Saturday, January 14, 2006

Keep it simple

Whatever the relative merits of Ganguly's selection, I fail to understand the argument against Dravid opening. One of them is, "would you risk your best batsman in the opening position?". Here is what the argument looks like:

1. Opening positions are risky

2. Your best batsman should not be exposed to risk

Conclusion: Therefore, your best batsman should not open.

1 is a no-brainer. 2 is a no-brainer for the wrong reasons, for what is the point of having a 'best batsman' in there if not to help you negotiate risk? (Gavaskar opened India's batting for years, and he was India's best batsman by far) A similar argument demolishes the case for having a nightwatchman. Try it at home. Here is another argument:

1. Risky positions are best negotiated by skilled batsmen capable of playing fast bowling

Conclusion: Opening should be done by a skilled batsman capable of playing fast bowling. Note, I'm not concluding that it should be done by your best batsman.

I suggest that if someone were to make a quick list of the qualities an opener would have, Dravid would have them all. So there. What seems to underlie the argument against Dravid opening is that its better to offer someone as sacrificial fodder, let him take the shine off the new ball, and then let Dravid accumulate runs. But if an opener is out quickly, then not only does Dravid play against the new ball, he does so against the backdrop of a wicket already having fallen (i.e., in a more fraught situation). Do you see the similarity with the argument against having a nightwatchman?

Cricket is a complicated game and it doesn't get simpler when it is over-mystified by uncontested mythologies.


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