Wow this thread took off all of a sudden with a good old fashioned GOAT debate. I love them
Sorry aditya, but I think that a lot of what you've written about Bradman misses the mark by quite a long way. For starters, the English bowlers of the era were very competent, in fact the 'Bodyline' attack of Harold Larwood, Bill Voce and Gubby Allen, supported by the spin of Hedley Verity, were fearsome indeed, and at other times the likes of Maurice Tate and Alec Bedser would have been bowling for England. I confess I know little of the South Africans or Indians of the time, but the West Indians would have had Learie Constantine in their bowling lineup; for you to assume that they would be bad to mediocre compared to their modern counterparts when you freely admit you know nothing borders on the idiotic.
Today's bowlers are far from "the most advanced ever". Technology can only do so much, if you haven't got the brain and the skill then it won't matter. As for technique, well afaik the basic biomechanics of the human body hasn't changed that much over the last 90 years so bowling techniques remain largely unchanged. And sadly I am unable to formulate a response that adequately conveys how ludicrous your comment about sample size was.
For any others, like aditya, who may not be such avid students of the history of the game, there is so much more which enhances Bradman's status, aside from his sheer statistical advantage.
For instance, he faced every single delivery of his career wearing only a baggy green; no helmets in those days. Batting gloves were also very basic compared to what is available today, kit which makes it a lot easier for modern day players to get in behind the line of fast bowling due to the significantly reduced risk of serious injury, and quicks back then were bowled just as fast as any modern day quick like Thompson, Marshall, Akhtar, Lee. Modern protective equipment such as thigh-guards and chest pads affords today's batsmen the sort of protection which increase options for shot selection. The only recent era great batsman who can possibly claim to have competed on an equal field with Bradman in this regard is Sir Vivian Richards, who never wore a helmet even though he played on into the era of helmets (I also felt old when someone listed the best five batsmen they'd seen and the list didn't include Viv, or Gavaskar
Also, the law governing the no-ball was changed shortly after the end of the Don's career to be based on the bowler's front foot
in relation to the popping
crease. Prior to that the law defined a bowler's back
foot in relation to the bowling
crease, a law which in Bradman's time allowed a bowler to release the ball from a shorter distance, thus further reducing the batsman's reaction time. Modern batsman enjoy the benefit of increased distance and time in which to decide upon and execute their shot.
Furthermore, bat technology has also advanced rapidly; the design and conditioning of modern bats conserves much more of the energy from the impact with the ball, resulting in a higher ball speed off the bat, and therefore the bat is much more capable of hitting fours and sixes, a situation exaggerated by the significantly smaller distances to boundaries on modern cricket grounds.
As for ranking the modern day players, I'd start by saying that I think some people itt are doing Kallis a disservice. Yes, sometimes his innings might seem to blend into one long net session, with not an exciting shot to comment on, but just because they are usually an exercise in accumulation, it shouldn't lessen their value; he still scores the runs, and at a formidable average that few can match. He's only man to score 10,000 runs and take 250 wickets in both Test matches and ODIs, and I also believe Kallis holds the record for the fastest Test fifty in terms of balls received, so he can turn on the taps if he needs to. These numbers add a lot of weight to his claim to all-time greatness as a cricketer, even if he misses out on the very top tier in the batting category alone.
I'd say the top two modern batsmen (last 20 years) are Tendulkar and Lara, but comparing the two is so difficult. Right throughout his career Tendulkar was fortunate enough to play in teams which have included such batting talents as Azharuddin, Vengsarkar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag and MS Dhoni, while Lara's team was saddled for long periods with the less obvious talents of such players as Sherwyn Campbell, Wavell Hinds, Adrian Griffith and Daren Ganga; Lara only caught the very end of the Haynes and Greenidge era, and the beginning of the careers of Sarwan and Gayle - for much of his time in the West Indian team his only reliable partner was Chanderpaul. The burden sharing by the Indian batting line-up has surely made Tendulkar's path a little easier than Lara's.
Tendulkar sticks mainly to textbook shots, he plays each one perfectly and displays almost immaculate shot selection and an uncanny ability with his placement to move the field about almost as if he were setting it, not the bowling captain. But I always had the feeling that if I put in enough practice I could do it. But Lara - some of the shots he played seem breathtakingly impossible, and no matter how quick the bowling he made time to do what was needed to get the ball away.
On balance, if I had to choose, I think I'd rather go and watch Lara - when he was on song he produced some phenomenal individual performances.
For me, Ponting and Waugh are both about the same, both played in Australian teams with phenomenal batting lineups, and it's a bit easier to be relaxed and play your best when you don't feel as if it's all on you, when you know that there are half a dozen other guys who can all contribute massive scores. For batting alone, I'd put Kallis in this bracket as well, just off the top.
And wow, easy as that, I've already written an essay, so I'll stop here. I guess just get passionate about the game.