Openers provide the sparkle in lustrous line-up

2007 Mar 16 by DreamCricket

If the Indian batting line up is arguably the most lustrous in the world much of it is due to the excellent starts.

If the Indian batting line up is arguably the most lustrous in the world much of it is due to the excellent starts.

Over the years whether it is Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly India has been well served by the opening pairs. The brilliance at the top – and the middle order – is best symbolized by the fact that Indians hold the ODI partnership records for the first five wickets.

Even in the World Cup Indians hold the partnership records for the second and third wickets. Tendulkar, Ganguly and Rahul Dravid have each crossed the 10,000-run mark in ODIs and all of them quite often have been the top three in the batting order. Dravid has also occasionally opened the innings.

As the Indians approach their World Cup campaign they have a delicious number of options at the top of the order. With Robin Uthappa having established himself as an exciting stroke player the team management now has four opening batsmen which in turn gives them six options. But this kind of embarrassment of riches also means that two of the quartet will have to figure in the middle order. Of course a certain flexibility can be adopted as to who should open and who should go in later depending upon the situation. But the fact remains that all the four should find a place in the playing eleven with Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni firmly slotted in the middle order. Dinesh Karthik of course comes in should a player be injured or is affected by a serious lack of form.

There are a few things to consider however before the final opening pair is selected. One is current form and past reputation. Sehwag falters on the former but thrives on the latter. Uthappa however walks in on current form as does Ganguly. There can always be a place for Sehwag in the middle order. In fact that’s where he started before he was pushed up the order. Tendulkar should ideally come in at No 3 or No 4 from where he can lend stability should the team lose a couple of wickets or build upon the momentum given by a good start.

It could also be a sound tactical move to have a left right combination which means Ganguly has to open. And in the form that he is displaying these days he would not like to waste any time before going for the bowling. It must not be forgotten that his memorable 183 against Sri Lanka at Taunton in 1999 – arguably the most naked onslaught by an Indian opener in an ODI – was notched up while going in first. Four years later in South Africa he was happier at No 3 symbolized by the fact that he got three hundreds while allowing Tendulkar and Sehwag to open. But going by events in the last few months it would be better if Ganguly opens while Sehwag goes down the order. That way the left right combination could still be in operation with Uthappa going out with Ganguly and Tendulkar as I said going in at No 3 or No 4.

The admirable aspect of the Indian batting has been its flexibility. Too often the team management has adopted the conventional strategy in batting positions but now and then when it tries out something new the Indians have generally been able to put up match winning totals. Dhoni pushed to No 3 twice in the space of a few months in 2005 notched up buccaneering knocks of 148 and 183 not out. Dravid of course has got an excellent record anywhere in the middle order. Yuvraj Singh is a pillar of strength in any position from No 3 downwards. Tendulkar has excelled both at the top and in the middle order. All this augurs well for the Indian batting. Now if only the bowling and fielding could back them up!