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Gambhir-Sehwag offer long-term solution to opening conundrum - Partab Ramchand column
by Partab Ramchand
Nov 03, 2008
There is something to be said about left-hand/right-hand opening combinations, particularly when one looks at the number of such successful pairings. From Allan Rae and Jeff Stollemyer to Bill Lawry and Bob Simpson, Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammed to Trevor Goddard and Eddie Barlow, Geoff Boycott and John Edrich to Gordon Greenidge and Roy Fredericks, right till the new millennium when Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs have made themselves the only opening pair to string together three 300-plus opening partnerships.

For all its seemingly perennial problems at the top of the order, Indian cricket has not been without its successful pairs. From the legendary Vijay Merchant and Mushtaq Ali to the record-breaking Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy, Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan to the unlikely successful pairing of Gavaskar and Kris Srikkanth India too has had it's share of partnerships that have provided substance and made it that much easier for the batsmen to follow. The point to note however, is that the successful Indian pairings have all been right-handed combinations. But with their impressive showing particularly in recent Tests, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are not only breaking this tradition but also could well emerge as among the most successful left-hand/right-hand pairings in Test history.

Playing for the same state team has certainly helped but perhaps the biggest advantage is that they are good friends. There's nothing really like being happy together in each other's company and Sehwag and Gambhir are making the most of this all important factor. The joy is certainly reflected in the results and the figures associated with the duo are quite spectacular. They have strung together four century partnerships and eleven partnerships over the half century mark in the 31 innings they have figured together since they first went out to open India's batting against Australia at Mumbai in November 2004. Their average of around 60 is right up there with the best and even though they have performed together only in the sub continent and against a weak Zimbabwe side the manner in which the two have gone about their jobs suggest that they should be able to handle tougher assignments too. The runs after all have been compiled against the reasonably strong attacks of Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

There are many aspects to admire in the Sehwag–Gambhir pairing. Both are attacking batsmen always on the look out for runs, whether it is playing the lofted shot, finding gaps in the field or taking the quick single. Sehwag of course is a law unto himself and brings off the most fantastic shots but Gambhir is no slouch either. Their recent partnership against Australia at Mohali probably sums up their attitude for the 182 runs they strung together were hit off just 39 overs. Fully aware that runs had to be scored quickly so that Dhoni could time his declaration at the right time Sehwag and Gambhir went for the bowling from the start, pinned the Aussies on the defensive and provided the perfect platform for a daunting target which of course was beyond the visitors.

They have some distance to go before matching the ten century partnerships notched up by Gavaskar and Chauhan in 59 innings but then these are early days for Gambhir and Sehwag. They certainly have it in them to become the most successful Indian opening pair. Moreover the substance they provide at the top means that the middle order can play with that much more freedom. For the moment though the important thing is that India cricket in all probability has found a long term answer to a vexing problem.
 
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