What number says about Rohit-Dhawan partnership

There have been many great opening pairs in the ODI cricket: One such great pair was that of CG Greenidge and DL Haynes. They held the record of most successful opening pair for long and their exploits as openers paved way for West Indies’ dominance in the World Cricket. Another such great pair was of AC Gilchrist and ML Hayden, and it was not surprising that their exploits led to strengthening of Australia’s dominance in ODIs.

India, over the years, also had few successful opening pairs.The pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag blasted opponents all over the world and were seen as a force behind India’s success in the ODIs. Gambhir and Sehwag also had fair share of success while being opening pair of India but, among all pairs, the most successful opening pair in the world cricket remains that of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. They hold the record of most number of runs scored and most number of century stand by an opening pair.

Recently, in an interview, Rohit Sharma said that he is hopeful that his opening partnership with Shikhar Dhawan can go on to emulate the highly successful pair of Tendulkar and Ganguly. He further added that although he is delighted with the comparisons that people make, he acknowledged that the duo has a long way to go if they have to match the success achieved by the Tendulkar-Ganguly duo.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma started to open together for India in ODIs, on 6th June 2013, in a match against South Africa in Cardiff. They got instant success as their first opening partnership gave India a start of 127 runs in South Africa and it was followed by another century partnership against West Indies at Oval. Consecutive century opening stand on overseas wicket was good omen and it also indicated that India’s search for a stable opening pair after retirement of Sachin may end soon.

Two years and eight months later, let us see what number says on their performance as opener, on thoughts of the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan emulating successful opening partnership of Tendulkar-Ganguly and how are they positioned when compared to top 4 opening pair of highest run-getters.

Opening Pair Innings Runs Avg 100 50
Tendulkar-Ganguly 136 6609 49.32 21 23
Gilchrist-Hayden 114 5372 48.39 16 29
Greenidge-Haynes 102 5150 52.55 15 24
Tendulkar-Sehwag 93 3919 42.13 12 18
Rohit-Shikhar 54 2450 46.22 8 8

The duo of Rohit and Shikhar currently average 46.22 which is better than opening average of Sachin and Sehwag but they still have a long way to go to match average of 52.55 achieved by pair of Greenidge and Haynes. The duo give 50 plus start to India per 3.375 inning which is comparable to Tendulkar-Sehwag’s 50 plus start per 3.1 inning and Tendulkar-Gaguly’s per 3.09 inning but they need to be more consistent to match Greenidge-Haynes’ stat of 50 plus start per 2.61 inning and Gilchrist-Hayden’s per 2.533 inning.

Century stand between openers not only eases the pressure on coming batsmen but also put the team in a commanding position in any match. Pair of Rohit and Shikhar do very well in this regard, they give a century stand per 6.75 inning which is much better than Tendulkar-Sehwag’s century stand per 7.75 inning and Gilchrist-Hayden’s per 7.125 inning. The stat is also comparable to Greenidge-Haynes’ stat of per 6.8 inning and is second to only Tendulkar-Ganguly’s stat of per 6.47 inning. This reflects that the pair has a great impact on team’s performances in ODIs.

Another stat that is worth mentioning is that all the 8 ODI centuries stand between Rohit and Shikhar led to India’s victory; and if this stat is combined with previous stat of century stand per 6.75 inning, it reveals that every 7th match played by India is won by the impact of opening partnership between them. This stat alone makes them a great opening pair for India and not to forget the fact that they already sit at 13th position in list of all time highest run getting opening pair, which is commendable, considering the pair is only 54 match old.

Now let’s see what the numbers of contemporary opening pairs reveal.

Opening Pair Innings Runs Avg 100 50
Rohit-Dhawan 54 2450 46.22 8 8
Guptill-McCullum 46 1820 41.36 4 12
Finch-Warner 24 978 40.75 3 3
Amla-de Kock 46 1787 38.84 6 4

These stats reveal that the opening pair of Rohit and Shikhar is way ahead of their contemporaries and they are definitely a pair to look forward to but statistics hide as much as they reveal, so these stats can’t be seen in black and white.  We must consider the fact that partnership is not only about statistics but also about chemistry. Chemistry between partners is essential to be successful in longer run. It includes understanding the game of each other; shielding partner from an in-form bowler when partner is out of form; being aggressor when partner is not connecting the ball well, so that he gets time to settle without feeling the pressure; playing the second fiddle when partner is going all guns blazing, understanding the running between wicket of partner.

When we see Rohit and Shikhar on the field, there seems to be a great chemistry between them. When Rohit was struggling, early in his career as opener, to get a quick start, Shikhar played the role of aggressor. When, recently, Shikhar was out of form, Rohit reversed the role and became aggressor. Unlike the misunderstanding that prevails when Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are on crease, leading to run out of one of them, Rohit and Shikhar understand running speed of each other and run between the wickets accordingly. They also understand each other’s batting style well.

Rohit Sharma has been revelation since opening the inning for India, scoring at a strike rate of 92.63 and average of 60.34 but inconsistency of Shikhar Dhawan is a hindrance for long term success of this pair. Shikhar’s few big innings are most of the times followed by a long period of lull. Shikhar Dhawan still has a decent average of 43.82 and strike rate of 90.78 in that period and it is commendable record but if Shikhar Dhawan can bring a bit of more consistency in his batting then pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan can definitely think of emulating or even surpassing great pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and take India to new heights in ODIs.

This article has also been published here at sportskeeda

The Curious Case of Indian Fast Bowlers

In the movie ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ the protagonist Benjamin is born with the physical appearance of a 70-year-old man and gradually becomes a child. Like the protagonist Benjamin, Indian fast bowlers also have a reverse development cycle. They come into the team with a lot of promise, and somehow lose their bowling abilities in quick succession and disappear faster than they came. Unlike any other country’s fast bowlers, Indian fast bowlers don’t improve but they deteriorate with time.

Irfan Pathan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are examples of this reverse progression. They came in team as promising swing bowlers and wowed the world with their swing bowling in their debut year, but somehow in coming years, instead of improving their skill, they lost their ability to swing the ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar fall was even steeper than Irfan’s fall.

Bowler Matches Played

in debut year

Avg/Eco in

debut year

Matches Played

since debut year

 Avg/Eco after

debut year

Irfan Pathan   28 26.38/4.98 92 30.96/5.36
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 26 32.50/4.59 31 44.10/5.13

 *Avg = Runs/Wicket, Eco = Runs/Over

If we make a list of such bowlers, the list would be longer than Ishant Sharma.

One thing that is common among all these fast bowlers is that they never seem to have heard one the best clichés of cricketing world- consistency in line and length- and as a result, their erratic bowling often let down the captain, the team and the fans.

It’s true that cricket has decisively turned in favour of the batsmen; bats have become broader, heavier and more powerful; pitches are flat; fielding and other rules have also been tweaked in the ODIs to help the batsmen. But that can’t be an excuse for bad bowling performances, that, over the years, Indian bowlers have mastered. When bowlers around the world are improving their skill-set to outdo the batsmen, Indian bowlers are busy making past mistakes.

If someone asks question that how many times have you seen Indian fast bowlers bowling down the leg when captain has set a 7-2 off-side field, or how many times have you seen Indian fast bowlers bowling full length delivery, the very moment captain has set field for short-pitch delivery or vice-a-versa? Answer to each of the question is: almost every time. Captain Dhoni looks like a clueless man in these circumstances, not for any of his fault but because of the failures of his bowlers to execute the plan. A look at the stats of few fast bowlers shows how bad they have been in past couple of months.

Performance of bowlers since World Cup 2015 

Bowler Career Avg/Eco Match Played 

since WC 2015

Avg/Eco

since WC 2015

Bhuvneshwar Kumar 38.30/4.89 12 43.35/5.85
Umesh Yadav 33.74/5.99 9 46.58/7.18
Mohit Sharma 32.90/5.45 6 37.62/7.05

Jasprit Bumrah is new kid on the block. He is not express like Shoaib Akhtar neither has perfection of Glenn McGrath nor has swing of Wasim Akram and yet he is a revelation for Team India. He has just played 4 match, so it would be highly inappropriate to even write his name in same sentence along with these great bowlers but his name is worth mentioning in this article because in last few matches he has shown Indian fast bowlers how to bowl.

In no way, I am raising hope that he can be new bowling sensation for India. He may end up as a bowling star that India is yearning for or may disappear after 20-30 matches like others in the past have disappeared but he has definitely caught the eyes of everyone in this short duration.

He is delivering “Yorkers” which is worth gold in ODI. Number of yorkers that he bowled in last four matches is more than number of yorkers bowled by Indian bowlers (barring Md. Shami) in a year or two. Indian fast bowlers neither mastered art of bowling yorkers nor they seem to be interested in learning the art. Dhoni is his last presser of 2016 Australian tour said that yorker is a delivery that should be in repertoire of every fast bowler. How they use and how often they use it is a different issue but they should possess skill to deliver yorkers.

Bowling Yorkers requires lot of effort and practise. Wasim Akram says that to bowl yorkers, bowlers need to be fully fit as they have to bend their back and put pressure on their body. It also requires a lot of effort in nets. With kind of fitness level that Indian bowlers have, no wonder they don’t seem to be interested in learning the art of bowling yorkers. They are just too unfit to even bowl. How often Indian bowlers get injured is also a mystery. Md. Shami, who was leader of the pack till World Cup 2015 and was doing well in that role, has recently joined that infamous list of injured bowlers.

Another lesson that can be learnt by Indian fast bowlers from Bumrah is how he sticks with team’s plans and how he bowls according to field that has been set by captain. In a recent T20 match against Australia, Bumrah went for few runs in Initial overs but he didn’t lose faith in his bowling and continued to bowl in same areas with some changes in fielding to save boundaries. He delivered well directed bouncers that hurried batsmen and caused problems to the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner who are in form of their life. On the other hand, when Indian fast bowlers were attacked in past 2-3 years, they bowled on both side of wicket and were further punished by batsmen.

Another aspect which has been missing is wicket taking ability of Indian fast bowlers. Bumrah did a decent job in opening spell and did very well in death overs. This could be a lesson to Indian fast bowlers who just wait for batsmen to commit mistakes to get a wicket whereas Bumrah created opportunity with right variations in his bowling.

Another area of concern for Indian bowlers is death over. They deliver far too many good length balls in death that are easily dispatched over the boundaries by modern day cricketers. Yorkers, bouncers, slower deliveries which has been missing over the years, have come in abundance since inclusion of Bumrah in the team.

Bumrah has played just 4 matches and this is just too small a sample to deliver any kind judgement on his bowling but it certainly exposes Indian bowlers and bowling coaches that India had in these years. Why couldn’t bowling coaches made these bowlers consistently bowl yorkers, wide yorkers, slower deliveries, well directed bouncers, loopy bouncers is a puzzle that needs to be solved, responsibilities for this needs to be fixed and some heads must roll. India can’t always rely on their batsmen to win the matches for them, bowlers need to step up and match the best in the world and for that bowlers need to follow natural progression not the reverse progression that they are following these days.