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The home-away contrast for Gambhir-Sehwag

While the Gavaskar-Chauhan pair had solid numbers overseas, Gambhir and Sehwag have been outstanding in the subcontinent but poor abroad

S Rajesh

November 2, 2012

Comments: 36 | Text size: A | A

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir at a net session on the eve of the first ODI against West Indies, Cuttack, November 28, 2011
Gambhir and Sehwag have lasted fewer than 44 balls per partnership when opening the innings in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand © AFP
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Last week, Gautam Gambhir lashed out at those who suggested that India's opening combination in Tests needed a rethink after he and Virender Sehwag had failed in England and Australia. "We still average 53 as an opening pair, which I think is one of the best when it comes to opening the batting in world cricket," Gambhir told PTI. "As an opening pair, if you are giving 50 runs start in every innings, you can't do more, and if people talk about not contributing, I will suggest them to look at the stats."

The stats are indeed extremely flattering when the overall numbers are considered: Gambhir and Sehwag are one of only five opening pairs, and the only Indians, to aggregate more than 4000 partnership runs in Tests; among those pairs, their average of 52.69 runs per completed partnership is the best, marginally ahead of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, who average 51.88. Among Indian opening pairs in Tests, Gambhir and Sehwag have racked up 36% more runs than the next-highest pair (Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan, who put together 3010 runs at 53.75).

However, while Gambhir has correctly pointed out that the overall numbers for India's opening pair are superb, there's also a justifiable reason for the question marks that have been raised against the pair. Given that India tour South Africa in the 2013-14 season and then also travel to New Zealand, England and Australia, one of the concerns for Indian cricket is to have an opening pair that will be ready for those challenges abroad. While Gambhir and Sehwag have been more than adequate at home, their record in countries that generally favour swing and seam bowling is far from impressive.

In 19 innings when the pair has opened the batting in Tests in South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand, their average partnership is 27.47, with the one major highlight being the 137 they put together in the second innings in Centurion in 2010. Since that South Africa series, though, they've been in a terrible slump, putting together 136 runs in their last ten innings, with a highest partnership of 26 during this period.

The table below lists the performances of opening pairs from the subcontinent in these four countries since 2000, and it's obvious that this problem of struggling overseas isn't unique to Gambhir and Sehwag. Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya averaged 22.70 from 18 partnerships in these countries, with a highest of 95. The subcontinent opening pair that has impressed the most in these countries is Bangladesh's Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal: in ten innings they have an average partnership of 56.90, thanks largely to an outstanding tour of England in which they had successive opening stands of 88, 185 and 126. Pakistan's Imran Farhat and Salman Butt haven't done too badly either, with an average partnership of more than 35.

Sehwag finds a place twice in the list below, and his other association, with Wasim Jaffer, wasn't much of a success either: in 11 innings they managed 230 partnership runs, at an average of less than 21. The partner with whom Sehwag flourished was his Delhi mate Aakash Chopra - on the tour to Australia in 2003-04, they averaged 57.37 in eight innings. The other Indian opening pair that deserves a mention is that of Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik: in seven partnerships, mostly in England in 2007, they averaged 67.85, with two century stands; Sehwag and Gambhir have managed one in 19 innings.

Opening pairs from the subcontinent in Aus, Eng, SA, NZ since 2000 (Qual: 10 innings)
Pair Innings Runs Ave stand 100/ 50 stands
Imrul Kayes-Tamim Iqbal 10 569 56.90 2/ 2
Imran Farhat-Salman Butt 24 855 35.62 2/ 5
Gautam Gambhir-Virender Sehwag 19 522 27.47 1/ 1
Marvan Atapattu-Sanath Jayasuriya 18 386 22.70 0/ 2
Wasim Jaffer-Virender Sehwag 11 230 20.90 0/ 2

The contrast between the Gambhir-Sehwag pair in those four countries and in the rest of the world is stark. When playing elsewhere - mainly in the subcontinent - their record is outstanding, with an average stand of 60.81 in 62 innings. They have 32 stands of 50-plus, which works out to an average of fewer than two innings for every partnership of over 50; overseas, that ratio is one every 9.5 innings. In fact, in the subcontinent, they have century stands against South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In the period since 2000, no other opening pair has achieved the kind of sustained success that the Gambhir-Sehwag combination has.

Opening pairs from the subcontinent in Asia+WI+Zim since 2000
Pair Innings Runs Ave stand 100/ 50 stands
Gautam Gambhir-Virender Sehwag 62 3588 60.81 9/ 23
Marvan Atapattu-Sanath Jayasuriya 69 3105 47.76 9/ 12
Mohammad Hafeez-Taufeeq Umar 35 1411 41.50 5/ 7
Tillakaratne Dilshan-Tharanga Paranavitana 29 1137 40.60 1/ 11
SS Das-Sadagopan Ramesh 19 836 44.00 2/ 6
Wasim Jaffer-Virender Sehwag 17 801 47.11 3/ 2
Virender Sehwag-Murali Vijay 8 713 89.12 3/ 1
Imrul Kayes-Tamim Iqbal 22 660 30.00 0/ 4
Imran Farhat-Taufeeq Umar 12 643 53.58 3/ 1
Javed Omar-Nafees Iqbal 15 552 36.80 1/ 3

In terms of overall averages, the Gavaskar-Chauhan pair is barely a run better than Gambhir-Sehwag. However, when comparing the two, what sets the former apart is their stats in matches outside the subcontinent. The table below shows they routinely got India off to decent starts even in overseas Tests. In 25 such innings, they averaged almost 48, with four century stands. Their average was higher in the subcontinent, but only by ten runs: in 34 partnerships in India and Pakistan they averaged 58.45.

Two of their highest partnerships overseas came in two memorable Tests: at The Oval in 1979, the pair added 213 as India attempted - and almost succeeded - in chasing down an improbable fourth-innings target of 438. Eighteen months later, with India trailing by 182 after the first innings of the Melbourne Test, Gavaskar and Chauhan added 165, which allowed India to score 324 and sneak a famous victory, as Kapil Dev's 5 for 28 bundled Australia out for 83. Apart from those two efforts, the pair also registered century stands in Christchurch in 1981, and at Edgbaston in 1979. Despite such solid efforts, the team was bowled out for less than 260 in both those innings.

Gambhir and Sehwag, on the other hand, have mostly flourished in the subcontinent. Overseas, their 19 partnerships have lasted a combined total of 828 deliveries - an average of 43.58 balls per dismissal, which converts to about seven overs. That means India's No. 3 batsman has come in to bat around 30 minutes into the team's innings. When India travel for their next round of overseas series, their opening combination - no matter who they are - will need to do better than that.

Openers from the subcontinent in Aus, Eng, NZ, SA and WI before 2000
Pair Innings Runs Ave stand 100/ 50 stands
Chetan Chauhan-Sunil Gavaskar 25 1198 47.92 4/ 3
Majid Khan-Sajid Mohammad 18 728 45.50 2/ 5
Mohsin Khan-Mudassar Nazar 22 607 27.59 0/ 6
Vijay Merchant-Mushtaq Ali 7 584 83.42 2/ 3
Sunil Gavaskar-Kris Srikkanth 10 565 56.50 1/ 4
Aamer Sohail-Rameez Raja 19 525 30.88 2/ 1
Aamer Sohail-Saeed Anwar 14 512 36.57 3/ 0

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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Posted by ph_younus on (November 4, 2012, 8:38 GMT)

People who condemns BD Test Status shud read this article. BD just not playing well at home like India bt also abroad as well. I think subcontinent teams shud invite each other a lot for test series. U guys will surprised to knw that India till today never invited BD for a official test series so far. In fact last year BD didnt played that much test also. So isnt it we are depriving BD frm test consistently???? Questions to so called cricket intellectuals.Thanks

Posted by Baundele on (November 4, 2012, 8:04 GMT)

Informative stats. Good to see Tamim and Kayes pair leading the overseas average by a huge margin. ICC is hindering the progress of cricket in countries like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. 4 tests in two long years does not help. A team can not improve if they are not allowed to play. Simple.

Posted by drinks.break on (November 4, 2012, 7:25 GMT)

@Mozenrath Tabaqi, if you want to move the goal posts, that's fine, but then you can't make any comparison with the article (especially in getting a minimum 10 innings). But let's move the goalposts anyway - ONLY IN ASIA, minimum 5 innings: Trescothick/Atherton 590 runs @49 (12 inns); Tresco/Butcher 271 @54 (6); Tresco/Vaughan 691 @63 (11); Cook/Vaughan 316 @53 (6); Hayden/Katich 285 @41 (8); Hayden/Slater 331 @66 (6); Smith/McKenzie 829 @104 (8); Smith/Petersen 247 @49 (5). Or let's move the posts even further - ONLY IN INDIA: Strauss/Cook 357 @45 (8); Hayden/Langer 342 @43 (8); Hayden/Katich 285 @41 (8); Hayden/Slater 331 @66 (6); Tresco/Butcher 271 @54 (6); Smith/McKenzie 350 @70 (5). Whichever way you turn it, you still reach the same result: Sehwag/Gambhir are a second rate opening pair because unlike the pairs above, they can only perform in home conditions.

Posted by WC2011Champs on (November 3, 2012, 20:02 GMT)

Ideal time to implement long term plans. Give Gambhir and Sehwag two games and if they fail then they have to out for a while. Rahane, Mukund and Tiwary should avoid 12th man and must continue to play fast bowlers at NCA and get ready to open in tests. Only one of Ishant or Yadav is going to make playing XI. So the other fast bowler, Irfan, PK must be at NCA to bowl and be available for selection anytime. Keeping long term objectives in mind Sachin should bat at #5 now giving Pujara #3 and Kohli #4 the opportunities to emulate Dravid and Sachin of old order and feel assured that Grand Pa is there to deliver Big Daddy. And then Yuvraj! There is a lot to play for and score big (300) runs starting at 5 (Sachin, Yuvraj and Dhoni with Ashwin to drop anchor on one end). The lower order is hurting since Laxman's exploits suddenly evaporated. This is when the opposition bowlers are physically and mentally tired and offer the best chance to counter attack and take the game away.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 18:05 GMT)

@drinks.break GAMBHIR,SEHWAG HAVE NEVER OPENED TOGETHER IN WI. TAKE EVERY COUNTRY WITH EACH PAIR, DON'T COMBINE LIKE THE ARTICLE DOES.THEN COMPARE. QUESTIONING SEHWAG,GAMBHIR CLASS USING TWISTED FACTS IS UNFAIR.

Posted by Nampally on (November 3, 2012, 16:20 GMT)

@Naresh28: Logic dictates both Sehwag & Gambhir be dropped. Unfortunately, it is short sighted for any Selection panel to drop these guys without giving them a chance on the Indian soil where they are dominant.I also expect Tendulkar will be in the XI as will ZAK. The rest of the team will be built around these 4 guys. That will be the team for the first 2 Tests. If the 4 seniors fail then at least 3 of the 4 will have their careers ending. Yuvraj (#6) will be one of the spinners in tandem with Ashwin. Ojha may be the third spinner although I prefer M.Kartik. Tiwary will be in the squad as a back up leg spinner.Kohli, Pujara & Sachin will #'s 3,4 & 5. ZAK/Irfan, Yadev the 2 seamers for First test. The selectors will likely take this conservative approach. If the seniors play upto their potential & are in good form & bowlers rise, India will be victorious. If the Selectors are adventurous they will go with new openers & risk being grilled if they fail.I think this is the unlikely path.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (November 3, 2012, 15:20 GMT)

i think gambhir should read this article .

Posted by drinks.break on (November 3, 2012, 5:30 GMT)

@Eliya Abbas Syed, look at my post about nine places below yours on the page and you'll see the stats there (I used Asia+WI+Zim, because that's what the article used). The fact is that the best Aus/SA/Eng opening pairs since 2000 have averaged 45+ for the first wicket (minimum 10 innings). So, no, they haven't failed. Sehwag/Gambhir's failure outside the sub-continent shows that they're not in the same class as Cook, Strauss, Trescothick, Vaughan, Atherton, Hayden, Langer, Smith, Peterson, who all scored big away from home.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 5:09 GMT)

Well India should definitely look for opening options as we need to have solid test opening pair of the stature of VVS, Dravid and Tendulkar, as with Sehwag he should be sent back to some good cricket academy to make him learn to play the swinging balls.....and also Gambhir needs some serious correction in her technique to flirt with the ball going away from him..... These guys have given a lot to Indian cricket but complacency seems to have crept into them resulting in no shows or very poor shows. Lets give them a break which will allow them to tune their body mechanics and make them understand that being important part of the team does come with a responsibility and accountability.

Posted by Naresh28 on (November 2, 2012, 21:36 GMT)

The selectors will have the toughest job - Do they bench the opening pair or Do they bring in a new set? I feel the RANJI games gave them the answers. Shewag/Gambhir needed to find form but did not. So Rahane might be called in as one. The other could decided by Dhawan/Mukund/Vijay - Dhawan plays the next tour game - while Mukund got a 73 against England. Yuvi,Kohli,Pujara,Tiwari will hold middle order slots. Dhoni, Ashwin,Ohja, Pathan, Yadav the rest of the slots. Theres no place for Sachin in the playing 11. He will be in reserve or forced to open

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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