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Opening has been one of Pakistan's most thorny problems - which is not to say that there haven't been fine, even great, openers in the team's history
April 12, 2010
In no country is the career of a player as precarious as it is in Pakistan. Just under a fifth of Pakistan's 198 Test players, for example, are one-Test wonders, comfortably the highest among the established Test nations*. Does that make the job of our suitably diverse jury - writers, historians, journalists, commentators, selectors, administrators and ex-players - easier in sifting through the many names and selecting an all-time Pakistan XI?
Perhaps more so than we can imagine initially, for there are, if we put our minds to it, quite a number of players who pick themselves and would make the XI of almost every Pakistan fan. But there are issues, of course - little ones and not so little ones. Where would you, for example, play Majid Khan, if you play him at all: as opener or in the middle order?
A more basic one involves the question of the very shape of the line-up. Should it have five bowlers, including one of the greatest allrounders the world has seen, and thus enforce the area that has always been Pakistan's strength and source of most of their triumphs? Or should it have four and instead beef up the batting, traditionally Pakistan's weaker suit? That debate, among many others, readers, begins here.
We start with what has been, at least in the modern age, Pakistan's most vexing problem (fielding aside). Count has been lost of the openers and opening combinations that have been tried over the last five years, and still no settled pair appears in sight. But that is not to say that quality has not been produced over the years, or even variety. There have been the monumentally patient and technically robust, as was Pakistan's first - some say best - opener, Hanif Mohammad. There have been those who have made up for gaps in technique with their hearts, like Hanif's younger brother Sadiq and Aamer Sohail.
Others have been impeccable stylists, and effective ones at that. We remember the value of Majid's hundred before lunch against New Zealand in Karachi, but we also celebrate the grace and elegance with which it was made. Majid disciple Mohsin Khan's double at Lord's is similarly recalled. Pakistan's most modern opener, in terms of taking an attack to the bowling side, has also been one of its best: Saeed Anwar.
Who opens the XI essentially answers the question of how we want this team to be moulded: with weak openers, Pakistan have been on the back foot, relying on the middle order too much. With a solid opening pair have come Pakistan's most attacking sides.
*South Africa have a slightly higher proportion overall, but their statistics are essentially those of two countries, pre and post-apartheid. Post 1991 the proportion of one-Test careers is under 10%.
* South Africa have a slightly higher proportion overall, but their statistics are essentially that of two countries, pre and post-Apartheid. Post 1991 the proportion of one-Test careers is under 10%.
We'll be publishing an all-time Pakistan XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your openers click here
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