can be out LBW if the ball pitches outside the off stump and the batsman is struck in front of the stumps.

This was a big plus for the bowlers. On the other hand, wickets were uncovered so bowlers often had the advantage of sticky dogs to bowl on.

New balls were not always taken after 80 overs or so and in the late 40s the new ball was taken every 40 eight-ball overs.

In the 30s, often referred to as the Golden Age of Cricket, Sir Donald Bradman told me the pitches were as perfect for batting as he had ever seen.

Now wickets generally have deteriorated and countries are more inclined to fiddle the surface for a home team advantage.

Balls have changed or rather the seam has been altered and in England in particular, the seam has been lowered and raised, particularly in the last two decades or so.

Now, of course, we have a third umpire in the international scene being called onto make judgment on certain types of dismissals, such as run outs and stumpings. I personally find this a very equitable situation.

Undoubtedly, international umpires and referees have helped raise the standard of umpiring throughout the world and claims of bias in away series are much more muted than they once were.

Comparisons of averages and aggregates are generally futile for they are so affected by the above points but they can often be intriguing.

For instance, if we took the average of a batsman as a starting point and used it in comparison with players from one period to another it is quite revealing.

For instance, if Bradman had played as many innings as Allan Border (265 innings) using the above premise he would have scored 26,484 runs (career record: 6996 runs).

Sir Garfield Sobers would have scored 15,311 runs (8032) and Viv Richards 13,271 (8540).

Now what about the greatest all rounder ever — Sir Garfield Sobers.

I will use as a comparison once again Border's long career.

Border played in 156 Tests, so I will use this as the bench mark and average out Sobers' wickets and catches as if he played as many Tests as AB.

Sobers took 109 catches in 93 Tests an average of 1.172 per Test. If he had played 156 Tests he would have taken 182 catches.

Bowling in 93 Tests Sobers took 235 wickets an average of 2.526 per Test. Once again if he had played the same number of Tests as Border he would have taken 394 wickets.

Just think about it: Sobers, G. 15,311 runs. Sobers, G. 394 wickets. Sobers, G. 182 catches.

Can you imagine just how much hype those figures would create today?

But you cannot compare or can you when you are talking about a genius like Sir Garfield Sobers?