The unusual move yields rich dividends for India and for Irfan.
Irfan Pathan's promotion in the ODI against Sri
Lanka at Nagpur on Tuesday was not the first time such
an unusual move has paid off.
Here are some more examples down the years:
Chetan Sharma, Nehru Cup, Kanpur, 25 Oct. 1989
India had beaten Sri Lanka but lost to the West Indies
in this six-nation tournament staged to commemorate
the 100th birth anniversary of India's first Prime
Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the third match at Green Park, Kanpur, England had
run up a useful total of 255 for 7 from 50 overs with
medium-pacer Chetan Sharma picking up the wickets of
captain Graham Gooch and Allan Lamb.
Sharma had scored 7 not out batting at number 10
against the Windies. Now in a surprise move, captain
K. Srikkanth promoted him to number 4.
India had lost the wickets of openers Srikkanth (32)
and Raman Lamba (16) when Sharma joined Navjot Singh
Sidhu at the crease at 65 for 2.
The pair smashed the bowling in a stand worth 105.
Sidhu was out for 61. But Sharma went on to remain
unbeaten on 101 from 96 balls as India won by 6
He had never hit even a half-century in ODIs before or
Sachin Tendulkar, bowling last over v. South Africa,
Hero Cup at Calcutta, 1993
India under the captaincy of Mohammad Azharuddin was
involved in a tense semi-final with South Africa in
the Hero Cup five-nation tournament in Calcutta in
Tendulkar had disappointed with the bat in the
tournament with scores of 26 not out, 2, 24, 3 and 15
in this game. But it was with the ball that he made
the vital contribution.
India could only muster 195 from 50 overs, the captain
contributing a masterly 90.
But South Africa, still fresh to international cricket
lost their nerve in front of a raucous crowd of nearly
100,000 at the Eden Gardens.
With the last over to bowled, they needed six to win
with two wickets in hand and the pendulum had swung
back to them in a topsy-turvy match. The question was:
who would bowl that last over?
Even as his captain and senior bowlers were
hesitating, the young Tendulkar snatched the ball from
Azhar and marked out his run-up.
Fanie de Villiers was run out from the first ball
going for a second run and then Allan Donald and Brian
McMillan were tied down to just two runs from the last
five balls with Tendulkar bowling a bewildering array
of deliveries. India had won by two runs and would win
the final against the West Indies three days later.
Tendulkar opens for the first time, v. New Zealand at
Auckland, 27 March 1994.
The home side had won the first of the four matches at
Napier with India's openers Ajay Jadeja and Sidhu
adding 66. Tendulkar was out for 15.
But on the morning of the second game, Sidhu woke up
with a stiff neck and declared himself unfit.
Tendulkar himself had thought he was being wasted
lower down the order and had been dropping hints in
the media that he was keen to open. It would be his
The think-tank of captain Azhar and coach Ajit Wadekar
took the decision on the morning of the match and
Tendulkar has never looked back since.
The Kiwis crawled to 142 all out in 49.4. The total
was overtaken in a trice with Tendulkar's innings
inspiring awe all round the ground.
The 100 of the innings was posted in 12.5 overs.
Tendulkar's 82 consisted of just 22 scoring shots (49
balls), came in 69 minutes and helped wrap up the
match with 26.4 overs to spare. There were 15 fours
and two sixes in his blazing knock.
Even the umpires applauded him off the field when he was out!
India won by 7 wickets, the series was tied at 2-2.
Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya open for Sri Lanka,
Even though Chetan Sharma had been promoted to the
pinch-hitter's role in 1989 (see above), that was a
one-off move. The tactics of taking advantage of the
fielding restrictions for the first 15 overs was
actually perfected by Sri Lanka's skipper Arjuna
Ranatunga in the World Series Cup in Australia in
Roshan Mahanama and Sanath Jayasuriya had opened in
the first four games with little success. In the
fourth against Australia at Melbourne, it was
wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana who was promoted
with immediate results.
Little Kalu smashed 77 from 75 balls and the Lankans
won by three wickets. The pair helped Lanka reach the
finals where they were beaten by the hosts.
Though they failed in both the finals, the experiment
was persisted with in the Wills World Cup that
followed a few months later with devastating results.
Jayasuriya was the man of the tournament and Lanka
lifted the World Cup for the first time. It heralded
the arrival of power openers.
Dipak Patel opening the bowling for New Zealand, 1992
Kiwi captain Martin Crowe stunned the cricket world by
opening the bowling with off-spinner Dipak Patel in
the 1992 World Cup.
The Nairobi-born all-rounder picked up eight wickets
in the tournament as New Zealand stormed to the
semi-finals with an unbeaten record on their own turf.
But they then came up against a resurgent Pakistan,
the eventual winners and had to bow out.
Once the shock value had worn off, the ploy was rarely
tried again in ODIs.