CricketNext GET APP

Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli: Who is the Superior ODI Batsman?

Nikhil Narain |Cricketnext | Updated: October 26, 2018, 11:58 AM IST
Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli: Who is the Superior ODI Batsman?

In Vizag on Wednesday, Virat Kohli broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record to become the fastest batsman to record 10,000 runs in ODI cricket during his unbeaten 157 against West Indies.

Kohli achieved the feat in 205 innings. Tendulkar took 259.

A simple comparison after 205 innings suggests Advantage-Kohli:

Tendulkar after 205 Innings:
Runs: 7829
Average: 42.31
Strike Rate: 86.52
Hundreds: 21
Fifties: 43
Percentage of Team Runs: 17.64%
Man of the Match (for batting): 30

Kohli after 205 Innings:
Runs: 10076
Average: 59.62
Strike Rate: 92.85
Hundreds: 37
Fifties: 48
Percentage of Team Runs: 16.93%
Man of the Match (for batting): 30

Kohli is way ahead of Tendulkar in most parameters. But interestingly, it is Tendulkar who scored a higher percentage of India’s runs than Kohli has after their respective 205 innings.

Also, they have won the same number of Man of the Match Awards. Logic would suggest that Kohli should have won many more. But that is not the case.

This suggests two things:

- Standards of Batting have improved, aggregates and scoring rates are higher now

- Kohli has had better support in batting throughout his career than Tendulkar did for the most part

Let us examine this further:

For a more honest comparison between Tendulkar and Kohli we need to compare them with the standards of their times.

Tendulkar after 205 Innings (18 Dec 1989 – 15 May 1999):

Standard Average (of Top 6) in this period: 31.94
Standard Strike Rate (of Top 6): 69.99
Hundreds by Top 6: 288

Kohli after 205 Innings (18 Aug 2008 – 24 Oct 2018):

Standard Average (of Top 6) in this period: 34.42
Standard Strike Rate (of Top 6): 81.69
Hundreds by Top 6: 728

virat sachin image 1

Thus we have:


Tendulkar Absolute Average after 205 innings = Tendulkar Average – Standard Average = 42.31 – 31.94 = 10.37

Similarly, Kohli Absolute Average after 205 innings = 25.2

Tendulkar Absolute Strike Rate after 205 innings = 16.53

Kohli Absolute Strike Rate after 205 innings = 11.16

Hundreds Ratio for Tendulkar = one hundred for every 13.71 overall hundreds

Hundreds Ratio for Kohli = one hundred for every 19.67 overall hundreds

These numbers give us a more accurate picture.

While Kohli has scored more runs and is better in terms of averages when compared to the world standard, interestingly it is Tendulkar who is more attacking as his Absolute Strike Rate suggests. Tendulkar’s scoring rate when compared to world standards is better than Kohli’s scoring rate ratio.

Kohli has scored 16 more hundreds than Tendulkar after 205 innings. But again, it is the latter whose frequency of scoring a hundred was better when compared to the world standard during his first 205 innings.

virat sachin image 2


Tendulkar first opened for India in only his 70th ODI. He scored a brilliant 82 in just 49 balls against New Zealand in Auckland on 27th March, 1994.

This innings transformed his ODI career.

Tendulkar was at his peak between 1994 and 1999.

It would be interesting to compare Tendulkar during this period with Kohli in the last five years.

Tendulkar Absolute Average between 27th March 1994 – 31st Dec 1999: 15.41

Tendulkar Absolute Strike Rate: 18.94

Percentage of Team Runs: 18.53%

Tendulkar Hundreds Ratio: one hundred every 10 overall hundreds

Kohli Absolute Average between October 2013 – October 2018: 35.74

Kohli Absolute Strike Rate: 13.51

Percentage of Team Runs: 19.51%

Kohli Hundred Ratio: one hundred every 19 overall hundreds

Tendulkar dominated between 1994-1999. There is a substantial increase in his Absolute Average. But what Kohli has achieved in the last 5 years is mind-boggling as his Absolute Average of 35.74 suggests.

This suggests that Kohli’s domination has been extraordinary in this period and there is a huge gulf between him and his contemporaries – even more than what the gap between Tendulkar and other batsmen was in the late 1990s.

He also pips Tendulkar on the percentage of runs scored for India during their respective best periods. This in spite of India having other world class batsmen in the team like Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.

However, again, it is clear that Tendulkar was well ahead of his times as far as scoring-rate was concerned. As attacking Kohli has been in the last 5 years, the numbers suggest that Tendulkar was much more attacking and aggressive than his contemporaries.

India won 44 out of the 72 matches in Tendulkar’s best period when he scored 30 or more (61.11%). The corresponding percentage for Kohli is 65.6.


Average: 68.54
Strike Rate: 94.51
Absolute Average: 34.32
Absolute Strike Rate: 13.48

Average: 42.33
Strike Rate: 88.44
Absolute Average: 10.05
Absolute Strike Rate: 15.38

Kohli is probably the greatest chaser in the history of ODI cricket. His strength has been scoring big and remaining not out (28 not outs in 166 chases).

Tendulkar’s strength in chases was his strike rate – he did not get as many big scores as Kohli but the rollicking starts he gave opening the innings often set the platform for India.


Kohli averages 55.80 in World Cup and Champions Trophy matches. In 29 innings in these matches he has a strike rate of 86.51. He has 2 hundreds and 6 fifties.

Comparing him to the standards of other batsmen of his era in these tournaments, Kohli’s Absolute Average is 20.26. His Absolute Strike Rate is 2.86.

Tendulkar averages 52.28 and has scored his 2719 runs in these two tournaments at a strike rate of 87.14 with 7 hundreds and 16 fifties.

His Absolute Average is 21.18 – marginally better than Kohli’s. But it is his Absolute Strike Rate of 14.22 which is considerably higher than Kohli’s.
This shows that while Kohli takes a more measured approach in big tournaments, Tendulkar was at the peak of his attacking game when it came to the marquee events.

It would appear that batting has become easier post the advent of the IPL. The bats have more meat, the boundaries are shorter, the scoring rates have increased since the inception of T20 cricket and the overall quality of fast bowling has deteriorated.

Tendulkar also played a lot of ODI cricket with the red ball which offered more help to both, the seamers and spinners.

The rules of ODI cricket have also been tweaked heavily in favour of the batsmen. Earlier, the fielding restrictions applied only to the first 15 overs. The remaining 35 overs could have a maximum of 5 fielders outside the inner circle. Now overs 1-10 have the two-fielder restriction but overs 11-40 allow a maximum of four fielders outside the 30-yard circle. This is where the run rates have soared.

A lot more batsmen average above 40 now and some have even crossed 50. During Tendulkar’s era, a handful crossed 40.

But here is the interesting stat. While scoring rates have increased significantly over the last decade and a half (73.77 in Tendulkar’s era to 81.69 in Kohli’s era), the average runs scored per batsman (top 6) hasn’t changed much.

The rise is marginal from 32.24 to just 34.42. Yes, more batsmen now average above 40 (and some even above 50) than before, but overall the batting averages remain the same.

Even if we consider the first half of Tendulkar’s career (till 31 Dec 1999) the batting average was 31.71. The real difference was in the strike rate which was as low as 69.73.

Again, one would imagine that Tendulkar faced better quality of bowlers – the likes of Akram, Younis, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald, Warne, Muralitharan – to name a few greats while Kohli has benefitted from the overall fall in bowling standards in the last decade.

Shockingly, this is not true.

The bowling average during Tendulkar’s career was 32.41. It is 32.86 during Kohli’s. However, the bowling strike rate has improved slightly from 41.6 to 38.7.

But the real difference, again, has been in the economies. Bowlers conceded 4.66 runs every 6 balls during Tendulkar’s career which has increased to 5.08 post Kohli’s debut.

Even if we consider the first half of Tendulkar’s career (1989-1999), the bowling average then was 32.46 and strike rate 43.9.

So the real and only difference is in the run rate and economy rate. While batsmen are now scoring quickly and hence scoring more in the same number of overs, bowlers are conceding more in the same quota of overs.


Kohli is clearly the greater run-scorer. He has a bigger appetite for big runs than Tendulkar. He is also a phenomenal and better chaser.

But Tendulkar has been the more attacking batsman who redefined the art of aggressive batsmanship in the late 1990s. Tendulkar also had a great record in big-matches and tournaments. He was India’s highest impact batsman in the 2011 World Cup and had phenomenal returns from the 1996 and 2003 editions.

Tendulkar also did not have the luxury to go all-out in the 1990s as India was heavily dependent on him. Thus he had to mix attack with caution. He had to play the dual role – of scoring big runs and scoring them quickly as there were very few big hitters in the Indian line-up. Thus he had to take more risks. Still to imagine that he achieved what he did and the way he did it in this period speaks volumes about his ability, talent and temperament.

With the exception of Ganguly, all other greats - Yuvraj, Sehwag and Dhoni – the big hitters and match-winners, blossomed and peaked post 2000 – by the time Tendulkar had already changed from ‘attacker’ to ‘accumulator’.

The current Indian line-up is less dependent on Kohli as there are other batsmen like Rohit and Dhawan who can win matches single-handedly – and who not only score big but also score quickly.

Overall, what Kohli has achieved purely in terms of the sheer volume of runs and the manner and remarkable consistency in which he has got them – make him the greater ODI batsman. And perhaps the greatest in ODI cricket history.

But while we see the best of Kohli today, one can only imagine what Tendulkar could have produced if circumstances allowed him to play to his full potential.
First Published: October 26, 2018, 8:56 AM IST

Also Watch

Live TV

Team Rankings

1 India 5007 116
2 South Africa 4280 110
3 New Zealand 3213 107
4 Australia 4566 104
5 England 5490 104
FULL Ranking