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Why is Tendulkar opening?

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st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} The Indian juggernaut appears to have made itself quite popular in New Zealand. Despite losing both the T20 games, they came back and have pretty much thrashed the daylights out of the Kiwis in the ODIs. Vettori very smartly added meaning to the dead rubber last match by saying that India and NZ were at 3-2 for all practical purposes and the final ODI is an opportunity for NZ to draw level. It’s not a bad way to look at it all, and India would do well to take it that seriously too. But the Kiwi bowling looks ineffective on these pitches against this batting line-up and it doesn’t augur well for them in the Tests (how absurd that Shane Bond should sit out because of idiotic politics). Their best chance might come from preparing the mean bowling tracks like they’re known for (though not to the ridiculous extents of 2003) – India may have the bowling to enjoy that now but that’s still the only chance NZ seem to have to get 20 Indian wickets.

The most significant contributor to the Indian batting, as has been the case for over a year now, is the opening partnership of Gambhir and Sehwag. In 35 innings they constitute India’s most successful Test opening partnership (averaging 58). In 24 innings, they comprise India’s most successful ODI opening partnership (averaging 60). In 10 innings, they make up India’s most successful T20 opening partnership (averaging 37 and no 2 in the world).

Both have reached levels of excellence perhaps not fully fathomed by people around them. Not much else can explain why their partnership is being broken to accommodate Tendulkar at the top whenever he is fit. This, despite sufficient evidence that both Gambhir and Sehwag on current form can do for their team in individual capacities what Tendulkar at his best can do - just look at the matches of the last few months. It is a very rare thing to have two players who open at every level – for their state team, their IPL team, for India in T20s, ODIs and Tests. Their understanding is intuitive and remarkable – it is obvious they bring out the best in each other with their contrasting styles and complement each other magnificently. Their excellent understanding while running between wickets and judging quick runs is also significant – this quality invariably prevents them from getting bogged down at the beginning of the innings…they’ve been doing it superbly for quite some time now. A left-right combination at the top is a proven advantage in any form of the game, and Tendulkar opening the innings with Sehwag breaks that.

Worse, the Sehwag-Tendulkar opening pair poses a problem in the sense that Tendulkar is more prone to injuries which implies an unstable opening pair for a team of India’s stature. Definitely not a good thing if India’s batting order has to gain a certain rhythm till the time the next World Cup arrives.

And if Tendulkar doesn’t open, the growth and maturity that the Gambhir-Sehwag pair can reach needs no second-guessing. Are we stopping another legendary opening pair like Tendulkar-Ganguly from happening? And unlike Tendulkar and Ganguly, Sehwag and Gambhir have the stomach to open in Tests – should they not be given the first choice to choose their batting positions in ODIs too?

Tendulkar at no. 3 is the most perfect position for him in the current scheme of things. With a team packed with aggressive young stroke-players, who is the most qualified player to anchor the side and guide it to the finish line – the most experienced one surely? Does not Tendulkar
have the ability to change his game as per the situation better than anyone else? In fact, he has done it wonderfully a couple of times in 2008 itself.  Most importantly, it is also equally clear that both Sehwag and Gambhir play at their best with each other, and they are so obviously at their peak now as a pair. If they are going to be broken when they’re at their peak, how can the team allow that?

Also, we have seen Dhoni come at no. 3 often these days to hold things together. How can that be a good thing for a team which needs his presence lower down the order to finish games off with a calm (and ability to attack) that very few have?

All in all it makes no sense that the world’s best opening pair is being broken and not given a regular run. One can’t help but wonder if this is another example of the Holy Cow culture continuing, even under Dhoni’s reign.


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