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Harsh Thakor

Who was the greater cricketer between Don Bradman and Gary Sobers?

Who was the greater cricketer between Donald Bradman and Gary Sobers?  

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  1. 1. Who was the greater cricketer?Bradman or Sobers?

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The likes of us have not seen video footage of cricketers like W.G.Grace,Jack Hobbs or Victor Trumper.However we have had the privilege of being able to watch the tapes of Sobers and Bradman.No cricketers in their era defined their epoch or asserted superiority to such a height.They were the equivalent of a great propher like Buddha or Christ to the game.When they  stepped on to the cricket field an impact of a bomber travelling to raid an airbase was made.or a military tank performing a combing operation.There is not an adjective to describe the command or power they asserted in determining the course of a game .They came closest to an ultimate cricketing machine.


In terms of figures Bradman was the ultimate collosus,like a creature from another planet.Statistically he was on another plane from any great batsmen ever and arguably no sportsman ever asserted superiority at such a scale over contemporaries and over those of all time.It was reminiscent like a messenger of god sent to bat .He annihilated bowling like flour being crushed in a windmill or grass being mowed down.His average of 99.94 and rate of scoring a century in over 50 percent of his tests will never be equalled till cricket exists.It is inconceivable that he averaged 40 runs more than the great batsmen of his time like Walter Hammond,George Headly or Len Hutton.No batsmen also had a comparable strike rate.Often bowlers felt the sensation of torture when pitted against Bradman.It is remarkable that even a Tendulkar,Lara or Viv Richards never came close to Bradman's test average.The only noticeable question was that he only played against England and Australia and never toured India.He was also not at his best against bodyline.On wet tracks Bradman was overshadowed by Jack Hobbs abs George Headley,and not at his best.


Gary Sobers took all-round cricketing genius or artistry to heights unexplored,like the equivalent of  beethoven to music. It is hard to visualize any cricketer ever exhibiting such mastery in every department of the game.No cricketer could turn the complexion of game or be as impactful as Gary in the all-round sense.His figures although phenomenal still were not a true indicator of his superiority over contemporaries and of players of al eras.He posessed every stroke in the book and could give the most majestic exhibition of domination.No bowler was as versatile  as Gary who could bowl,fast,fast-odium,spin and chinaman.He could also pull of the finest catches surpassing the skill of a circus acrobat.He averaged 57.78 with the bat with 26 centuries officialylbut adding unofficial tests averaged 58+ and took over 250 wickets .No cricketer surpassed Sober's performance in England in 1966 scoring 722 runs and capturing 22 wickets or scoring 683 runs and taking 21 scalps in 1970 in unofficial games.Gary had a great average in games won.At his best maybe initially Botham was more of a match-winner like in the 1980 Jubilee test or 1981 Ashes Keith Miller,.ImranKhan and Richard Hadlee were better pace bowlers but not anywhere comparable as batsmen.Jacques Kallis has a better statistical aggregate of runs and wickets with comparable average but would not turn the course of games or be as impactful as Sobers.Sobers could affect a game like a Hercules coming down to earth.Sobers was simply like an emperor adressing knights on a cricket field when in full flow made everyone else look like pawns on a chessboard whed.Unlike Bradman Sobers proved himself on the turning pitches of India.Morally he was ahead of other all-rounders in the same league as Bradman.


Who would have been more impactful in a test team or was the better cricketer?In terms of records Bradman may win convincingly.However Ihave strong conviction that Gary's all-round skill surpassed Bradman's with the bat as if you asess versatiity he was in the league of the best bowlers.Gary had to come to his team's rescue considerably more than Bradman.I very much doubt Bradman would average more than 75 in today's game .I also would not have backed him to play express pace better than Viv or Gavaskar or spin as well as Lara.I feel there were few batsmen wo by a whisker had more skilll than Bradman like Trumper,Kanhai and Lara.I would back Sobers in the modern game to be more dominating with his talent.Arguably had Sobers played in later eras his bowling stats may have been close to Botham's.I can't visualize any cricketer ever championing every department of the game at the same time with the mastery of Sobers.In term sof domination Viv or Lara or even Barry may have surpassed Bradman .Botham or Miller may have been more explosive than Sobers at their best ,or even Imran but in all-round skill were never as mercurial as Sobers.In the most testing conditions as an "all-rounder I feel Sobers would give more of the Muhammad Ali knockout punch than Bradman.Ofcourrse Bradman was more the statistical match-winner but giving true respect to cricketing aesthetics Sobers would be the more influential.Scaling the eras the sum of Sobers runs,wickets and catches would by a whisker have greater bearing on a game.I always found it harder to conceive an incarnate of Sobers than that of Bradman.Sobers would be more my man to ressurect a side from the grave to reach pinnacle of glory.Thus I disagree with experts who rank Sobers below Bradman like John Woodcock,Cristopher Martin Jenkins or David Gower.Afterall with figures on par they still rate Sobers so much ahead of Kallis.




"Even among cricketing legends, Don Bradman's stature is one that no other player has come close to. His stats are so much better than anyone before, during or after his time, that it truly boggles the mind. Various arguments are offered about the changes in the game today to try and explain 99.94: fielding standards have improved, making it tougher for batsmen to score; captains are more agreeable to posting defensive fields and restricting the runs; the game is played across several countries as opposed to just a few during Bradman's time, making it more difficult to adjust to different conditions. While these statements may be true as independent facts, they do nothing to diminish the sheer genius of the Don, and the staggering magnitude of his achievements.

The most famous number, of course, is his Test average, which is 64% better than the next-best (with a cut-off of 2000 runs). That alone shows how much better Bradman has been than anyone who has ever played the game. Comparing the overall batting numbers during his time with the corresponding number today further illustrates this point: in the 20 years in which Bradman played his Test cricket, the overall batting average was 31.85; in the 21 years since Sachin Tendulkar's Test debut, the overall batting average in 845 Tests is 31.07. Restricting this only to top-order batsmen (batsmen in the top six of a line-up) also throws up similar numbers - 39.99 during Bradman's time (1928 to 1948), and 38.40 during Tendulkar's (November 1989 onwards).

Apart from Bradman and Graeme Pollock, West Indian George Headley and Herbert Sutcliffe of England were the only ones who scored more than 2000 Test runs at averages of more than 60."


Statistics from S.Rajesh of cricinfo.

Highest averages in Test cricket (Qual: 2000 runs)

Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Don Bradman 52 6996  99.94 29/ 13
Graeme Pollock 23 2256  60.97 7/ 11
George Headley 22 2190  60.83 10/ 5
Herbert Sutcliffe 54 4555 60.73 16/ 23
Ken Barrington 82 6806 58.67 20/ 35
Everton Weekes 48 4455 58.61 15/ 19
Wally Hammond 85 7249 58.45 22/ 24
Garry Sobers 93 8032 57.78 26/ 30

Among the batsmen who averaged 60, Pollock was the only one who came in after Bradman's time. Till the end of the 1940s, when Bradman finished his international career, Headley's 63.91 was the nearest anyone came to his 99.94 (though Headley's average fell away a bit later). Denis Compton, who was almost halfway through his Test career, averaged more than 60 at that point too, but his performances fell away thereafter and he finished averaging 50.06 from 78 matches.

Best Test averages before 1950 (Qual: 2000 runs)

Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Don Bradman 52 6996  99.94 29/ 13
George Headley 21 2173 63.91 10/ 5
Herbert Sutcliffe 54 4555 60.73 16/ 23
Denis Compton 36 3132 60.23 13/ 12
Dudley Nourse 26 2469 58.78 8/ 12
Wally Hammond 85 7249 58.45 22/ 24
Jack Hobbs 61 5410 56.94 15/ 28

Len Hutton





First there is Sir Garry Sobers, and then there are all the other great allrounders in Test cricket. Sir Don Bradman unquestionably qualifies as the best batsman ever seen in Tests, but several pundits are willing to bet that in terms of all-round match-winning ability, none has surpassed - and perhaps no one ever will - the sublime Sobers.Bradman himself called Sobers the "five-in-one cricketer", and with good reason: apart from being an outstanding batsman and fielder, Sobers the bowler was so versatile that he could bowl three different styles - left-arm seam and swing, slow left-arm orthodox, and left-arm wrist spin. Sobers' skills with the ball allowed West Indies to often play an extra batsman - in fact, it was almost as if they were playing with 12 members in the team


Sobers' Test career as a batsman

Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 1957 14 672 30.54 0/ 3
Jan 1958 onwards 79 7360  62.90 26/ 27
Career 93 8032 57.78 26/ 30

As a bowler, Sobers' stats aren't as stunning, but he was more than handy with his ability to bowl various styles. His peak period as a bowler was understandably much shorter, but during the eight years between 1961 and 1968, he was quite a handful, averaging less than 28 and taking almost four wickets per Test.

In fact, his bowling career can be divided into three distinct parts: till 1960, he bowled quite sparingly, taking only 43 wickets in 34 matches, without a single five-for. Then came the best passage for him as a bowler, during which period he delivered two of his most incisive performances: at Headingley in 1966 he returned figures of 5 for 41 and 3 for 39 to help West Indies win by an innings; at the Gabba a couple of years later, his orthodox left-arm spin was good enough to give him a second-innings haul of 6 for 73 and bundle Australia out for 240 as they chased 366 for victory.

Sobers' Test career as a bowler

Period Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Till Dec 1960 34 43 47.25 118.7 0/ 0
Jan 1961 to Dec 1968 33 125 27.93 76.3 5/ 0
Jan 1969 onwards 26 67 36.94 103.6 1/ 0
Career 93 235 34.03 91.9 6/ 0

More than most other cricketers, Sobers was able to, on more than one occasion, deliver his excellence with bat and ball in the same series. Scoring 300 runs and taking 20 wickets in a series is no mean feat - it's only been achieved 15 times in the entire history of Test cricket - but Sobers managed it three times on his own, twice against England, and once against India. The Australian allrounder Keith Miller did it twice, but no one else has achieved it more than once. Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and Shaun Pollock were among those who did it once each, while Imran Khan didn't even achieve it once.

Overall, Sobers' all-round numbers are outstanding - his batting average is nearly 24 more than his bowling average. In terms of this differential, only Jacques Kallis of South Africa has a slightly higher difference.

Top allrounders in Test cricket (Qual: 3000 runs, 200 wickets)

Player Tests Runs Average Wickets Bowl ave Diff in ave
Jacques Kallis 142 11,449 55.84 267 31.90 23.94
Garry Sobers 93 8032 57.78 235 34.03 23.75
Imran Khan 88 3807 37.69 362 22.81 14.88
Shaun Pollock 108 3781 32.31 421 23.11 9.20
Ian Botham 102 5200 33.54 383 28.40 5.14
Richard Hadlee 86 3124 27.16 431 22.29 4.87
Chris Cairns 62 3320 33.53 218 29.40 4.13
Kapil Dev 131 5248 31.05 434 29.64 1.41

Excluding the first three years of his Test career, when Sobers was still finding his feet in international cricket, he averaged nearly 63 in 79 matches, which was easily the best during that period. England's Ken Barrington was the only other batsman whose average was close to 60. Even Sobers' overall career average of 57.78 is among the very best: with a cut-off of 3000 runs, only five batsmen have done better.

Best Test batsmen between Jan 1958 and Dec 1974 (Qual: 3000 runs)

Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Garry Sobers 79 7360  62.90 26/ 27
Ken Barrington 80 6754  59.76 20/ 35
Hanif Mohammad 37 3018 51.15 10/ 11
Doug Walters 50 3869  50.90 12/ 23
Rohan Kanhai 74 6021 49.35 15/ 28
Bob Simpson 50 4045 48.73 8/ 23
Ted Dexter 62 4502 47.89 9/ 27
Geoff Boycott 63 4579 47.69 12/ 26

And in the eight years when Sobers was at the peak on his bowling powers, he was among the best in that aspect too: only three bowlers took more than 100 wickets at an averge lower than Sobers' 27.93. West Indies had a pretty useful attack during that period too: Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith took care of the fast-bowling duties, while Lance Gibbs was the number one spinner. Since Sobers obviously wasn't the leading fast bowler or spinner, he was more of a support act, and hence seldom got the opportunity to bowl fast with the wind or slow against it. Later in his career with West Indies' fast-bowling resources dwindling, Sobers bowled long spells with defensive fields, but he managed that too without his bowling stats suffering too much.

Best Test bowlers between Jan 1961 and Dec 1968 (Qual: 100 wickets)

Bowler Tests Wickets Average Strike rate 5WI/ 10WM
Fred Trueman 26 133 21.67 49.4 10/ 3
Lance Gibbs 33 158 24.24 75.7 12/ 2
Peter Pollock 24 101 25.22 57.7 8/ 1
Garry Sobers 33 125 27.93 76.3 5/ 0
Graham McKenzie 46 201 28.42 68.8 14/ 3
Wes Hall 30 100 29.17 57.8 3/ 0
David Allen 32 109 29.91 89.6 4/ 0
Fred Titmus 47 145 30.82 96.1 7/ 0


Edited by Harsh Thakor

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