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No closure for India's openers.

by Gaurav Sethi

I sat in a seat reserved for women/elderly/handicapped, prepared to vacate on a sighting. Next to me were four guys, with Sharad holding court. He was regaling his mates with tales of an empty room on the 7th floor that had nothing but a TV and fridge in it. And then something about these crackpots who hurled the TV 7 floors down. 

There was also mention of this World Cup India won.

Guessing it wasn’t 1983, I butted in, “this was the 2011 World Cup?”

On 2nd April, 2011, at GN Hostel, Greater Noida, so overcome with madness were the residents of the 7th floor, they crashed the TV down. They tried with the fridge, but it was way too heavy. They also arranged Dhol wallahs. Around 2 am, the cops arrived. And then INA station where I had to get off.

Along with the crashed TV, Gautam Gambhir’s international career also started to gradually nosedive.

He scored his highest World Cup score that day, 97. But Dhoni was man of the match for his 91*.

Since then, from Oct 2011 – Jan 2013 in 33 innings, Gambhir made 2 100s, 9 50s (including 2 90s) ODI average 36.40 in this period (career avg. 39.68). His career strike rate 85.25. Away record: Average 41.55, strike rate 84.85

Gambhir made his ODI debut in 2003, and in close to 10 years he’s played just 147 one dayers. He’s made 11 100s, 34 50s.

(In 18 Tests after the 2011 World Cup, Gambhir averages 25.37 with 5 50s.)

To accommodate as and when SRT played the limited overs’ format, GG was often dropped, down the order or from the team. 

He was a more than able skipper, possibly the only realistic option to Dhoni. He led a dysfunctional franchise like KKR to two IPL trophies.

At his peak, he dared to question MS’ go slow approach in an ODI. All that’s part of joke lore now.

Had Gambhir not embarrassed himself in England, there still may have been an outside chance to make the Australia-bound squad. Should he have had more form-awareness and refused to tour England? Should Sehwag have done the same in 2011? Can players sight poor fitness and prep to duck tours?

Cut to Virender Sehwag, 251 ODIs in 14 years, average 35, strike rate 104.33, 15 100s, 38 50s. Away record: average 34.62, strike rate 103.27, 10 100s, 25 50s.

After the 2011 World Cup, Sehwag played 15 ODIs, averaged 34.2, striking at 108.45, 1 100, 1 50, In his last 12 innings, 219 onwards, he averages 38.91, SR 114.46.

(In 17 Tests since the World Cup, Sehwag averages 29.73, (career avg. 49.34) 1 100, 5 50s.) 

Gauti-Viru, when we was fab

They used to touch and run
Viru used to hum and run
Gauti used to not get run out

Cut to Rohit Sharma: 124 ODIs in 7 years, average 35.86, 4 100s and 23 50s. SR 78.25. Away record: average 29.98, SR 72.63. Rohit has opened in 39 innings, (36 since Jan 2013), averages 43.20, SR 77.80. Scored 141* and 209 opening. Rohit's average (209 onwards) in last 16 innings has been 42.6, SR 83.09.

After his first 2 centuries (in his first 2 Tests), Rohit averages 22.33 (career average 48.90) in the next 5 with 1 50.

In all three cases, Test form has hurt the players’ ODI selection; what, in Rohit’s case, he even injured himself. 

Cut to Shikhar Dhawan, who on his return to ODIs in little over a year (2013-14) has already played 40 matches, scored 5 100s, 8 50s, average 42.14, SR 88.56. Away record:  Average 40.53, SR 84.91, 3 100s. Has had Dhoni’s backing through a rough patch, will open in the World Cup unless he loses his moustache.

Cut to Ajinkya Rahane, who in 3 years (2011-2014) has played 36 ODIs, scored 1 100, 7 50s, average 27.27, SR 75.71. Away Record:  average 29.54, SR 78.60, 1 100. Since Rahane returned to open, in 10 innings he’s made 1 hundred, 3 50s and 2 40s – 8 of these innings have been overseas.

Rahane’s recent Test form in England and Rohit’s subsequent injury made the opening decision a no-brainer.

Cut to Robin Uthappa, 41 ODIs in 8 years, average 26.71, SR 91.34, 6 50s. Away record: average 21.78, SR 74.46, 3 50s. If Dhawan, Rahane and Rohit collectively mess up Down Under, who knows, then KKR could open for India in the World Cup. 

Excess baggage, how about cargo?

Just the other day, Gambhir turned 33, and Sehwag 36.

Uthappa and Dhawan are nearly 29, Rohit 27 and Rahane 26.

But even three years after the World Cup win, the opening puzzle is far from solved. Not such a big deal, as they were far from settled four years’ back.

From 24 Feb, 2010, (when SRT scored 200*) to 15 Jan 2011, He played  and opened thrice, Sehwag and Gambhir opened 19 and 9 times each, while Murali Vijay and Dinesh Karthik opened 11 and 12 times respectively.

Still three months to the first tri series match vs. Australia in Melbourne, four months to the first World Cup game against Pakistan in Adelaide.

And if either Murali Vijay or Che Pujara have an exceptional Test series in Australia, they could be pushed into the tri-series before the World Cup.

Stranger things have happened. Ask Rahul Dravid.

1 comment:

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