September 14, 2006

India Opens

WHAT'S YOUR GUT feel about the opening slot – should it be Sachin-Dravid or Sehwag-Sachin? Or do you think either Dhoni or Yuvraj should partner one of the usual suspects? Should India use new openers in every game - that way Raina, Kaif, Mongia and even Irfan can all have a real go in the first power play? Should Kuala Lumpur be a used as a full-blown trial run for the Champions Trophy next month? Does India have it in them to pull off an Aussie against the Windies? And an Aussie against the Aussies?

Wait and see: with an Aussie in the midst, no theory is too far fetched, no opening partnership undoable. Each will have its strength-weakness analysis; and with Sachin and Dravid opening in Colombo, we might be in for more surprises as the cricket season unfolds. Here’s a possible shape of things to come -

Positives - Sachin-Sehwag opening: (Attack of the clones)
Sachin wants to open, loves to open and will open come what may - he's conditioned to open - come rain, Colombo, bombs, Chappells or Dravids.
Sehwag's strike-rate, big shots, proven success, give a rat's ass attitude.

Negatives - Sachin-Sehwag:
Sachin facing the new ball after a long lay off. Debate over his present form and fitness - can he force the pace in the first 10, can he bat the full 50?
Sehwag doesn't want to open, hates to open but is made to open, come what may - he's been rambling on about his middle-order status since Ganguly Raj. Press loves to berate him – especially when in pursuit of quick runs he gets out, quickly. Everybody forgets his awesome strike rate then. Mantle of senior player (vice captain) demands extra responsibility that clashes with no-holds-barred style of play.
Nobody in India appreciates that Gilchrist plays a similar role, with a similar success-failure ratio for Australia. But then, Oz wins far more matches, and often Gilchrist’s off days go unnoticed.

Positives - Sachin-Dravid opening: (The empire strikes back)
If Sachin is in full flow then Dravid can be the perfect foil – for this to come off though, Sachin must bat like Sehwag or like he once used to.
Dravid appears to have got the opener’s bug too (at least in his mind) – score fast, score big - the field is in for God’s sake! Dravid can also block one end – neutralise McGrath, Lee and Edwards – and stall an early fall of wickets. If they score 90-100 for no loss in 20 they’re on. Veeru, Yuvi, Dhoni, take over, please. Will address India’s chronic problem of low scores in the last 10 slog overs.

Negatives - Sachin-Dravid:
Hello, we’re not watching test cricket, sirs…can you rev it up a bit…thoda sa. If not losing wickets means losing out on power plays, then India’s had it. This experiment works only if India wins, otherwise loopholes will emerge – even if they score big for the 1st wicket – like, they weren’t fast enough – the middle order is too vulnerable. Even the pitfalls of an inexperienced bowling attack might be blamed on this senior partnership.

Positives - Dhoni–Dravid opening: (to be released)
With all those Ds, sounds good, doesn’t it? Give Dhoni freedom, an open mind and Mr. Dependable for company, and you may just get another quick-fire 150 plus score from him. If India wants to fly in the first 20, (without Sehwag opening) Dhoni is a definite option – will give a clear sense of team India’s and MSD’s ambitions.

Negatives - Dhoni–Dravid:
Dhoni vulnerable against the swinging white new ball – also might get bogged down with Dravid not rotating the strike early on. A few failures and this experiment will be heavily criticized and prematurely nipped in the bud. Also, the added pressure of keeping wickets along with opening the innings will be a great test of character, fitness and the player’s milk intake. A real Dhoni v/s Gilchrist in the making…

Positives - Sehwag–Yuvraj opening: (to be released)
Left-Right, left right – marching off with Sehwag and Yuvraj means 1) Start strong with two of your biggest match winners in recent years 2) Chance to recreate Saurav-Sachin left-right magic (most successful opening pair in one day cricket) 3) Moving on from their legacy to a new team India. 4) Yuvraj bullies pacers not spinners

Negatives - Sehwag–Yuvraj:
Neither player is keen to open the batting. On the face of it, opening with Yuvraj appears too radical. This move might face the greatest opposition – also, it could prove to be the most rewarding. If anyone, Chappell-Dravid can pull it off. Remember Pathan’s success up the order? Then again, remember Pathan’s lack of success up the order?

Talking of Pathan, he too can open - with either Sachin or Sehwag, to keep the left-right combination going. Either way, by March next year, we should know who’s going to open - though with Chappell-Dravid in-charge that can be wishful thinking. For now, let the guessing games begin.

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