Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 2nd 2014 Contents A59
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EARL MCDONALD BEST
Mirror, mirror on the Oval wall
who is the greatest batsman of them
all, the greatest batsman of all time?
Is it England s William "WG"
Grace, Australia s Don Bradman,
India s Sachin Tendulkar or George
Headley, Garfield Sobers or Brian
Lara, all of the West Indies?
Wisden s answer is categorical.
Conceding that Tendulkar is "the
most complete batsman (...) in the
world," cricket s "bible" says
unequivocally that Bradman is
"unquestionably the greatest bats-
man in the game."
"Rubbish!" counters a 69-year-
old Santa Cruz native who has
known Lara since he was wielding
a make-shift bat in his mother Pearl s
porch and later swinging a stump at
a marble suspended on a string in
his father Bunty s garage.
And using the "bible" as his prin-
cipal resource, he proceeds to argue
that, in this race to the boundary,
the West Indian, of whom Wisden
says "no-one since Bradman has
built massive scores as often and as
fast as Lara in his pomp," is, statis-
tically, nearing long leg while most
others are jostling one another for
space between short-leg and square-
leg.Put God out of your thoughts and
kick your dog in anger and you get
a look of hurt so deep as to make
the Grand Canyon seem like a pot-
hole. Add a generous helping of dis-
dain and you ll have an idea of the
look amateur cricket statistician
Franklyn "Uncle Frank" Hernandez
gave me. I had suggested that Aus-
tralia s Bradman, who bestrode the
cricketing world of the 30s and 40s
like a colossus, might well be the
best batsman the game has known.
The genesis of our tête-à-tête is
clear: Uncle Frank has been intro-
duced to me as a man who has very
strong but interesting views on the
subject and I to him as a sceptic.
Today, I am at his house to hear
his case. He s been told that the man
sitting all ears on my side of the table
is not a man to be persuaded by a
faith-based spiel; he s an infidel, an
unsentimental, hard-nosed pragma-
tist, capable, as far as our mutual
friend knows, of kicking his pet pup.
So his presentation cannot be a
sermon written and rehearsed for
exulting faithful who unquestioningly
swallow book, chapter and verse.
Any convincing will have to be
achieved with an evidence-based
argument, anchored in hard data and
preferably bolstered by logic.
But when he starts to talk to me
about who is the best ever batsman,
my first impression is that he has
his opinion and so has little patience
with the facts.
"The world certainly never see,"
he begins, "and will probably never
ever see a better batsman than Brian
I wince. But he doesn t go on to
discuss Bradman or Tendulkar; at
least, he does not name either imme-
diately. And I soon discover that my
idea about him and the facts is far
from the truth. Very clear that he is
not preaching to the converted, he
has made statistical data the very
core of his argument in favour of the
Prince of Port-of-Spain above all
"You know a big batsman called
Marvin (sic) Attapattu?" he asks.
"I don t know about big bats-
man. " I respond, "but I think he is
now the Sri Lanka batting coach."
"Do you know that he made six
double centuries?" he asked.
"In Tests?" I ask, genuinely sur-
"Yes, six!" comes the reply. "One
against England, one against Pakistan
and four against Zimbabwe and
Bangladesh. Another man from Sri
Lanka, Kumar Sangakkara, averaging
nearly 100 against Zimbabwe and
Bangladesh, in the mid-nineties to
be more precise. Sangakkara have
nine Test double centuries, the same
number as Lara and three less than
He picks up the copy of Wisden
that is before him on the table but
he does not open it; he does not
"He play 20 matches against Zim-
babwe and Bangladesh, he score 2,352
runs with eight half-centuries and
nine centuries, including three double
centuries and a triple century."
"Heath Streak played 65 Tests,"
he says, opening the text at last and
running his index finger down the
whole left-hand column of one page
before coming back up to a row
halfway down and running the fin-
gertip across it, "and took 216 wick-
ets, the only bowler with over 200
in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh com-
The pause is long; I find myself
wondering where all this is going.
"Lara not interested in advantaging
people," comes the prompt answer.
"He played four matches against
the minnows and made 395 runs at
an average of 65.5. Zimbabwe and
Bangladesh don t have no bowling
to challenge the best batsman in the
world! He leave that for Mattapattu
(sic) and Sangakkara and (Matthew)
Hayden. And others!"
"One!" An eloquent index finger
is in my face, "Against Zimbabwe,
he only make one token century and
one,"---I get the finger again---
"against Bangladesh. But it have a
man who play 13 matches against
Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and aver-
aging not much under one hundred,
96.55 to be exact, with two double
centuries and eight centuries in all.
You know who he is?"
"I can t guess," I say, "but I know
you will tell me..."
"His name is ..." his pause is again
deliberately long to underline, I sus-
pect, my ignorance, "Sachin Ramesh
All records, runs Uncle Frank s
argument, are not equal; ordinary
players are capable of extraordinary
achievements. For example, he points
out, nine West Indians have scored
a century in each innings of the same
Test. The first eight are George
Headley, Everton Weekes, Clyde Wal-
cott, Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai,
Lawrence Rowe, Gordon Greenidge
and, of course, Lara. Number nine,
added to the list only in November
2012, is Kieran Powell, the then 22-
year-old West Indian opener who
still has a mere 20 Tests under his
Closer scrutiny is therefore
required of the impressive numbers
that Tendulkar, cricket s 200-Tests
100-centuries man, and Bradman,
the game s 99.94-average man,
All of the Don s 6,996 runs and
his 29 centuries, he notes, were
scored on just two continents.
When he posted an aggregate of
806 runs (including four centuries)
in the only four matches of the 1931-
32 five-Test home series against
South Africa in which he played, the
attack included a man with surname
Morkel but first name Denys, perhaps
the closest the Don ever came to a
real quality bowler.
Because, although his career went
from 1928 to 1948, it s hard to name
a handful of great bowlers against
whom he played. In fact, according
to David Liverman, who wrote "The
Two-day Test" for cricinfo in 2000,
the man the Don himself regarded
as the best bowler he had ever faced
was Bill O Reilly, an Australian team-
mate who ended his career with 144
wickets in 48 innings!
As for the Mumbai Master, the
unbeaten double century he scored
in an ODI against South Africa in
2010 is the only individual batting
record for which he walked to the
wicket one morning and claimed
entirely by what he did there on the
day. And he played more than 50
Tests and more than 100 innings
over almost exactly ten years before,
against New Zealand in October
1999, he scored his first Test double
century. Accumulation, Hernandez
concludes, is the name of his game,
longevity the true root of his fame.
Despite cricinfo s strange claim
that Tendulkar "holds just about
every batting record worth owning
in the game" and the truly impressive
cricketing numbers attached to his
name---200 Tests, 329 innings, 15,921
Test runs with 51 centuries at an
average of 53.78 per innings, 463
ODI s yielding 18,426 runs with 49
centuries, including an unbeaten
double century---SR Tendulkar only
appears in the list of records in Wis-
den s individual batting section four
times; BC Lara s name features over
a dozen times.
Nevertheless, in selecting their
Best Ever XI late last year, Wisden
chose the Don to bat at three and
the Mumbai Master to bat at four.
The Prince of Port-of-Spain did not
make the side.
"Wisden?" asks Uncle Frank,
glowering at me across the table.
"I can t understand it. Wisden
pick that side? What? They don t
read their own book?"
Brian Lara...not in
Wisden's Best Ever XI
THE DON, THE MASTER AND THE PRINCE ---PART 1
Lara not one to advantage people
(Part Two will be carried in
ARLINGTON--- Walter R Walsh, the
world s oldest living Olympian, has
died. He was 106.
USA Shooting says Walsh died on
Tuesday---six days before his 107th
birthday---at his home in Arlington.
Walsh finished 12th in the men s 50-
metre free pistol at the 1948 London
Olympics. He had already demon-
strated his marksmanship working for
the FBI and the Marine Corps.
During the Depression, Walsh was
instrumental in the capture and
killing of several gangsters, including
discovering the body of Baby Face
Nelson and catching Arthur (Doc)
Walsh spent more than 20 years as a
shooting instructor before his retire-
ment in 1970.
He later served as the team leader for
USA Shooting in several competi-
tions, including the 1972 Munich
Oldest Olympian, US sharpshooter, 106, dies at home
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