“99.94 — I want to bat like Bradman” reads the message on my mousepad from the Bradman Museum of Cricket, Bowral. The Don’s average is the gold standard of sporting performance in the willow game. The baseball fan would bring up the home run record that places Barry Bond at the top while the legendary Babe Ruth lies third.
The basketball fan may revere Michael Jordan but Kareem Abdul Jabbar of an even earlier era still holds the career scoring record. Don’s average too carries that empirical measure which can clinch many arguments in cricket with a Himalayan benchmark almost 40 percent better than the rest.
There have been people who have used statistical tools to prove Sachin Tendulkar was greater than the Don. Comparing across eras can be so odious that it would be best to say Sachin is the best batsman of the modern era while Bradman left a mark that no one had surpassed if he had played more than a few Test matches. So it came as a surprise when a new name flashed briefly at the top of the Test averages table, but only for about a couple of days or so.
Adam Voges’ average is a more modest 97.46 after the first Test in New Zealand where he made a mere 239 to add to a string of extraordinary scores in his ‘young’ career. He would have to keep performing at the same phenomenal level to be able to sustain his challenge to the Don’s mark. Bradman’s duck in his final innings, when tears welled in his eyes, may have led to his giving posterity a more human looking mark. There is no doubt the attacking batsman bred on the hard wickets Down Under has much to commend himself for, but the forecast is his average will be even more human when he quits the game.
Bradman will be at the top of the averages for generations to come much as Sachin’s century of centuries will be hard to beat in the coming years. Voges has already seen the humour of it all, as clearly seen in his comments after he got out in the Wellington Test.
“I’m probably happy that I’m out now and it’s gone back under. I can just get on with playing cricket, I guess. The boys had a bit of fun taking the mickey out of me in the change-rooms but it’s all good. It (the average) was never going to stay there, it won’t stay there, I know that. So it was always going to happen at some stage,” Voges said.
What Voges has done in his brief career after becoming the oldest batsman to make a century on Test debut — at the age of 35 — is indeed fantastic. The fear that he would never be picked for Australia proved unfounded when he was called up for the tour of the Caribbean and he carried on into the 2015 Ashes. It could be said he found his true métier on his home turf on which visiting teams have been unable to get past his broad bat. Having watched snatches of his prodigious innings on television, it was easy to come to the conclusion that cricket has found a batsman with a prodigious appetite for runs in conditions that suit his play.
Voges says he had to buckle down and play a different game in New Zealand to graft, which he said comes easier to older batsmen. The point is his record at the moment is much like Bradman’s in the sense of being heavy in limited countries. A true test for Voges may lie in the subcontinent where his technique may be tested with the turning ball on pitches that slow down....