Sachin Tendulkar was, by far, the greatest batsman in ODI cricket between 1996-98. He also had the highest batting average between 2001 and 2003.
But there was a period of two years – from the beginning of 1999 to the end of 2000 – when he was eclipsed by an elegant left-hander - his fellow teammate, Sourav Ganguly!
Ganguly was the highest run-scorer in the world in ODI cricket in these two years aggregating 3,346 runs in just 73 matches at a strike rate of 79.04.
His batting average of 50.69 was also the highest for all top-order (positions 1 to 4) batsmen who had played a minimum of 35 matches in this period.
He seldom slogged but still scored at a fair clip – his strike rate of 79.04 was higher than the likes of Saeed Anwar, Nathan Astle, Herschelle Gibbs, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Inzamam-ul-Haq amongst others.
Taking a combination of average and strike rate and there was no top-order batsman better than Ganguly in this period.
SCORED BIG RUNS
Ganguly scored big runs in this two-year period. His Actual Average (Runs Per Innings) of 45.84 was also the highest amongst the 38 batsmen who scored a minimum of 1,000 runs in this time-frame.
No one recorded more hundreds than Ganguly’s 11 or registered more fifty-plus scores than his 27 during this period. He also had a knack of scoring big hundreds – 8 of his 11 hundreds during this period were scores of 130 or more.
Most of his big runs in this period resulted in an Indian victory – he was a genuine match-winner for his country.
BIGGEST MATCH WINNER WITH THE BAT
More than two-thirds (67.12%) of the total number of runs Ganguly scored were in victorious matches for India in this period. This assumes significance as India did not have a great record between 1999-2000 and were sixth-best on the win-loss ratio having won 36 and lost 39 of the total matches they played in this period. Ganguly produced his best in these tough times for Indian cricket.
Just for perspective, Tendulkar scored 52.56% of his runs in wins for India in this period.
Ganguly was not only the biggest match-winner with the bat for India in this period but the most impactful batsman in the world. His batting average in victorious matches is the highest for any batsman.
9 of his 11 hundreds resulted in an Indian victory in this period. And overall 18 of his 27 (66.67%) fifty-plus scores were registered in wins. The corresponding percentage for Tendulkar was 46.15%.
His standout knock during this period was the 183 against Sri Lanka in Taunton in the 1999 World Cup – he broke the 16-year old record for the highest individual score by an Indian batsman in ODI cricket surpassing Kapil Dev’s unbeaten 175 at Tunbridge Wells in 1983. During the course of his innings, he put together a world-record 318 run stand with Rahul Dravid – the first triple century partnership in ODI cricket history!
Ganguly’s other memorable innings came against New Zealand in the third ODI at Gwalior in 1999. He hammered an unbeaten 153 off just 150 deliveries scoring almost 59% of India’s total of 261.
He also blasted 141 off 144 balls (again scoring more than 50% of India’s total) against a strong Pakistani bowling unit including the likes of Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq in a Carlton and United Series clash at Adelaide in 2000.
Ganguly displayed another unique quality during this period – of big-match play and temperament. He raised his game in the big matches of big tournaments. His unbeaten 141 off 142 deliveries helped India to a thumping 95-run victory against South Africa in the semi-final of the ICC KnockOut at Nairobi in 2000.
He was the highest scorer of the tournament with an aggregate of 348 runs from 4 innings.
He was also the third-highest scorer of the 1999 World Cup.
Overall, Ganguly aggregated 727 runs at an average of 72.7 in the two biggest tournaments of the period – the 1999 World Cup and the 2000 ICC KnockOut Trophy. Tendulkar scored 424 runs at an average of 42.4 in these tournaments.
CONSISTENT AND BIG BOUNDARY HITTER
Not only did Ganguly score big runs during this period, he was also very consistent in scoring them. He has the best frequency (every 2.7 innings) of registering a fifty-plus score during this period.
His Failure Rate (percentage of runs below 20) was also below 40% in this time-frame.
Ganguly was also a big boundary hitter. No one hit more 4s (334) and 6s (61) than him in this period. His frequency of hitting a boundary (4 or a 6) was also the best (5.4 boundaries, on an average, every innings). He is followed by Tendulkar who hit 4.5 boundaries every time he batted in this period.
There haven’t been many periods in Tendulkar’s career where his performances have been overshadowed by some other batsman.
But from the 1st of January, 1999 to the 31st of December, 2000, Ganguly was unstoppable and the best in the world in ODI cricket.
It was a period when DADA eclipsed GOD! And everyone else.