A lot of times we hear people saying that X batsman is the best "after Bradman" or Y batsman comes close to Sir Donald Bradman even if that player does not belong to Bradman's era.
Is it really fair to rate him above all the other players in the history of cricket??
Lets take a look at the conditions faced by the batsmen of different eras compared to Sir Don's era.
Number of oppositions
Bradman has played most of his matches against 1 team with an average of around 92 and one series against each minnows [India, SouthAfrica and WestIndies were new in cricket that time] and scored heavily against them. There were only 2 major teams at that time and out of which Australia were better, England didn't even have quality bowlers at that time apart from the bodyline series.
In the later eras, teams had to play against different oppositions who all specialised in
different skills(e.g. India were known for their great spinners and West Indies were known
for their brutal fast bowlers),on different grounds, conditions,etc. and had to adjust
according to it.
Rules of the game
Bradman played test matches when there was no time limit of five days so Bradman had full time to get used to every type of situation unlike how it became later when there was a 5 day limit.
The LBW law in Bradman’s time was that could only be given out if the ball pitched and hit in line with the stumps and then went on to hit them. This automatically rules out the in-swinger, the in-cutter, and the off-spinning deliveries that pitch outside but come in enough to hit in line. This is as potent a weapon for the bowler as the catch or even more as you can pad up to any ball outside off and get away. The batsman also gets the advantage when he is unsure which way the ball would go as he can again pad up and nullify the in-coming as well as the out-going delivery. Bradman was out leg before just six times in his career. The argument that he was so good that he was rarely struck in front of the wicket does not hold as he was bowled 23 times.
Bowling quality of the opposition
The bowling has become so advanced in modern cricket as compared to what it was before.The invention of reverse swing, doosra and all the different kinds of variations that make it difficult for the batsmen to stay at the wicket and keep scoring the runs easily.
Players like Sachin have played against Ambrose-Walsh-Bishop, Wasim-Waqar-Akhtar-Saqlain, McGrath-Lee-Gilespie-Warne, Donald-Pollock,Murali and many more. What about Bradman?
How many of bowlers of England were world class at that time??
Bodyline bowling (which was dealt with players in the later eras)
His average which was usually over 100 in maximum series came down to just 56 in bodyline series. This was the time when he was put under some real pressure with bouncers and aggressive bowling.
The players of later eras, had to face bouncers and hostile bowling a lot more then Bradman did and they still managed to score heavily.
Lillee,Thompson,Holding,Marshall,Roberts,Colin Croft,Joel Garner,etc. were all very brutal
bowlers and also used the bouncers effectively but someone like Gavaskar still managed to score against them with ease without a helmet, he averaged 65 against the great West Indian fast bowlers who were much more skilled than most of the bowlers in Bradman's time.
Bradman played 52 test matches over 20 years, in modern cricket you play that amount of matches in around 5 or 6 years (along with the other formats). The fitness level required to manage the schedule of modern day cricket is much higher than before. Sachin has played 162 tests in 20 years along with 440 ODIs.In the present schedule,Every year there are atleast 10 Tests and 30 ODIs each year.
And talking about the wickets, the wickets of that time weren't so bad, most of them were
batting wickets apart from the sticky wickets where Bradman never succeeded and Jack Hobbs was considered a master on them.
All I m trying to prove here is that you can never ever compare between players of different eras, Bradman was the greatest of his era and i salute him for his contribution to the game and his country, but similarly a lot of others have been excellent and dominated their respective eras, rating Bradman above all the others on the basis of his average is not fair.