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Comparisons can be odious

Comparisons can be odious.

The statisticians have been enterprising during the Mumbai Test with like for like comparisons. They put Geoff Boycott up against Alastair Cook which put the England Captain slightly ahead - which in turn amused Sunil Gavaskar. As a practical joker of some skill, Sunil has not been slow to target our Geoffrey from time to time and he was biting his cheek to keep a straight face when asked to compare the two. Where the comparisons are hard to justify are the change of conditions and equipment. Boycott played quite a while on uncovered pitches and without a helmet throughout his career.

Then the figures experts put Swann alongside Jim Laker which was mathematically even but somewhat loaded in Swann's favour due the vast increase in lbw decisions for the current player - undoubtedly due to the Decision Review System (DRS) which allows umpires to give those half-ball decisions: and we have seen already in the Mumbai Test that without DRS the umpires are back to the good old days when the half-ball decisions go in the batsmen's favour.

Least valid was the comparison between Ian Botham and Ashwin over the first ten Test Matches of their careers. Ashwin has been thrown into action against the best in the world. Botham got an early call into Test cricket because the established players had been bought out of Test cricket by the Australian media mogul Kerry Packer. Six of the first ten Tests for Botham were against a very modest Pakistan side, two against New Zealand and just 2 against Australia. In fact it was 25 Tests before England's " best ever" all-rounder came up against the powerful West Indians in a five match home Series. In 8 innings he scored a modest 148 runs at an average of 18. His biggest single innings wicket haul was 4 - altogether just 14 victims with plenty of runs conceded. So in this case comparisons, if not necessarily odious are certainly not to be given much weight.

Don't get me wrong. I had a high regard for the Botham wicket-taking style from early on. I was commentating with Keith Miller who thought that here was a fine cricketer in the making to which I replied that he was already pretty good. So you could say we were both right. It is down to the commentators to provide a proper perspective for these bald figures, something that so far they have been reluctant to do.


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