Why are people obsessed with stupid things…

by Gilbert Keith

…like comparing one of the better players now from one of the better players 30 years ago? Here’s Harsha Bhogle pontificating about how Jacques Kallis is really as great as Gary Sobers. I haven’t seen him play, but I’m sure Gary Sobers was a great player. I’ve seen Kallis play, and he doesn’t strike to me as particularly awesome, but he has consistently performed, which is enough to make him a great player.

The funniest part of the whole article are these paragraph:

For someone who finished in 1973 and for another who only began in 1995, their records are amazingly similar. From 93 Tests (and these are numbers serious cricket lovers know by heart) Sobers had 8032 runs at 57.78, 26 centuries, 235 wickets at 34.03 and 109 catches. Kallis has played one and a half times the number of Tests (145) and, hold your breath, has virtually an identical proportion of runs (11,947 at 57.43), centuries (40), and even catches (166)! He has fewer wickets by comparison but at a marginally better average (270 at 32.01).

This similarity in numbers cannot be mere coincidence. Yes, there were variables. Sobers played first-class cricket all around the world in addition to his Test workload, but Kallis has played 307 one-day internationals too. Sobers batted largely from No. 6, which some might say is an easier number but affords fewer opportunities, while Kallis, amazingly for an allrounder, batted from No. 3 or 4, which meant he had more time but also often had to change bowling shoes for the half-spikes rather quickly.

The entire justification for the existence of this article is: “Coincidence? I THINK NOT!” On the contrary, I think it’s all very coincidental. Bhogle admits to there being “variables” but notice he picks up on some minor differences and handwaves the importance of these difference.

Look, cricket in Sobers’ are was a way different game than it is today. Back in the day if you were from the West Indies, you pretty much played test matches against Australia and England. Yeah, there were some series against India, and a couple against Pakistan and New Zealand, but that’s it. Compare that to the fact that Kallis had to face a formidable Pakistan, a formidable Sri Lanka, a decent New Zealand, a decent India, etc. regularly. The playing field was much higher in the 90s and 00s. Even when you compare the bowling, Kallis probably has Sobers beat; the batting lineups of todays teams are probably far superior (just look at the number of people who’ve crossed the 8000 test cricket run mark.) We’re just in a different era, in which the players are much better, the rules are pretty different, etc. Stop trying to compare the awesomeness of players who’ve played 20-30 years apart! It’s a futile exercise.

In the same note, if I hear more “Sachin is as great as Bradman” I’m going to slap that person. That’s a promise, not a threat.

I guess this is what commentators are paid to do, though. Write some crazy meaningless stuff, rile up some people who’ll discuss the finer points of the article while missing the big picture that people from different generations of cricket are incomparable.

–Gautam

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