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Trouble at the top for India

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India_opening_partnership_openers_batting_problemsIndia is at the pinnacle of Test rankings at this point in time.

India have a captain who can win matches on his own and has done it more often than not in recent times. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are the all-rounders who can help India sustain No.1 Test ranking for a long-time. India have a decent pace attack as well, for a change. India have almost all the bases covered in their Test line-up, including their reserve players. The only area that India have to look at is the opening combination.

The opening partnership is crucial for any team’s success in any format. In Tests, India have tried eight opening combinations since 2014. In this period, the opening partnerships have crossed the century mark only two times, which is the joint second lowest.

Generally, openers set a platform for middle-order so that the team can post a decent total. India’s success in Test cricket last year was largely due to their middle-order’s stunning performance.

Since 2014, India’s opening partnerships have added 1670 runs from 56 innings, which is the lowest among teams which have played at least 50 innings. India’s opening partnership average of 30.92 is also the lowest among all the teams during the mentioned period.

There is no debate about the opening combination going around right now because both the openers have performed well individually. But to remain at the top for a long time, the Indian management needs to address this issue as early as they can. They have to rectify this problem in this home season itself, otherwise it will cause many troubles when they go overseas.

Note: All subsequent figures are for Tests since 1 January, 2014

Opening partnership average for teams (Min.50 innings):

Team

Innings

Runs

High.

Average

Australia

64

3334

237

52.92

England

73

2578

180

35.31

Pakistan

57

1902

215

34.58

New Zealand

57

1957

169

34.33

Sri Lanka

64

2046

124

31.96

India

56

1670

283

30.92

The only Indian player who is set at the top of the order is Murali Vijay. He has been the go-to man for India in all conditions for the last three or four years.

Shikhar Dhawan enjoyed a run at the top of the order before the rise of Lokesh Rahul. In fact, India’s most successful opening pair has been Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan: They added 916 runs from 27 innings at an average of 35.23 during the period.

Since Shikhar Dhawan is out of the team right now, Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul are India’s first choice openers. But their record is below par as they have added only 212 runs from 10 innings together at an average of 21.20.

Opening combinations used by India (Min.5 innings):

Partner-1

Partner-2

Innings

Runs

HS

Average

100s/50s

Shikhar Dhawan

Murali Vijay

27

916

283

35.23

1/4

Lokesh Rahul

Murali Vijay

10

212

52

21.20

0/1

Shikhar Dhawan

Lokesh Rahul

5

171

87

34.20

0/1

Gautam Gambhir

Murali Vijay

8

148

68

21.14

0/1

However, there is a difference between a successful opener and a successful opening combination. Murali Vijay has scored 2003 runs from 47 innings at an average of 43.54, the fourth most by any opener who has played at least 35 innings in the given time period.

Most runs by openers (Min.35 innings):

Player

Innings

Runs

Average

100s/50s

David Warner

62

3358

55.04

13/13

Alastair Cook

71

2975

44.40

5/18

Tom Latham

53

2111

41.39

6/12

Murali Vijay

47

2003

43.54

6/10

DimuthKarunaratne

53

1850

36.27

4/9

Kraigg Brathwaite

44

1778

45.58

5/8

Kaushal Silva

57

1691

29.66

2/11

Dean Elgar

39

1511

41.97

5/5

Since 2014, India has played Test cricket in New Zealand, England, Australia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies and India i.e. in most Test-playing locations. It is always hard work for opening batsmen to score big runs in overseas conditions, but the ones who do score make their names in world cricket. Indian opening added more than 50 runs only three times outside Asia: once in West Indies and twice in Australia.

Moreover: in Asia, where you would expect openers to score big due to the reduced threat of swing bowling, India’s openers have managed to make only two century partnerships from 28 innings. 37.50% of India’s opening partnerships have yielded single-digit numbers, the second highest percentage for any team. These numbers easily prove India’s opening partnership problems.

Highest percentage of sub-10 opening partnerships for teams (Min.20 Tests):

Team

Partnerships

Sub-10 partnerships

% sub-10 partnerships

Pakistan

57

25

43.86

India

56

21

37.50

West Indies

47

17

36.17

South Africa

45

15

33.33

New Zealand

57

18

31.58

Australia

64

17

26.56

Sri Lanka

64

15

23.43

England

73

16

21.91

Let us now compare India’s opening partnership’s performance with the partnerships at other wickets in the same team. India’s opening wicket has added 21 single-digit partnerships, which is the most for them among the first six wickets.

Only India’s sixth wicket has yielded a higher percentage of single-digit partnerships than the opening wicket. India’s second and third wicket partnerships have been the reason why India is ranked No.1 right now.

Highest percentage of sub-10 partnerships for India among top 6 wickets:

Wicket

Partnerships

Sub-10 partnerships

% sub-10 partnerships

6th

51

20

39.22

1st

56

21

37.50

5th

50

18

36.00

4th

53

15

28.30

2nd

55

14

25.45

3rd

54

10

18.52

India still have four Tests left after this ongoing Bangladesh Test to figure out their opening combination for when they travel overseas later this year. It is important to remember that in overseas conditions, one decent opening partnership can change the course of the game more effectively than an individual performance.

Only time will tell what India’s opening combination will be in overseas conditions. But as of now, India’s current openers urgently need to rectify this major problem.

Note: Stats updated till 09/02/2017.

 

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