Increasingly, the relevance of batting orders has come to question across all international teams in the one day format. While it may be a worthy exercise to analyze this trend across the different teams, it certainly is worthwhile looking at it from India’s point of view.
In ODIs, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar shared over a hundred opening partnerships. To be precise, they had 117 opening stands in ODI cricket for a total of 5621 runs at an average of 48.88 per outing, including 15 partnerships (12.82%) of 100+ runs.
After Virender Sehwag’s emergence, the Ganguly-Sehwag combine opened in 42 games. They had 42 opening stands in ODI cricket for a total of 1705 runs at an average of 40.60 per outing, including 5 partnerships (11.90%) of 100+ runs.
The Tendulkar-Sehwag opening partnership combined extremely well too. They had 57 opening stands in ODI cricket for a total of 2459 runs at an average of 43.14 per outing, including 9 partnerships (15.79%) of 100+ runs.
Of course, I recognise that one other metric that we haven’t considered in all of this is the partnership strike rate.
However, with injuries to Tendulkar and with Ganguly being in and out of the side, the opening stands have changed hands periodically. At various times, Irfan Pathan, Dinesh Mongia, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid and others have quite often accepted the opening role. With Rahul Dravid, Mohammed Kaif, and Yuvraj Singh being regulars in the side, the middle order seemed fairly consistent and intact for quite a while.
The Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell team has completely changed the philosophy behind batting orders and I think for the right reasons. Factors including but not limited to, types of pitches, bowling standards, powerplay rules and fielding standards have essentially required batsmen to adapt fairly quickly in various conditions to produce results.
Imagine a situation that we have seen before: Irfan Pathan would have three wickets in a couple of overs at the start of the game and you have the number 5 playing pretty much as an opener. Or imagine another situation wherein Dravid walks in in the 45th over as a number five and has to obviously get quick runs if batting first. These are not rare occurrences as we have to come observe. The rationale adopted by Chappell and Dravid seems fairly obvious, the top seven in the batting order should be in a position to bat at any position and at point during the game. Tendulkar’s injuries and his own evolution as a batsman, leader and guide/mentor (a topic for a separate discussion that I will work on) have played a role in the team. Dhoni’s transformation from a slam-bang type of player to a responsible bat (another topic for a separate discussion) has also contributed. The forced transformation on Sehwag further seems to validate the point. And what about Dinesh Karthik!
It is quite amazing actually. India’s top seven batsmen (they can pretty much be any seven batters in the fifteen) are flexible enough to play anywhere, anytime.
This is an enviable position to be in. In fact, it almost seems to set a precedent for any new/emerging/re-emerging players trying to get into the team. The remaining four could, in these circumstances, be specialist bowlers with atleast two in the top seven in a position to complete a 10 over quota. I believe that this unique strength of the Indian team gives Team India an advantage over teams like Sri Lanka or New Zealand who try and fill their teams with all rounders and three or less specialist bowlers.