Right from the Mighty Windies in the 80s to the Indomitable Australians in the late 90s and 2000s , great ODI teams which ruled the roost in international cricket had one thing in common, a dependable opening pair in their batting arsenal. A formidable opening duo was an important cog in their wheel to dominate their opponents at the peaks of their prowess.
Be it Haynes- Greenidge (WI), Hayden-Gilchrist (Australia), Jayasuriya-Kaluwithrana (Sri Lanka) , Smith-Gibbs (South Africa) , Sohail-Anwar (Pakistan) or our very own Tendulkar-Ganguly duo, these pairs provided the X-factor to their teams in setting up mammoth totals and chasing down daunting targets, all for winning matches for their respective sides.
Over its four decades in top flight ODI cricket, Indian cricket has been fortunate to have a regular influx of opening pairs which gave the ‘Men in Blue’ the much required stability in their batting unit and played a decisive role in making the team a force to reckon with in the shorter form of the game.
So let us look back in time and recall the best opening pairs India have ever had in the limited overs cricketing area
KRIS SRIKKANTH AND RAVI SHASTRI PROVIDED THE OPENING SALVO IN THE MID 80s
In the mid 80s and early 90s, Kris Srikkanth and Ravi Shastri became India’s first choice opening pair in limited overs cricket. Srikkanth,the dasher, went after the bowling from ball one. The Tamil Nadu opener was unorthodox but effective with his free flowing strokeplay. Meanwhile Shastri was more classical in his batting, playing text book cricket by presenting a straight bat with a staunch defence. He complimented Srikanth by playing the stabilizer’s role and helped the team in laying down a strong platform to build on. India had a successful run at the 1985 World Series of Cricket courtesy the opening salvo provided by the Shastri-Srikkanth duo.
SACHIN FORGES PARTNERSHIP WITH SIDHU, JADEJA AND PRABHAKAR IN EARLY 90s
Once Srikanth and Shastri departed the international scene, India went into a slumber in finding a consistent opening pair in ODIs. Many makeshift combos were tried but none proved to be successful. In Azhar’s reign as captain, India found some success with Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar coming up the order to open with Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar. However, Navjot Singh Sidhu did a decent job as an opener whenever he donned the blue jersey for India. The maverick opener had some memorable stands with a young Sachin Tendulkar who started showing glimpses of a great player in the making. The duo came up with some stellar knocks in the 1996 World Cup played on home soil.
SACHIN TENDULKAR AND SOURAV GANGULY – THE GREATEST EVER OPENING PAIR FROM INDIA
It was in the mid 90s, when India got its finest ever opening pair in Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. The right-left combo carved out many a victories for with their solid partnerships. With over 5000 ODI runs with 21 century stands between them, ‘Dada’ and the ‘Little Master’ became the most successful ODI opening pairs of all times. It was a treat for the Indian fans to watch Sourav scoring at will with those booming covers drives through the off-side and Sachin decimating the best of bowlers with his wide array of shots. Both Sachin and Sourav had the penchant to score big hundreds and proved to be match winners in their own right.
VIRENDER SEHWAG COMBINES WITH SACHIN AND SAURAV TO PROVIDE THE AGGRESSION UP THE ORDER
With the turn of the millennium, Virender Sehwag became India’s most destructive opener and formed a potent opening pair with both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. Sehwag was a bowler’s nightmare as he tore apart the best bowling lineups with his belligerent yet eye catching strokeplay. Sehwag had an uncomplicated technique and picked up the bowlers length early with his superb hand eye coordination.
DELHI DUO OF SEHWAG-GAMBHIR STRIKE THE RIGHT CHORD IN THE DHONI ERA
Once Sachin and Ganguly bid adieu to the game, Sehwag got the ideal opening partner in fellow Delhi team mate Gautam Gambhir. The lefthanded Gambhir had an attacking instinct to his game and played the perfect foil to Viru by scoring run at a brisk pace. Gambhir had good footwork and was equally adept at playing spin.
SHIKHAR DHAWAN – ROHIT SHARMA, INDIA’S DEPENDABLE OPENING PAIR IN VIRAT KOHLI’ s ERA
Post the retirements of Sehwag and Gauti, Indian cricket was in desperate search of a dependable opening pair. The answer came in the form of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. While Rohit’s batting personifies elegance and class with his sublime timing and effortless shot making, Dhawan is more of bludgeoner with his attacking stroke play.
Once he gets his eye in, Rohit can tear apart the best of bowling line-ups as he has all the shots in his batting arsenal. Meanwhile Dhawan scores at a brisk pace by taking on the seamers early in the innings. Both Rohit and Shikhar have good footwork and hence are nimble footed against spinner. What makes Dhawan special is his ability to step up his game in major tournaments and the ICC Champions Trophy is a testimony to the same.
The Indian team’s phenomenal success in ODIs under the captaincy of both MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli has been largely built around this settled opening pair which generally provides the opening salvo in the innings and helps the middle order led by the ever consistent Kohli to build on a strong foundation.
With over 3000 runs and 12 century stands between them, the Sharma-Dhawan duo stands tall among the top opening pairs in the ODIs at present. With just over a year to go for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England, the Indians would be hoping that the Dhawan-Sharma duo goes into the showpiece event with a rich vein of form and replicates their success for the team