Pakistan v India, 3rd Test, Rawalpindi April 11, 2004

'We might try a non-specialist opener' - John Wright



Yuvraj Singh is very likely to open the batting at Rawalpindi but Parthiv Patel stands an outside chance © Getty Images

John Wright did nothing to clarify the much-debated matter of India's opening combination for the final Test at Rawalpindi. "It is a good problem to have," said Wright, talking about the possibility that the inclusion of Yuvraj Singh as opener could alter the set partnership of Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra. "We will take a decision on it immediately after the nets tomorrow. The tour selection committee - Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and myself - will sit down to solve the problem. All I can tell you is that it will be a left-hander or a right-hander." While some people believe this is an indication that Yuvraj will replace Chopra, it is interesting to note that Wright has earlier indicated that Parthiv Patel was also in the reckoning for an opening slot.

Yuvraj's blistering hundred in the second Test has made it next to impossible for the team to leave him out of the playing XI, especially in the light of Dravid and VVS Laxman struggling for runs in this series. "We had Sourav for the first Test and when Yuvraj came in he did so well. He came up with a quality fifty, followed by a century. The good thing about him is he wants to be out there in the middle. Actually, we might go into this Test match with a non-specialist opener." Once again this reference to a non-specialist opener could mean either Yuvraj or Parthiv.

Wright left things hanging in the air some more when he praised Chopra lavishly for his efforts. "At the same time, Aakash Chopra too has done very well. You cannot condemn a player on the basis of failure in one match alone. He helped give us great starts in Australia and in the first Test, put on what, 160, with Viru. Opening is a specialist position, he has a job to do, but we may consider a non-specialist option this time. Also, don't forget that in the long run, Viru views himself as essentially a middle-order batsman."

When asked whether it was necessary to even contemplate breaking up such a successful opening partnership, Wright countered, "Yes, that's true, but given the situation we have, what would you do? It is an interesting problem."

In the bowling department there are less tricky problems. "Balaji and Pathan are pretty certain to play and it's a toss up between Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra. Also it depends on what is decided [by the team management]. If we want to bat first, we may even go in with two-and-two, two seamers and two spinners. Let's see."

Pitches and tosses have come in for much discussion in this series, and Wright did not add fuel to the fire. "Everyone has an opinion about the wicket. The openers wouldn't want to get anywhere near if they see a green top while the bowlers would be itching to have a go. Everyone has an opinion and a captain has to take all those into consideration before making his own. A captain who cannot decide whether to bat or bowl first is in trouble from the start."

Wright also refused to place undue importance on the fact that Mohammad Sami was injured and thereby a doubtful starter for the deciding Test. "It was the same in the last match and they had a bloke [Umar Gul] who just walked in and took five wickets. You've got to respect your rivals. The team that they put up is the team that has to do the job. And I am sure they'll be trying real hard. Sometimes a new bowler can be dangerous - he's never had a chance and they want to make the best of the opportunity."