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    January 19, 2006

    Overvaluing the need for specialist openers

    Questions are being asked in several quarters about whether Dravid opening at Lahore in spite of the apparent fact that Ganguly had been picked as opener was necessarily a good thing.

    A lot of people talk about the opening slot being a specialist one. Balderdash, is what I'd say to that. Sehwag wasn't a specialist opener. Several other prominent openers in test cricket history didn't start off as openers. Names like Sidhu, Simpson, Gooch, Langer, Mushtaq Ali, Merchant, Jayasuriya, Trumper, Close, Atapattu, Mahanama, Vaughan, Majid Khan, Rameez Raja come to mind. I'm fairly sure I've missed out several others as well.

    On the other hand, Boon started off as an opener and when Taylor came into the side, became a superb #3. Mark Richardson started off as a bowler and ended up as one of New Zealand's most successful openers.

    So why bother about who opens, as long as they do a good job? Mind you, I'm not implying that I think Dravid should open. I still believe he should bat at #3.

    But I can't accept the notion that you need specialist openers, those who've opened all their life. How unlikely is it that Gambhir or Jaffer got thrust into the opening slot in an under-14 game when they were to actually bat at #3 or #4? This would very likely have happened when the chap who was supposed to open had a sudden stomach ache when he saw the opposition bowler run in to bowl off a 30 yard run-up. Ultimately it is what you make of your resources that matters. If the only way you get into a test side is as an opener, if the team thinks you have what it takes and if you definitely want to play test cricket, then swallow your pride and go and open the innings.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 1:30 PM |
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    6 sledge(s):

    maybe another mindset which will change in test cricket.

    opening _does_ require a different set of mental skills n technical adjustments (being light on ur feet for one). many middle order players have not done well when promoted to open. in india, vvs and hemang badani are examples.

    i feel its more of a mental adjustment. but if ur technique is too loose, then u cant open, whether it is a specialist position or not.

    i am sure that the players u mentioned made those adjustments.

    By Blogger Srini at the Movies (19-Jan-2006, 7:31:00 PM)  

    I agree completely... given the resources on that day.. Dravid in his own words.. had the best technique required to do the job.. and he decided to lead from the front.. and yes.. i believe he should play no.3 as that's his comfortable position and we should find a stable opening partner for Viru soon. There are times when the opener goes in the first few overs.. then Dravid literally opens (but that's not a great arguement for his opening permanently and not when you have taken 3 specialists on the tour). Ganguly having opened in ODIs probably has the mentality.. and Jaffer probably has the technique.. Gambhir, sadly lacks both, IMHO. Tough choice but I feel Dravid opening is only stop-gap and I hope that its not permanent. A combinaion of the dogged mentality and decent technique should classify a person as a 'specialist' opener.. i think..

    btw.. another view on dravid opening on that day (on my site)..

    By Blogger Beowulf (19-Jan-2006, 7:33:00 PM)  

    Yes Srini, but it is also a function of how much you're willing compromise: Either you move out of your comfort zone or you take a risk with your career. For e.g. VVS made it clear in 2000/1 that he would not open even if that meant his test career ended. It requires guts to take that kind of stand. All those players I mentioned certainly made the mental adjustments. Would someone like Sehwag have made any adjustment at all?! But ultimately, for every batsman who has been a successful opener throughout his test career, there is very likely one who started off in the middle order and became an opener at a later stage and didn't do too badly. Langer is an example of someone who became an opener because that was the only way he could get back into the side (last test of the 2001 Ashes), eight years after his debut!

    By Blogger Jagadish (19-Jan-2006, 7:36:00 PM)  

    beowulf: I don't see why a dogged mentality is a must. There're any number of openers today who hardly qualify to be dogged openers. Someone like Langer reinvented himself totally. He used to be Sidhu-II (not in terms of verbal diarrhea, but as a strokeless wonder). Now he scores at strike rates in excess of 50, I'm sure! Ultimately you need the will [& attitude] to open, and a reasonably good defence.

    By Blogger Jagadish (20-Jan-2006, 7:25:00 PM)  

    jagadish: dogged mentality.. i mean a will to stick it out if things are not going your way.. langer even in recent series was ready to take balls on his body than gift his wicket away.. got nothing to do with strike rate.. as u have successful openers with rates varying from 0.4 to over 1.0 no baselines out there.. its just a will to survive if conditions do favor bowlers initially.. gambhir does not do that.. even if dice and pitch loaded in favor of bowlers.. he tries to blindly be aggressive.. langer mixes caution with aggression even though his technique sux.. grant the 1st session to bowlers.. wear them out..then score briskly later on.. what do u think..??

    By Blogger Beowulf (20-Jan-2006, 8:07:00 PM)  

    Bring back Akash Chopra!

    By Blogger Jagadish (21-Jan-2006, 12:04:00 AM)  

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