Bangalore: How do you assess a cricketing rivalry? By how well matched the two protagonists are? Through head-to-head numbers? Or is the whole concept of rivalry something more visceral, to do with the intensity and excitement that make encounters unforgettable?
Conventional cricket statistics fall short because they cannot factor in context. VVS Laxman retired with only 17 Test centuries, and an average just under 46. In the modern age, with pitches where even 300-run chases are becoming routine, those figures are unremarkable. But they also reveal how stupid we are to give so much importance to certain numbers.
Each year, you see at least a dozen pedestrian Test hundreds that won’t be remembered the following week. Laxman played two of the greatest innings of the past decade – 73 against Australia at Mohali when he could barely walk, leave alone bend, and a 96 at Kingsmead, when no other batsman crossed 40. Many Test centuries aren’t fit to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two innings.