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Rewind to the most famous ODI openers of all

E R Ramachandran |IBNLive.com | Updated: October 7, 2015, 2:42 PM IST

Presently, two of the thinking tanks would no doubt be planning, discussing, re-planning strategies to ensure India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni lifts the World Cup again making it the third time in 32 years.

They have been given a team to execute the job with no ifs and buts. They cannot ask a bowler to go home or ask for a replacement to come and assist the team.

Here are few observations how, over the years, India became a powerhouse in ODIs.

It's well known that former India captain Sourav Ganguly and SachinTendulkar were the best opening partners ODI cricket has ever known.

In fact, Ganguly and Tendulkar hold the record for opening partnership with 26 hundreds, which is way above the second best partnership of Tilakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka with 16.

How did this happen? Most know about the little master's cricketing prowess and his penchant for scores in all format of the game. But it is the contribution from Ganguly we are talking about.

Ganguly, at times deliberately played a secondary role but the most effective. 'Dada' had all strokes in the book, eschewed the dangerous ones, but relied most on the cover drive and lofted straight six from his repertoire. Ganguly's USP was his mastery in executing strokes between the point and extra cover fielder that made Rahul Dravid once exclaim that first there is God and then Ganguly on the off-side. Ganguly had a penchant for offspinners and lifted them over long-off and long-on for effortless sixes. He seldom played risky strokes and was content to rotate the strike otherwise. No wonder this strategy brought him 11363 runs with 22 hundreds at an average of 41.02.

If India's best opening partnership came from Ganguly and Tendulkar, it looked even more ominous if you include Sehwag and Tendulkar's 13 hundreds when they opened the innings for India.

Thus, India's openers laid the foundation for scores from where the power-hitters took it to 300 and beyond and that was the secret of their batting prowess and envy of most other teams, definitely the bugbear of bowlers in that era.

Fast Forward to 2014-15, India are struggling to get 50 on the board with their openers.

For his part, Rohit Sharma is now playing the chess game like Viswanathan Anand, slow in his moves and suddenly cutting through opponents' defence with a blitzkrieg. The slower Rohit starts and gets entrenched, you can be sure more sixes are on the way. Captains are perplexed and are tearing their hair wondering what field should be set for a blow- cold-blow-hot Rohit.

His partner Shikhar Dhawan seemed to have taken the role of one to press the accelerator at the start but he seems to be in too much of a hurry, thus missing the red signal altogether.

Dhawan should ensure he stays at the wicket even if it means the score is only 30 at the end of the 10 overs. Once settled, he has the ability to hit the ball to all corners of the field but is falling for snicks in the slips or mis-hitting the ball when he has not gauged the pace and the bounce of the pitch.

The openers have to be told to stay at least 15 overs without bothering much about the scoreline.

India will have to ensure that it reaches 120-130 for 2 or thereabout in 30 overs. The stroke- makers will manage to take the score to 240- 250 on a bad day or cross 280 when at least 2 of their 4 batsmen click.

Loss of early wicket means undue and unnecessary pressure on the batsmen to follow. If Rohit survives middle overs too, the runs will come in bushels towards the end. The longer he stays more runs for India at the death.

India should stick to play the waiting game and mount the pressure at the end, which has been their forte all along.

It is more or less the same set of players that won the Champions Trophy less than 18 months ago. There is no need to push the panic button. Give the boys their time and they will precisely achieve what they are capable of. They have done it long enough under Dhoni's leadership.

India will have to bring the flair of Dada and little master's opening cameos that thrilled fans all over the world back into 2015.

Rohit and Dhawan can do it. And the think-tank of Ravi Shastri and Duncan Fletcher is there to ensure that.
First Published: January 27, 2015, 10:53 PM IST

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