Walter Hammond - Cricinfo Profile
Wally Hammond - Wikipedia Profile
George "Black Bradman" Headley - Cricinfo Profile
George Headley - Wikipedia Profile
In an event of rare serendipity, three of the greatest number 3s of all time, Donald Bradman, George Headley and Walter Hammond, all came in a single era, i.e. the pre-WWII era. While the Don's supremacy is unparalleled and unquestionable (although an argument can be made in favor of both Headley and Hammond over the Don regarding proficiency on sticky wickets), it is the other two who are almost impossible to separate.
Headley had the distinct disadvantage of playing in a weak WI side, for whom an international test tour was a rarity, almost condescendingly conferred upon by the giants, England and Australia. Even when a full tour did materialise, the touring sides to the Caribbean were usually not of full strength, and often contained many of the 2nd team players. As it happened, the span of Headley's test career (24 years) was higher than the number of tests he was able to participate in. Nevertheless, the high quality of the man was there for all to see in its resplendent glory. His first class record, which included many touring matches in England, is a fantastic one. Since it also includes his domestic matches for Jamaica, they might be a touch glorified. He was the rock of the Windies batting during those days, and was a free flowing scorer of runs, being especially strong on the leg side. In 19 pre-war Tests he made 26.9% of West Indian runs off the bat - a greater ratio than even Don Bradman, who made 26.5% of Australia's in his 37 pre-war Tests. He scored around 2/3rds of his country's centuries in that period as well. He was said to be a master of the sticky wickets, especially while playing the spinners.
Wally Hammond on the other hand had quite a long and distinguished career and clashed against the mighty Australian team of Bradman's many a time. In fact, before the start of WWII, Hammond played in 77 tests, scoring 6883 runs at 61.45 with 22 centuries. That remains, to this day, the greatest test record after 77 tests by a batsman. So, he was a batsman of rare and sustained excellence for sure. Yes, his statistics were slightly augmented by his records against the minnows New Zealand and South Africa. But that is also true for every batsman across all generations. Surprisingly, Windies were the one team against whom he struggled, averaging a measly 35.50 in 13 tests against them. Hammond scored 36 first class double centuries, from a total of 167 centuries in 634 games.
Compare them only on the basis of batting, because Hammond was a useful all-rounder as well as a brilliant slip fielder. My choice is Hammond as the better bat. Who is yours?
P.S. I know many of you don't like these comparison threads, but this is a unique one I think as both the batsmen were from the same generation and faced similar opposition and conditions.