Thursday, November 26, 2009

What's the opener's job anyway?

There was once a time when the job description for an opening batsman in test matches required the ability to start cautiously, see off the new ball, and then build on a strong start. This week's cricket gives the impression that those days, it seems, are a thing of the past. With three test matches going on in scattered places of the world, you'd have expected a traditionalist to sit back and enjoy some trademark test cricket. Fortunately or unfortunately, this was not to happen.

As I write, all three matches are still in progress. India are assured winners against Sri Lanka with two days to play unless the heavens come down pouring, the chances of which are remote at best. At Dunedin, New Zealand hold the upper hand against the unpredictable Pakistanis. And Australia are firmly placed against West Indies on day one. One interesting thing to note in all these matches is the performance of the openers. If you're new to cricket, you'd think what difference do the words 'openers' or 'tailenders' have at all? Three ducks in three different matches - is that the new 'in thing' for an opener? First of the three happened on Tuesday. New Zealand's Tim McIntosh bowled by an Aamer yorker first ball of the match. Clearly late on the ball and playing down the wrong line with feet jammed in the crease, McIntosh got New Zealand started on the wrong foot. Next up on Wednesday, Sri Lanka's latest wonder-boy Tillakaratne Dilshan. After toiling in the field for over ten hours, Sri Lanka needed a good start to reply to the mammoth 642 put up by India. Instead, it was Dilshan needlessly going early at a Zaheer Khan delivery outside leg stump. The result: simple catch at mid on, and India get a bonus wicket, first ball. And then come Thursday, Shane Watson conveniently left a Jerome Taylor delivery in hope of length. Easy decision, LBW for a duck. This one lasted seven balls though.

And so it seems like scoring the first run has become some sort of a milestone. That precisely seems to be the mindset with some openers. Lets look at Pakistan's case - Khurram Manzoor and Imran Farhat. I doubt if there has ever been such a long phase that a team is unable to find a stable pair of openers. Decade of opener-lessness is all set to be celebrated. They did get off the mark, but still failed to make a mark. Sri Lanka's Tharanga Paranavitana is another case in point. Getting in and not carrying on.

Is this the new job description for an opener? Even James Anderson would do a better job than this (he holds the record for most number of consecutive innings without a duck). Thankfully though, the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Martin Guptill and Simon Katich save the day (and the art too)!

Added today:
As if three ducks in three days weren't enough, Martin Guptill fell for a fourth-ball duck today! Inside edging Mohammed Aamer, and New Zealand off to a disastrous start in the second innings bringing Pakistan right back into the game. Change the batting order I'm telling you, CHANGE IT!

1 comment:

  1. Imran Farhat's job is being a whore.