16 January 2007

Who will open?

What will Chappell-Dravid do?
For two one-dayers against the West Indies, India have four opening options in Uthappa, Gambhir, Tendulkar and Ganguly. Both Tendulkar and Ganguly have batted elsewhere in the line-up previously, but are most successful as openers. Uthappa has had a dream year in domestic cricket, and will be a huge asset if he can make the grade. He has already shown himself more than capable, with a well-paced 86 against England, setting up a nice seven wicket win at Indore. And Gambhir, what does one say about a man who has forever been on the fringes on the playing eleven. After sixteen matches, his average is a little disappointing at just over 25. On the other hand, his aggressive strokeplay makes him, a bit like the currently out-of-favour Sehwag, a delicious prospect.

Now the smarter route the selectors could have taken was that they could have reduced the team management's headache; and picked only one of Gambhir/Uthappa - which would probably have been the Karnataka opener. This would have permitted Gambhir to actually have some matches under his belt if he were to get a suprise call-up just ahead of the World Cup.

So what can they do? What is the best possible batting lineup.
The choice of opening partnership should should be retained for the length of the series against the Windies, and perhaps even further. Nobody needs to explain the merits of a settled opening partnership to anymone. What is clearer is that neither of Tendulkar and Ganguly will want to let go of the opening spot in a hurry. However, with the weight of what he has amassed for Karnataka, Uthappa has an equal claim on the spot as Ganguly who has not played one-day cricket for a while. With an exciting hundred against the Windies in KL, Sachin has enough of a case for automatic appointment as one of the openers. Also, even though the bulk of his runs have been at the top of the order, Ganguly has a more than adequate record at number three - his difficulties with taking singles notwithstanding. In thirty innings at that position, he averages a little more than 52, with three hundreds and nine fifties. With an eye on the slow and low pitches of the World Cup, Ganguly's ability to succesfully take the aerial route against the slower bowlers will be a definite asset in the middle overs when singles and doubles are hard to come by. With the performance in South Africa behind him, he would also bring some authority to the number three position to which Laxaman, Raina and Dhoni have not been able to do complete justice to. All three, along with Kaarthick and Yuvraj Singh will need to slug it out for places lower down the order.
My choice for the series against the Windies - and even the World Cup, I think: Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly.