Pakistan v India, 3rd Test, Rawalpindi, 1st day

Messing around at the top

The whole idea of shielding batsmen is now passé, thanks to the Australians who play cricket as it should be played - without fear

Dileep Premachandran in Rawalpindi

April 13, 2004

Text size: A | A



Parthiv Patel as opener: inspired move or foolish gamble © Getty Images
Enlarge

By late afternoon, enterprising batting from Mohammad Sami and Fazl-e-Akbar had done much to restore morale in the Pakistan dressing-room after the top-order batsmen were roughed up on a helpful pitch by India's pace attack. India, having run out of puff after tea, then gave Pakistan another spring in their stride by bizarrely opting to open with Parthiv Patel.

At his pre-match press conference yesterday, Sourav Ganguly had categorically stated that he and Yuvraj Singh - who replaced Sadagoppan Ramesh, a specialist opener, from the squad that toured Australia - were the ones in contention to partner Virender Sehwag at the top of the order. "When we picked Yuvraj ahead of Ramesh in the squad, he had agreed to open if required," were Ganguly's exact words.

And it was on those grounds that Aakash Chopra was dropped from the playing XI. Chopra's periwinkle-on-rock-smashed-by-stormy-seas batting style might not be easy on the eye, but it had been mighty effective. In the eight Tests that he has opened with Sehwag, they produced four century partnerships, two of them against the best team in the world. In the first Test of this series at Multan, they put on 160 to lay the foundation for the run-fest that followed.

You couldn't fault Ganguly's reasoning yesterday. Yuvraj was in better form than Chopra and, considering this game as a one-off, was therefore well worth a gamble. But by not opening with him, the team management sent out the worst possible message to the likes of Chopra, Ramesh, Wasim Jaffer and Vinayak Mane - men who have earned their place on the fringes by virtue of their displays against the new ball. If they watched this and thought, "What's the point? We might as well bat down the order ourselves, since middle-order bats are the flavour of the month," you couldn't fault them.

And it's not as though Patel - who batted adequately to be not out on 13 at the close - came in with any pedigree as an opening batsman. His only previous attempt at taking the shine off the new ball at Test level had lasted precisely four balls, before Daryl Tuffey ended his misery at Hamilton. When he walked out to face Shoaib Akhtar, sprinting in to hurl the ball down at 95mph, it was impossible to ignore the lamb-to-the-slaughter analogy.

The whole idea of shielding batsmen is now passé, thanks to the Australians who play cricket as it should be played - without fear. With the decision to send Patel in, the Pakistanis were given the message that neither Ganguly nor Yuvraj fancied a late-afternoon contest against the new ball. And in a Test match of such import, that simply wasn't the sort of message you wanted to convey to the opposition.

Of course, Patel may go on tomorrow and make a big score, thus making his promotion look like an inspired hunch. But to praise it would be to miss the point. Breaking up India's most successful opening combination in years to fit in an in-form batsman was a dodgy enough move. What followed was a knee-jerk reaction, and a big step backwards that did no-one involved any favours. There is a line from that old rhyme which goes, For want of a rider, the battle was lost. Indian cricket, which has suffered from the want of an opener ever since the irreplaceable Sunil Gavaskar stowed his bat away - and lost many Tests as a result - should have known better.

RSS Feeds: Dileep Premachandran

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Dileep PremachandranClose
Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
Related Links

    The cricket tragic who bowled Bradman

Former Australian PM Bob Hawke loved cricket. And he once left the Don speechless with the force of his political convictions

    'The worst thing about being a keeper is stinky hands'

Chris Read talks about how unprepared he was for Tests, and that slower ball from Chris Cairns

    Everybody deserves a second chance?

Switch Hit: Mark Butcher joins our team to discuss the new England coaches, KP, and a potential England XI

    England's Pietersen folly

Martin Crowe: Not getting rid of Kevin Pietersen after the texting saga in 2012 cost them greatly

Fizz, flight and loop

V Ramnarayan: Erapalli Prasanna was a masterful conjurer and perhaps the shrewdest of India's great spin quartet

News | Features Last 7 days

UAE all set to host lavish welcoming party

The controversy surrounding the IPL has done little to deter fans in UAE from flocking the stadiums, as they gear up to watch the Indian stars in action for the first time since 2006

The watch breaker, and Malinga specials

Plays of the day from the IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it

'Sri Lankan fans embrace the team, not just icon players'

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara go over their World T20 win, and feel grateful to have fans whose support remains unwavering in victory and defeat

Crunch time for Sehwag and Gambhir

The former Indian openers haven't been shining lately, but the IPL presents an opportunity for them to show their class

News | Features Last 7 days