By Albert Baldeo
ESPN Cricinfo carried an interesting article, widely published that “AUSTRALIA captain Steven Smith is closer than ever before to matching Don Bradman as the top-rated batsman of all-time, according to the ICC rankings for Test batsmen….Smith, who scored 239 to lead Australia to regaining the Ashes in Perth, increased his ratings points tally from 938 to 945 at No. 1, surpassing his previous best of 941 after the first Ashes Test in Brisbane…He is second on the all-time list along with former England batsman Len Hutton, and no one else apart from Bradman – who has 961 points – has ever achieved a higher tally…Smith earned seven points after his performance at the WACA led Australia to victory by an innings and 41 runs, overtaking the highest career tallies of Peter May, Ricky Ponting and Jack Hobbs…His Test batting average of 62.32 is only behind Bradman’s 99.94 on the list of best averages for batsmen who have played at least 20 innings…And he’s number one currently ahead of India captain Virat Kohli by 52 ratings points. By the time the Boxing Day Ashes Test begins, Smith would have been at the No. 1 ranking for two years.”
To compare any batsman to Sir Don Bradman is the greatest tribute anyone can pay to a batsman. With the greatest of respect to Steven Smith, I have seen him bat many times, but he is not in the same league with Bradman. I think he deserves a lot of praise, and he has been the supreme professional, but to elevate him to that gold standard when his career is still incomplete, is an overreach. Neither is Smith as good as fellow Australians Ricky Ponting, Greg Chappell or Steve Waugh, or as accomplished as Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Brian Lara, Sir Jack Hobbs, Sir Wally Hammond, Graeme Pollock, Rohan Kanhai, George Headley, Sir Gary Sobers, Hanif Mohammed, Martin Crowe and at least a few dozen others we can all nominate-or will pay at the turnstiles to see them bat.
Moreover, bare statistics should not be the only defining criterion in measuring the quality of a batsman. Statistical greatness must be supplemented with the value of an innings, such as being the fulcrum of the batting, dependability, professionalism, tenacity, elegance, crowd appeal, adaptability, restraint and dominance. After all, cricket is a spectator’s sport, and the audience’s views and emotions are more valuable than some computer generated algorithm. Indeed, the crowd perched in the trees on Regent Street overlooking the Bourda cricket ground in its heyday who took cover when Clive Lloyd or Carl Hooper went over the top, or the many vociferous fans in the bleachers around the world’s cricket grounds were more knowledgeable and entertaining than many an expert.