An invaluable tribe
Indians of our generation grew up listening to tales of Mushtaq Ali, the cavalier opening batsman of the 1930s and 40s canada goose trillium parka sort xxs . 40 years later, when Kris Srikkanth made it to the Indian team, Mushtaq was remembered canada goose trillium parka sort xxs . When Virender Sehwag began blazing away, Mushtaq was still being remembered . The allure of the dasher like a Test match opener is just eternal .
Shouldn’t the Test opener play sensibly, see off the new ball, go ahead and take spite from the wicket, tire the short bowlers, and set up a platform for that batsmen to follow? Not for that dashing opener! Seventy without loss at lunch may be alright for normal openers as well as the dasher, it is better to become 123 for 1 at lunch! He stirs the senses like nobody can . And that alone is reason enough to celebrate this priceless gift to cricket .
The vision is intoxicating; of the knight on the steed, rapier at hand, cutting a swathe for that batsmen to follow . The pitch may be green, the ball swinging prodigiously or bouncing sharply . But these blithe spirits they begin to see the ball, their eyes light up plus they go for it . Audacity, instinct, handeye coordination certainly but most important, strategy is their servant and never the other way round . Because they bring off outrageous shots, people tend to think they have a loose technique . Far from it . Sehwag lowers his bat as straight just like any “technically sound batsman” . The dasher often fails while he chooses to attack a ball that should not have access to been so belligerently addressed . Their very vulnerability contributes to their irresistible charm .
Here’s our listing of the glory buccaneers among Test openers . Our list begins with Victor Trumper, the first and most endearing of these wonderful batsmen and ends with Sehwag, the best torchbearer of the tribe . The remainder is in random order . Figures against the names pertain simply to those Tests they played as opening batsmen .
1 . Victor Trumper: 190112; 32 tests; 1650 runs; average: 33
This really is designed in sheer craving for Trumper, who played his cricket A century ago . Our school boy impressions are from the stories of Trumper by Cardus, Fingleton and Robinson . The images that accompanied the prose always showed Trumper jumping out of his crease, and finishing a straight hit . Trumper was one out of millions of . Choose from all of these glorious runaminute centuries: Against England: in Manchester, 1902, 104 runs in only 115 minutes; Sydney in 1908, 166 runs in 241 minutes; Against Nigeria: Melbourne in 1910, 159 runs off 158 balls after which 214 off 247 balls in Adelaide within the same series . Trumper died tragically young at 38 . Srikkanth was 27 not out whenever we set off . By 7 . 30am when we reached the ground, Srikkanth was 10 goes out from his century . The man had gone berserk . His fans will feel cheated when we do not mention how he belted Imran Khan and company out of Chepauk in January 1987, hitting 123 runs of just 147 balls . He had many bumbling dismissals but his square drive on a bent knee off Andy Roberts was the shot from the 1983 World Cup .
For thousands of cricketcrazy spectators in Chennai, around the first morning of the Test match against West Indies in January 1967, it was excruciating to watch Dilip Sardesai sedately play out all six balls of the last over before lunch . It prevented Engineer from recording a century before the break . Engineer had already hit 97 runs that morning against Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Garry Sobers and Lance Gibbs, an innings that even today gives goosebumps . He was the “Suicide pilot” opener for Lancashire in their Gillette cup matches . The first over he faced went for 14 runs four hits and 2 misses . Kunderan continued different color leaves to score 71 . Contacted to exchange the injured Engineer for that 1964 Test match in Chennai against England, he blasted nearly 200 runs on the opening day . There is minimum movement of feet, amazing handeye coordination and a flashing blade . Given his build, Milburn sensibly preferred boundaries to running his singles . England might have lost the Old Trafford Test to West Indies in 1966, but Milburn, with a belligerent 94, made sure the ship went down with guns blazing . His stopstart Test career ended as he lost a watch in a vehicle crash . A smallmade man, Fredericks packed enormous angst in his shots . His 169 runs of just 144 balls with 27 fours was sheer violence .
In a minimum of three Tests against India in India, Afridi opened the Pakistan innings at a blistering pace . Two (Chennai 1999 and Bangalore 2005) of those setup the woking platform for Pakistan wins . Although he stopped opening for Pakistan and have become much more erratic on the order, Afridi is clearly the most bludgeoning batsman to ever open for Pakistan . The fact that his strike rate as a Test opener is over 86 runs per 100 balls says it all .
8 . Keith Stackpole: 196974; 33 Tests, 2390 runs; average: 40 . 5
Stackpole became a dent batsman for Australia only over time in the middle order . But once he became the dour Bill Lawry’s opening partner he opened up great choices for Australia . An attacking captain like Ian Chappell relished a belligerent opener who took the attack to opposing bowlers . On his only tour to India in 1969, he carved a century at the Brabourne Stadium but was rather quiet by his standards in the other matches . average: 39 . 65
A prolific county player, Barnett is better remembered for his knock of 126 in the Nottingham Test against Australia as he narrowly missed a hundred years before lunch . Barnett would be a punishing batsman feared for his ferocious cuts and scorching drives played on the up . In many a county game, he hit the very first ball he faced for six .
There’s never been an opener like him which is hard to think there will be another in a lifetime . The stats are astounding: 19 centuries, which two are triple centuries, four are double centuries and many are big centuries . His average of 54 . 88 is only below illustrious, classical openers like Jack Hobbs, Bert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton and above other all time greats . Additionally the number of wins he’s setup through his explosive opening . To attain such amazingly high yields at a strike rate of 80 . 87 puts him in a peak that no-one has scaled . His recent centuries only have got faster! Has anybody thrilled our senses like him?
There continue to be Sanath Jayasuriya, Chris Gayle, Michael Slater, Mushtaq Ali, Matthew Hayden and many others to write about . Young Tamim Iqbal of Bangladesh is beginning to put together rapidfire centuries that may see him join this pantheon . But we should halt somewhere . Maybe another time and another place we’ll do justice to the other trailblazers .
Anwar was much more of a conventional opener in Tests and therefore will not meet the criteria with this article . If I would write an article to list stylish openers then Anwar could be up there . Jayasurya again, will be a dasher in the ODI format . Matt Hayden was up there but his strike rate is 60 odd if memory serves me right . Perhaps a write up 2 . 0 could do that . All said and done, Sehwag’s records will be tough to beat, most of us may be dead and gone prior to the next one arrives . 4000 of his 7000 odd runs in 4s plus 79 sixes! As Morne Morkel said after the operate a ball triple . “ridiculous” . . canada goose trillium parka sort xxs .