Cricket is continuing merrily around the globe but the heated debate which is making the rounds is Rohit Sharma‘s promotion in the Test arena. In two weeks, Hitman will be facing the new-ball spells against the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander. It’s not that he is new to red-ball but he has been given a task which is considered one of the toughest in the whites.
Rohit has a wealth of experience and he is also a successful white-ball opener but when it comes to the longer version of the game it requires a different skillset. Opening in 5-day cricket is similar to trial by fire and many of them failed to pass this test. Even in today’s time, Test openers are having a torrid time.
Still, he can take note of some of the exceptional players who became successful openers of their side after receiving the spot in the process of a trial and error method.
Here is the list of 5 makeshift openers who found success in Test cricket:
1) Sanath Jayasuriya
The year 1996 belongs to Sri Lankan cricket as they defied the odds to win their maiden World Cup. Coincidentally, it was the same time when Sanath Jayasuriya was hitting the right notes in his professional life. Especially his red-ball career took a flight in that year and ended up as one of the best batsmen to emerge out of the island nation.
Even after making his Test debut in 1991 he was unable to book a permanent place in the side for the first 5 years. In his initial days, he played as an all-rounder who could chip in with wickets and muster useful lower-order runs. Then a trip to Down Under changed his fortunes as captain Aravinda de Silva took a gamble by pushing him up the order in place of misfiring opener, Roshan Mahanama.
Immediately Jayasuriya stroked a ton at Adelaide which laid the platform for the rest of his career. After that, he went on to add 13 more Test centuries which also included a marathon knock of 340 against India. Though the southpaw didn’t have a sound technique against the new-ball his immense self-belief made him a successful opening batsman. It is quite striking that his ODI graph also traversed an upward curve after his Test heroics.
2) Simon Katich
The Australian cricket cupboard was full of trophies in the last decade and it was all due to the talent involved in their cricketing system. Such was the fierce competition that many deserved candidates got only a handful of opportunities to own their spot in the playing XI. Unfortunately, even a highly skilful player like Simon Katich was also at the receiving end.
The left-hander made his debut as a solid middle-order batsman. He also served the role of a secondary spinner whenever the Kangaroos visited the Indian subcontinent. Still, after all his contributions Katich was unable to get a long rope in the classical format. Until 2008, he played a total of 23 Tests in 7 years but things took a turn in the latter half of his career. He was partnered with Matthew Hayden at the top.
Though the pair didn’t play for a long time because of Hayden’s retirement it was Simon’s most memorable days donning the Baggy Green. He accumulated close to 3000 runs as an opening batsman in 30 games. Nobody can forget his unbeaten 131 against New Zealand on a tough Gabba pitch. Controversially, he was dropped in 2010 after a couple of bad outings and that time he was averaging 50 as an opener.
3) Virender Sehwag
Sometimes it is just the matter of doing the simple things in the correct order and it is exactly what Virender Sehwag did while thrashing the opposition bowlers. The former Indian cricketer is one of the best characters the gentlemen’s game has seen. In his prime, he was considered a top-class player but he didn’t have it easy in the early days of his international career.
The Nawab of Najafgarh announced his arrival in style as he carved out a century batting at No.6 in his maiden Test outing against the likes of Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini. With his hard-hitting, he instantly became a fan favourite but India was finding it difficult to accommodate him in the playing XI. Owing to the problem of plenty in the middle-order, Sourav Ganguly pulled a rabbit out of the hat and promoted him.
Be it his batting style or technique everything was stacked against him and it was going to be a herculean task on the seaming pitches in England. As it turned out at the end of that tour, India found a new formula to solve their opening problems. The flamboyant opener, Sehwag piled on more than 8000 runs at an average of around 50 including two breathtaking triple centuries. Not only he scored runs at a fast pace but he also redefined the art of opening in Test cricket.
4) Dennis Amiss
Throughout their cricketing history, the Three Lions have been facing the opening woes in the classical format. The situation was quite similar in the 1970s when the England team was in search of a quality partner for Geoffery Boycott. During that time a right-hander from Warwickshire, Dennis Amiss was plying his trade in the middle-order.
Amiss made his debut in 1966 after some strong performances in the county circuit. It can be said that he had a below-par start to his career as he averaged 19 after his first 7 games. Then a tough tour to the Indian shores was looming on his head. It just got tougher when England lost its regular opener, Boycott to an injury and other players were expected to step up.
Particularly for Dennis, it was an important series as he was given the opening duties but he didn’t fare well. After that, he was trusted for the same role in the Pakistan tour and this time he crunched two centuries to make that his permanent spot for the rest of his career. He scored 90% of his international Test runs while opening the innings and his average was resting on 54. He is still considered one of the prominent cricketers to have represented the Brits.
5) Marvan Atapattu
There is a saying that “Big things come in small packages” and it is true in every sense for the former Sri Lankan captain, Marvan Atapattu. He may not be the most gifted player of the island nation but he is a cricketer who can challenge the opposition with his grit and mental fortitude. Making his debut at the age of 20 he didn’t enjoy his first stay as a middle-order batsman.
Atapattu had the most dreadful start to his career as he amassed 5 ducks in his first 6 Test innings. Thereafter the right-hander was dropped from the team and only returned to the side after a span of 3 years. Then he was promoted to the No.3 position and there also he found very little success. Surprisingly the master tactician, Arjuna Ranatunga retained him and pushed him to the opening slot for the Indian tour.
What followed was the emergence of an elite opening pair, Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu and they ruled the Test arena for a decade. The latter scored more than 5000 runs while doing the toughest job of a batsman in red-ball cricket, seeing off the new ball. He regularly provided brisk starts to the Lankan Lions and in the process piled on 6 double centuries. With his limited talent, Atapattu carved out a glittering career.
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