India in Bangladesh, 2007 May 11, 2007

Omar needs to think in singles

Sidharth Monga at Mirpur
Javed Omar has ensured his place as an opener for Bangladesh in one-dayers but he needs to compensate his dot balls with some hitting in the slog overs

Javed Omar's brief as an opener in ODIs is to ensure that there are no quick wickets at the top © AFP
In the current Bangladesh one-day team Javed Omar is a misfit. At 30 he is old. With a strike rate of 52.22, he is a Dhaka cycle-rickshaw to Tamim Iqbal's Chittagong train. So contrasting are the styles of this opening combination one wonders if Tamim, frustrated by seeing Omar just defending from the other end, throws his wicket away.

Omar has often been criticised for being too slow. But he also knows the state of his team which has struggled for good opening stands. "Too often we lose four to five wickets in the first 10-15 overs and that's game over right there," Omar says, "like yesterday, we saw off the new ball without losing a wicket, and scored a big total." That in fact has rarely happened for Bangladesh. And that exactly is Omar's brief when he goes in to bat - to ensure there are no quick wickets at the top.

His innings yesterday was not one to make the world sit up and take notice but it was crucial to the total that Bangladesh posted. When Tamim was scoring quickly Omar played the anchor role. At the fall of Tamim's wicket at 78 for 1, Omar had scored 24 off 49 balls. But the second part of his innings was a different Omar as he scored 56 off 68 deliveries.

Bangladesh's selectors are proud of the pool of openers they have at the moment. There are three in this team and three more Under-19 openers they are optimistic about. But Omar has come good at a time when Shahriar Nafees, probably Bangladesh's best batsman last year, lost his touch, while the explosive Tamim needed a wise head at the other end, and the others did not look mature enough.

Therefore Omar, labelled a Test specialist, has been handed another opportunity to stay in the top order. "I have always been under pressure in one-dayers," Omar said, "I have always been in and out of the ODI side, but I have never thought of myself as a Test specialist or a one-day specialist. I always do what the team wants of me."

However, Omar's shortcomings were still clear in one of his best innings. In an innings of 80 he played out 76 dot balls. When he started going for the big shots he fell because of lazy running. He was probably tired but the team expects someone who has played so many dot deliveries to make up for it in the closing overs. He needs to rotate the strike more often than he does otherwise it is bound to put pressure on the other batsman.

In the limited-overs game Omar longest run is nine matches on the trot and currently he has played two consecutive ODIs. With Nafees in poor touch and after his 80 against India, Omar has a realistic chance of beating that personal record. But his cause would he helped if he added another string to his bow - the crucial single.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine