30 Days, 30 Questions: Our obsession with records and statistics

Cricket is a team sport. So why do we care about individual milestones so much?

Today in 30 Days, 30 Questions:

Fans celebrate with sweets after Sachin Tendulkar's landmark hundred against Bangladesh.

Today's question: Cricket is a team sport. The objective of getting 11 men together on the field is to win. So why do some cricket fans, particularly Indians, obsess so much about individual statistics and records? This is particularly in reference to Tendulkar's 100 hundreds. Why must an individual milestone dominate popular discourse when the team itself is in a battered condition?

Please leave your responses in the comments below. We will republish the best ones.


[Update, March 18]: Thanks for your comments. As expected, any talk of Tendulkar tends to polarise opinions, and many of the comments were variants of 'shut up, don't insult our god'. But we've managed to locate the readers who rose above this partisanship to come up these comments.

Mohan minces no words (and uses plenty of exclamation marks):

Do we actually realize that this ridiculous 100th hundred milestone was the major contributor to India's defeat against lowly Bangladesh? The abysmal strike rate (obviously to achieve this so-called individual milestone) rendered our total 20-30 runs short! Ball not coming on to the bat? Ridiculous! It came on nicely for the Bangladeshis when it mattered and went sailing over the boundary repeatedly! It's high time we recognise cricket as a team sport. Most importantly, the team must win, not any individual! And if an individual innings is against the interest of the team, let's call a spade a spade! Maybe an exit from the Asia Cup (quite likely) would end this crazy obsession with records & milestones but most likely it won't. There are many who actually don't mind India losing (even humiliated, as was the case with Bangladesh) so long as a record is achieved! Truly pitiable! And we expect Indian cricket to improve?

Pranav Mathur
feels milestones can also be good for the team:

People say that Sachin plays for his statistics. I strongly disagree. Of course there have been occasions we have seen Sachin going slow or nervous in his nineties, but this is common with a few exceptions like Sehwag or Gilchrist. However, I strongly feel that a true sportsman plays for his country to win and not for his own records. I still remember in Kapil Dev writing in his autobiography how Syed Kirmani sacrificed his wicket so that Kapil could score his maiden Test hundred. This was totally for the team's benefit and not for individual milestones.

Captain PK Sethi
feels certain records are timeless.

Agreed it is a team sport but some records have a special charm and lustre and they can not be forgotten as they remain etched in the memory for ever. How can we ignore Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy's opening partnership pf 413 against New Zealand, a record that stood for over 50 years? Or Don Bradman's batting average of 99.94; Anil Kumble's 10-for against Pakistan, Gavaskar becoming the first man to reach 10,000 Test runs. Now coming to the great Sachin's hundredth 100 - it seems impossible for this record to be ever broken. May be it will take a hundred years to be broken. Though the game comes before records and statistics, importance of certain records, some of which are mentioned above, can not be over-emphasised.

Anudeep says individualism is a societal problem.

Our Social mindset is geared about "self". If we look around us in all other spheres, it's easy to find that individualism is dominant. If Indians wants to be happy, they can brag about the achievements of their individuals, but the defeat of a nation will hang around their necks like a dead albatross always.

Prashant says what many of us have known about Tendulkar's batting - it makes us turn off our lives and turn on our TV sets:

Tendulkar's record is not a simple one. It's a mammoth, a glory which blinds people to the objectives of playing a match. When Tendulkar plays, most people wish he hit a hundred. People don't care if the team loses or win.

Pappu Mohanty builds on that theme:

It's not about the statistic in cricket. I feel it's the emotions Indians feel for Tendulkar. He makes people feel he's one of their family. They don't remember his statistics. Their fascination is for Sachin the great character.

Amal Biyani feels the same way.

It was never the personal records but the determination and persona of the great man which always gave India a time to rejoice. Twenty two years and counting. Why hasn't any other player in world cricket been able to do it? This man has earned what he has. We'd lost the game but still people rejoiced. Can this happen if any other cricketer in the world had scored a hundred in a losing venture? No. Because it was the Super Man from India. He has never been selfish as some people say.

Gnanagurubaran says one can't blame fans for the obsession with records. 

People cant be blamed for this. Sachin was someone on whom the team was over-dependent not long ago. Naturally, Sachin has more supporters than the team. So, the simplest reason is this: he is everybody's favourite player, and so everybody yearns for him to go after records. They are not bothered with results because the concepts of team work and collective confidence are new to the Indian team. Indian people can't change the way they feel about it overnight.

Praveen blames everyone's favourite punching bag, the media.

It is the media that hypes records so much. The hundredth hundred was not on people's mind until you - the media - hyped it so much. You hyped it and then watched the fun as both Sachin and his fans got frustrated. We are not obsessed with records. YOU are the cause. Stop publishing this statistical junk in the news then see who will care.

Thanks for your participation. We look forward to your views in the next topic.

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