Did Sangakkara really deserve to win over Sachin in the Cricket Australia GOAT poll?

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Image Courtesy: © Gettyimages

Did Sangakkara really deserve to win over Sachin in the Cricket Australia GOAT poll?

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Chandrasekar V


For many, May 18th 2016 would have been another day in the year, but not for the hard-core cricket fraternity. After 40 days of gruelling face-offs, the stage was set for the results of the final of the ODI Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) poll by Cricket Australia between Sachin and Sangakkara. Mid-way into the poll, Sangakkara had taken a huge lead of about 60k votes, but there was still hope for many that Sachin would go on to win the poll. But with the final result going in favour of the Sri-Lankan, one was left to wonder what had just happened. Democracy has its quirks and limits, but this was enough to question the very basis of the philosophy – after all, this was the God of Cricket we were talking about. We decided to hold our Indian emotions in check, and see how wrong the result was, or marginal however improbable that is.

Before we begin, one can raise questions as to how an opener can be compared with a No.3 and No.4 player, citing that openers get the maximum time at the middle and can hence accumulate more runs than anyone.

Of the top 10 run-getters, only 3 are openers (in blue), with the rest being 1 or 2 down batsmen (in black), which is contrary to the old-age theory of openers having the advantage. Since the new ball swings only for about 5-6 overs in ODI, the openers are at a slight disadvantage compared to the rest as they have to face the wrath of the new ball. Hence, the comparison between an opener and a No.3 batsman does make fair sense after all.

Overall Comparison

The overall numbers would suggest that Sachin was the better player. However, a deserving winner can only be found based on how far he is ahead of the other player, which in turn can only be decided by comparing them across various parameters like the following:

Consistency over years

In and outside sub-continent performances

1st batting and 2nd batting exploits

Contribution towards team victories

Performance against different oppositions

Performances in major ICC events

All-round contribution

    1.  Consistency Over the Years

Average by Year 

Of the 13 years, where both of them have been active at the ODI level, Sachin had excelled over Sangakkara in eight of them. The spike in Sachin’s career (2010) was due to his historic unbeaten double century. Also, Sachin required less than 10 innings to score a century per year on 8 occasions (2001,02,03,06,09,10,11,12), whereas Sangakkara had been able to replicate the same feat only once (2008). This summarizes the fact that Sachin has outshone Sangakkara in the consistency aspect.

Verdict : Sachin


2. In And Outside Sub-Continent Comparison

Average by Venue

Inside the sub-continent, Sachin has clearly held the upper hand in terms of average. In addition to that, Sachin had racked up 59% of his centuries (29) inside the sub-continent, which is a clear majority when weighed against Sangakkara’s 48% (12) in the sub-continent. This comes down to the fact that, despite having played close to the same number of matches at home, Sachin had amassed more centuries to his name (20) than Sangakkara (4). So, Sachin had clearly outclassed Sangakkara inside the sub-continent and even more so at home.

Sachin has had a marginally better average than Sangakkara outside the sub-continent. Additionally, Sachin had taken a tad above 11 innings to score a ton outside the subcontinent, whereas Sangakkara required 16 innings to match the same.

Verdict : Sachin

(Also read - to find out the secret behind the success of chasing teams in IPL 2016)

3.  1st Batting Vs Chasing Comparison

Average by Innings

While both batsmen relished the opportunity of batting first in comparison to chasing, the little master enjoyed a healthy lead over Sangakkara in both innings. Moreover, while batting first, Sachin scored a century in almost every 7 innings, whereas Sangakkara took slightly less than double of Sachin’s number of innings (12) for the same. The equation is similar while chasing with Sachin taking close to 13 innings per ton and Sangakkara requiring 23 innings per ton.

Verdict : Sachin


4. Contribution Towards Victories

Average by Result

Sachin averaged higher than the southpaw during team victories, implying that the former had played more match-winning knocks and contributed much more to team victories than the latter. The difference in average for Sachin between wins and losses just shows how much India was extremely dependent on him. His 175 VS Australia in 2010, 111 VS SA in WC 2011 are testimony to this fact. This was not the case for Sangakkara as he had able support from his teammates consistently. Sachin has prevailed over Sangakkara in this parameter too, owing not only to his greater contribution to victories but more so to his ability to single-handedly take his team home.

Verdict : Sachin


5. Against Each Opposition

Runs scored by Sachin vs each opposition

Runs scored by Sangakkara vs opposition

Average vs Opposition

The true mark of greatness is when you perform against the greats. Out of the 9 major oppositions both have played against, Sachin fared better than Sangakkara both runs and average wise against six of them, apart from surpassing Sangakkara runs wise against South Africa. During their time, Australia was undoubtedly the best team and against them, Sachin had outperformed his rival. What’s more worth mentioning is the fact that during the 90’s, Sachin had averaged an astonishing 65.31 VS Australia when his contemporaries were barely able to maintain an average of 40! The twin desert storm centuries in 1998 were enough to show how he was capable of decimating any attack on a given day. He had dominated the bowlers of almost all the teams across 2 eras, which puts him above Sangakkara in this regard.


Verdict : Sachin


6.  Performance In Major Icc Tournaments

Average in major ICC tournaments

A common grouse against Sachin was that he would not perform in the big stage when it mattered most – an inference completely devoid of logical backing. The master blaster had not only outdone his rival in the overall average, but also wins the battle hands down when it comes to the pressure knockout games.  Despite performing exceedingly well in ICC tournaments, he had to play as many as 6 world cups to get his hand on the coveted trophy. The fact that Sachin has been time and again let down by his teammates is the reason for the above, the best example being the famous 1996 WC Semi-final where 6 wickets fell for 22 runs following Sachin’s departure for 65.

Verdict : Sachin

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7All-Round Contributions

Apart from being exquisite stroke players and tireless run-machines, they have contributed on the field too. Sangakkara’s wicket-keeping prowess needs no introduction as he holds the record for the most dismissals in ODIs with 482 scalps. On the other hand, the master blaster has been quite handy a fielder himself having 140 catches to his name. He has been equally good with the ball too, picking up 154 scalps at 5.10. He has on numerous occasions proved to be a partnership breaker. No Indian fan would ever forget his heroics in the 1993 Hero Cup semi-final against SA, where he magically defended 6 off the last over. So, both the legends are equally matched in this aspect.

Sachin is so far ahead on almost every parameter that it fails one's imagination as to why the voters thought otherwise. Sangakkara has been an absolute legend too for his country and his achievements and contributions can never be undermined. But, when it comes to choosing the deserving winner of the poll final, Sachin is ahead of Sangakkara by light years.

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