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.
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.
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