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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Indian openers ~ WI test at Rajkot tomorrow

Read this interesting piece of statistics – Indian openers have made a solitary 100 opening stand while on tours of England, South Africa, Australia &  New Zealand (between 2009 – 2018) [England 28 innings – high 63; SA 16 innings – high 137; Australia 16 – 56 highest; New Zealand 10 – 73) – and we say – players succeed in teams, in tandem with partners.  Long ago, there was the openers – Sunil Manohar Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan !

The focus shifts to Saurashtra, a region located on the Arabian Sea coast of Gujarat state. It consists of 7 districts of Gujarat, including Rajkot District. It is a peninsula also called Kathiawar after the Kathi Darbar who ruled part of the region once.  The place where the match is tobe played in a new ground is  famous for its jewellery market, silk embroidery and watch parts. The city hosts several small scale manufacturing industries.  The city is also home to one of the largest CNC machine manufacturer in the country, Jyoti CNC Automation Pvt. Ltd.   That is Rajkot, the third largest city in the state of Gujarat, after Ahmedabad and Surat. Rajkot was the capital of the Saurashtra State from 15 April 1948 to 31 October 1956, before its merger to Bombay State on 1 November 1956. Rajkot was reincorporated into Gujarat State from May 1, 1960.  It is here the first test against the West Indies is to be played tomorrow and TOI has this photo ! (at Chepauk, spectators would be treated like animals!)

Back in 1983, when WI visited immediately after their loss in WC 1983 – it was unbeatable, fearsome team – a team that had : Clive Lloyd (cap); Gordan Greenidge; Desmond Haynes; Viv Richards, Larry Gomes, Richie Richardson, Gus Logie, Jeoff Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Wayne Daniel, Andy Roberts, Eldine Baptiste, Michael Holding, Winston Davis, Roger Harper and Milton Pydanna (second WK_) – the manager was Wesley Hall.

The little master very strong in defence sunil Gavaskar was threatening not to open, having had various partners including Eknath Solkar, Farokh Engineer, Parthasarathi Sharma, Anshuman Gaekwad, Chetan Chauhan, Pranab Roy, Krish Srikkanth,Arun Lal, Ghulam Parker – to name a few.  Indian selectors were seriously searching for good openers – and Rajan Bala wrote – ‘who is to partner CS Sureshkumar’ – underlining that the TN Opener had the correct technique and in the absence for Sunil, Selectors should find someone who would open with CS Suraishkumar, who had many tons in Ranji.  He did play against the visitors at Nagpur turning for Board President’s XI – openers being Pranob Roy and Navjot Sidhu – besides Suresh, there were Ashok Malhotra, Gursharan Singh, Chandrakant Pandit, L Sivaramakrishnan, Raju Kulkarni, Chetan Sharma, Shivlal Yadav & Maninder Singh.

A few days earlier, the Indian had been handed a humiliating innings defeat at Kanpur. In West Indies' first innings, India had had their chances, having reduced the mighty tourists to 157 for 5 at one stage. But Gordon Greenidge, en route to a monumental 194 that took over nine hours, put on partnerships of 152 and 130 with Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall, to guide West Indies to 454.  Then we saw how quick and menacing Malcolm Marshall was - in two balls, he made his mark, dismissing Sunil Gavaskar, caught behind for a duck. India 0 for 1. A few deliveries later, Mohinder Amarnath, about to begin his infamous "binary" run of scores, was leg-before for a duck. India 0 for 2. Gaekwad, poking desperately, edged one to Dujon and left, India 9 for 3. Vengsarkar’s stumps went for a fierce walk -  18 for 4. Winston Davis, happy to wade into the carnage Marshall had engendered, snapped up Ravi Shastri for a blob. India 29 for 5. India ended the day at 34 for 5, with Marshall's bowling figures reading 8-5-9-4. Cue the most famous headline in modern Indian cricket history: "Marshall Law in Kanpur".   India were only able to recover partially before subsiding to 207 all out.  Following on,  India again lost their first five wickets under 50, three of them to Marshall, and they went on to lose by an innings and 83 runs. (This little spell of play featured a moment familiar to all Indian fans who watched the telecast: Gavaskar's bat knocked out of his hand by a Marshall scorcher.)

The present WI team is nowhere close to dreaming such a spell – and Indian selectors are toying with opening slot -   keeping faith in Prithvi Shaw and bringing on Mayank Agarwal.  Murali  Vijay has made runs in foreign soil, but failed in England and so did Shikhar Dhawan.  KL Rahul made runs once the series was over – at Rajkot one of the rookies is bound to make their debut as opening partner to KL Rahul on Thursday - may just come down to the runs they've got, or more specifically the way in which they've got them. Agarwal began turning heads in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, when he racked up 1160 in 13 innings at a strike-rate of 68.80. He's always been a hard-hitter of the ball, particularly when he is able to flat-bat it right through the line. Shaw, by the way, has gone even quicker, scoring 76.69 per 100 balls even as he averages 56.72. But tons of players have walloped domestic bowlers around. It doesn't guarantee that they'll be able to make the step up, let alone reprise such a dangerous style of cricket.

Whatever the conditions, the spotlight will be on Agarwal and Shaw. In the last 10 years, India have had only one instance of the openers putting on 100 runs or more while on tour in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa.  The West Indies have been dealt a serious blow even before a ball has been bowled in what is likely to be a tough Two-Test series against India. Kemar Roach, their leading pacer, will miss the opening Test at the SCA Stadium here as he has been forced to fly back to Barbados following the death of his grandmother. He will re-join the squad midway through the first Test beginning here on Thursday. Roach has played 48 Tests, in which he’s taken 163 wickets at 28.31. In July, he had taken five wickets in just 12 balls at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua, to send Bangladesh crashing to 43 all out — the lowest total in Test cricket in the last 44 years. It was his eighth five-wicket haul. The Caribbeans are set to miss both his experience and pace on what is likely to be a fairly grassy track here.

Interestingly, if you remember, there was this lad – Abhinav Mukund who was pitchforked as an opener in foreign soil.  His career stats read : 7 matches 320 runs – here is how they came debut at Kingston June 2011 : 11 & 25; Bridgetown  1 & 48; Roseau 62;  England 2011 – Lords 49 & 12; Nottingham 0 & 3; then 6 years wait in Mar 2017 against Australia at Bengaluru 0 & 16 – his final change was against Srilanka at Galle – 12 & 81.  Yes, in his last innings he made 81 !! and never looked up thereafter

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Oct 2018.

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