Any good contractor will tell you that the key to a strong and dependable building is a solid and firm foundation. Therefore, a considerable amount of time and energy is expended on clearing the land, excavating, and setting up a foundation. The foundation of a good batting lineup and by extension a good Test team is a good opening partnership. The importance of developing a good opening partnership was a subject coach Phil Simmons recently addressed after the disappointing first test loss to the South Africans.
He stated to the media via sportsmax.tv, “it’s one of the things we have been desperately trying to work on because if you look back, a lot of times when we win Test matches against top teams, we have good opening stands.” He continued, “It’s disappointing because when you look at the last 7 Test 100s scored by an opener, I think they were all scored by Kraigg. So, it’s disappointing for us and we are trying to work very hard on that.”
A lack of a consistent opening partnership destabilizes a batting lineup and triggers batting collapses like the one we recently witnessed.
Let’s examine why Simmons’ assessment of the way forward is 100% percent correct by looking at the past. Then, we will discuss the present opening partnership conundrum that the Windies face.
Greenidge and Haynes
The greatest example to prove why an opening partnership is invaluable to a team is to cast our minds back to the West Indies glory days. The foundation of that dominant cricket team and strong batting lineup was knowing that Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge would set the platform.
The two batsmen began a legendary partnership in March 1978, and it lasted 13 years until it ended in 1991. According to stats from espncricinfo, the duo combined to bat 148 innings together, score 6482 test runs, share in sixteen 100 run partnerships as well twenty-six 50 run partnerships which are records. The partnership also averaged 47.31 in test cricket.
The Barbadian duo were versatile batsmen and was equally as deadly in one-day cricket. The duo batted 102 innings together, shared in fifteen 100 run partnerships and twenty-four 50 run partnerships. The duo amassed 5150 runs which is third all-time behind Ganguly and Tendulkar in first as well as Gilchrist and Hayden in second place.
Greenidge was the more aggressor of the two batsmen. He had all the shots in the book by cutting, hooking, and driving the ball powerfully on both sides of the wicket. Despite his instincts to attack, he is described by observers as possessing a solid defensive technique.
His partner, Desmond Haynes would prove to be the foil to his attacking partner. He possessed a good technique and showed diligence in the way he batted from the other end.
The sad part of remembering Greenidge and Haynes for Caribbean cricket lovers is to tell where our next best partnership duo appear on the all-time list.
If you were able answer correctly off the top of your head without Google, you would be considered a certified genius.
Chris Gayle and…?
The answer to the question is the 22nd ranked pair of Darren Ganga and Chris Gayle who formed a solid partnership from 2001-2008. The duo batted 49 innings together and scored 1,954 runs. Ganga and Gayle shared in five 100 run partnerships, seven 50 run partnerships, and a good average of 41.57 runs.
Surprisingly, in ODI the next best rank partnership is Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul at number 20. The duo batted 43 innings together between 2002-2007 scoring 1,947 runs with eleven 50 run partnerships and 5 stands over 100 runs. The duo posted an excellent average of 48.67.
It’s interesting to note that Chris Gayle is the common denominator in the next best-ranked West Indian opening partnerships. The self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” has his critics, but the stats prove that he is the best opening batsman since the famed duo of Haynes and Greenidge. It also shows just how much the team struggled to pair him with a consistent partner in both formats of the game. The West Indies have now struggled to replace Gayle at this point especially in the Test format.
Shai Hope and….?
It will be difficult to ever find a pair like Haynes and Greenidge that will play across all formats. So, a more realistic approach is to have someone who can adapt like Gayle and able to play consistently in both formats of the game. Assessing the current crop of talent available in the region, I believe Shai Hope possesses the greatest talent to be the opening batsman capable of playing both formats.
Hope was dropped from the team in November of last year because he needed to work on technical and mental issues stemming from a poor run of form. He returned against Sri Lanka to produce a man-of-the-series performance in the ODI’s in which scored a century and two 50. The stats show he is a better ODI batsman than Test batsman because in the shorter format he has 3,547 runs with 10 centuries and 19 fifties at an astonishing average of 53.74.
However, in 35 Test he has made only 1,630 runs with 2 centuries and 5 fifties at an average of 25.87. If Hope continues to work at his game by doing the basics of seeing off the new balls at times and being judicious in his shot selection, in time he could make the transition as Gayle to be the lynchpin in both formats.
As Simmons noted, captain Kraigg Brathwaite is the most consistent of the opening test batters. Can he be the Darren Ganga for Shai Hope? The potential is there with 9 centuries and he certainly is a perfect foil because of his extremely patient knocks at the crease. In the ODI format, we can look to give the Evan Lewis and Shai Hope partnership a longer look with its recent success against Sri Lanka.
In the upcoming summer series, we will see if they can provide the constant foundation to propel the West Indies to big totals.
The duo of Greenidge and Haynes proves that Simmons’ assessment is spot on. Yes, fixing the opening partnership is one of the best ways to start making the trek towards fielding a successful unit.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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