Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sachin and Dravid to open

Wasim Jaffer, like Gautam Gambhir, keeps coming back into the team, flops, goes back to domestic cricket, scores tons of runs, and the cycle repeats. When are we going to take a decision on whether he has it in him to be an international level Test match opener? According to me, he does not have the technique to play the new ball against international attacks. He is unable to leave the rising, outgoing ball. And he gets bowled or LBW too often because he plays too loose away from his body. Even a bit of deviation finds him out. And he's not a Sehwag who can compensate for these technical flaws with brilliant unorthodoxy. He's great on flat wickets, against weak bowlers. Let's leave him there.
We have no option is the usual counter to this. I think until we spot a player on the domestic circuit with the potential to be an international opener, it's better to convert middle order bats into openers than to keep rotating players whose shortcomings have been exposed time and again. Okay, we converted Sehwag, and now look what's happened, you will say. Even though Sehwag notched up an amazing Test match average of over 50, I've always felt he should have stayed in the middle order. He's a devastating stroke-player, especially against spinners. We've possibly ruined a great career by making him an opener. New ball bowlers now know exactly what to bowl at him, he keeps getting out in a few set ways, and you can see what it's done to his confidence.
Okay, so what's the option? Of all the players who have turned out for India in the past few years, there remain only two who have the technique to be Test match openers - Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. They know how to leave the rising ball. That's the key. You will point out that Sachin's already been struggling in Test matches for the past couple of years (except against Bangladesh). But that's the point. How much worse can it get for him? And who knows, it might just give him a fresh lease of life in Test cricket, just like the opening transformed his one-day career.
Apart from having the necessary defensive technique, and all his experience as a one-day opener, Sachin would get maximum value for his strengths of timing and placement as an opener when the field is attacking. And we know it helps his game when he gets going, instead of being bogged down in the middle order as he tends to do these days. I wish he had retired in time, but if he must continue, maybe the Test match opener's slot is what he should eye. Not going to happen, but worth thinking about.
Imagine with Dravid and Sachin opening, the options it would open up to pack our middle order with strokemakers and also to try out newcomers.


Mahesh said...

I can understand Dravid opening the innings. He has the right temperament and technique. Not so sure about Sachin.

Plus who is going to convince these two to open?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

That's the trouble. Our senior players have too much of a say in team matters, despite the conflict of interest with their individual stakes. We desperately need a proven coach who is empowered to take such decisions.

Mahesh said...

Thats what Greg tried. Look whats happened to him now :)