Sanga vs. Sachin in Tests -A Statistical Analysis

Click here to download the excel file on the comparison: Sanga vs Sachin

World Cricket has produced a lot of elite stroke makers in its history spanning across 3 centuries. Out of the many debates pertaining to test batting in cricket, one of the most rigorously debated topics among Sri Lankan and Indian fans in the modern era is who is better, SANGA or SACHIN.

Here I present a comparative statistical analysis of Sachin Tendulkar’s and Kumar Sangakkara’s test career.

Before beginning to put my analysis into words, I want to proclaim that this article is not meant to disparage any player or his career.

Sachin Tendulkar’s Test career began in 1989 and continued till the latter part of 2013. Sangakkara made his debut in 2000. Both have given cricket fans some spectacular memories in the cricket field coupled with some breath taking stroke making that made even the best bowlers look ordinary. Both of them are indomitable when they at their very best, but as it is the case with any sports, there would be something that makes one better than the other. Here I use statistics to help find who the better test batsman is.

I have broken the analysis into several stages especially the stats vis a vis to Kumar Sangakkara since he had played test cricket both as a wicket-keeper-batsman and as a specialist batsman.

To begin with, let’s dwell on the overall test record of both Sangakkara and Sachin Tendulkar.

Matches Runs Average 100 HS Matches Runs Average 100 HS
200 15921 53.78 51 248 122 11151 58.07 35 319

Sangakkara averages 58.07 runs per innings which is 4.29 runs more than Sachin who averages 53.78 runs per innings. Though Sangakkara emerges as the clear winner, the common complaint that arises is that Sangakkara has scored heavily against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh which has augmented Sangakkara’s average. But in reality both Sangakkara and Tendulkar have scored plethora of runs against the duo of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Sangakkara has played 20 games against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh while Sachin has played 16 games, scoring 9 and 8 centuries respectively. The record of Sachin and Sangakkara against teams other than Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are as follows.

Matches Runs Average 100 HS Matches Runs Average 100 HS
184 14183 51.01 43 241 102 8799 52.68 26 287

There is some truth about the lament since, Sangakkara’s average drops to 52.68, 5.39 runs less than his career average, but still it is 1.67 runs higher than Sachin, whose average drops to 51.01. Therefore, even Sangakkara’s record sans his shrewdness against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are better than that of Sachin. The next major complaint about Sangakkara is that most of his runs have come at home and his record in non-Asian tracks are ordinary.

Here is a table of records on Sangakkara’s and Sachin’s average with several criteria.

Matches Runs Average 100 HS Matches Runs Average 100 HS
in Non-Asian Countries excluding Zim
73 6007 50.9 18 241 30 2207 40.87 5 192
Non WK
17 1579 52.63 5 192
All away matches excluding Zim and Bang
95 7645 52 24 241 47 3949 47.57 11 230
Non WK
29 2802 54.94 9 211
All Away matches
106 8705 54.74 29 248 55 5013 52.76 14 319
Non WK
35 3751 62.51 12 319
Home Matches
94 7216 52.67 16 217 67 6138 63.27 21 287
Non WK
39 4283 77.87 16 287

Even though Sachin’s performances are better away from, Sangakkara as a specialist batsman averages more than Sachin.

Matches Runs Average 100 HS Matches Runs Average 100 HS
in England in England
17 1575 54.31 4 193 11 862 41.04 2 147
Sachin’s 1st 9 matches Sanga not as Wicket Keeper
9 1020 72.85 4 193 5 526 52.60 2 147
Sachin’s 1st 3 matches
3 245 61.25 1 119
in Australia in Australia
20 1809 53.2 6 241 5 543 60.33 1 192
Sachin’s 1st 5 matches Sanga not as Wicket Keeper
5 368 46 2 148 4 541 77.28 1 192
Sachin’s 1st 4 matches
4 249 41.5 1 148
in New Zealand in New Zealand
11 842 49.52 2 160 4 334 66.8 2 156
Sachin’s 1st 4 matches Sanga not as Wicket Keeper
4 171 34.2 0 88 2 268 134 2 156
Sachin’s 1st 2 matches
2 112 37.33 0 88
in South Africa in South Africa
15 1161 46.44 5 169 8 572 35.75 1 108
Sachin’s 1st 8 matches Sanga not as Wicket Keeper
8 613 43.78 3 169 5 372 37.2 1 108
Sachin’s 1st 5 matches
5 221 27.62 1 111
in West Indies in West Indies
10 620 47.69 1 117 4 238 34 0 75
Sachin 1st 5 matches* Sanga not as Wicket Keeper
5 289 57.8 0 92 3 214 42.8 0 75
Sachin’s 1st 4 matches*
4 206 51.5 0 92

The above table compares Sachin’s record in the leading test playing countries against that of Sangakkra. As aforementioned, since, Sangakkara’s career needs to be looked at in two stages, I have made four comparisons,

  1. Average Difference between Sangakkara and Sachin with Sangakkara as a non-wicket keeper (as a specialist batsman)
  2. Average Difference between Sangakkara and Sachin at the same stage of their respective careers. (Since Sachin has played more number of matches than Sangakkara, I have compared Sachin’s average with Sangakkara when he had played the same number of matches as Sangakkara)
  3. Average Difference between Sangakkara and Sachin when Sachin had played the same number of matches as the number of matches Sangakkara has played as a specialist batsman. (It is relatively unfair to compare the averages since Sangakkara could have already gained experience in the respective playing conditions as a wicket-keeper batsman.)
Average Diff (Sanga’s frame) Average Diff at the same stage of Career Avg Diff Sanga as non WK with Sachin at the same stage Avg Diff, Sanga Not as WK
In England
-23.73 -42.27 -30.59 -23.65
In Australia
7.13 14.33 35.78 24.08
In New Zealand
17.28 32.6 96.67 84.48
In South Africa
-10.69 -8.03 9.58 -9.24
In West Indies
-13.69 -23.8 -8.7 -4.89
-23.7 -27.17 102.74 70.78

Even though Sachin has fared better than Sangakkara when comparing Sangakkara’s overall career, Sangakkara as a specialist batsman has done far better than Sachin. Considering that playing as a wicket keeper batsman is physically demanding and draining, and a wicket keeper batsman assumes dual responsibility, it is fair and just to compare Sangakkara’s record as a specialist batsman with that of Sachin Tendulkar.

Innings per century
6.450980392 5.971428571
Innings per double century
54.83333333 23.22222222
Innings per triple century
0 209
50 per innings

The above stats leaves the fact that Sangakkara has been a better bat than Sachin bare. Sachin Tendulkar has been a stalwart in batting, but Sangakkara who has performed better has not been able to achieve the same stardom Sachin has, mainly because of the fact Sachin was born in India. It is a well-known fact that Indian cricketers gain more media exposure and their records are exaggerated mainly due to the fact that India produces the majority of cricket fans.

Perhaps, Sangakkra as an Indian would have been able to achieve the same recognition if not better recognition than Sachin. Sangakkara is one of the most under rated player of all time, even though he has done sufficiently well to earn a place in the list of all-time best test XI. Should Sri Lanka cricket be given more chances to tour stronger test playing countries, Sangakkara’s already staggering record would become even more ballistic. One who has followed Sangakkara’s career closely would realize the fact that he has got better with age and his performances have become better and better. Sangakkara has always been on the wax since his debut, and in a team endowed with a stable batting line up and a penetrative bowling line up Sangakkara could possibly fill the hallowed place below that of Bradman’s.

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