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Thread: South Africa and Test openers

  1. #1
    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    South Africa and Test openers

    What is it about South African selectors of late and their insistance that opening isn't a specialist position? In this Test, we're told, Neil McKenzie (a middle-order batsmen who's never had any pretensions whatsoever as an opener) is going to open the batting, with AB de Villiers (an opener who's never had any pretensions as a middle-order batsman) batting at six.

    This is merely the latest in a baffling trend. Since 2001\02, these batsmen have opened in Tests for South Africa:
    Gary Kirsten
    Herschelle Gibbs
    Graeme Smith
    Boeta Dippenaar
    Martin van Jaarsveld
    Andrew Hall
    AB de Villiers
    Jacques Rudolph
    And now McKenzie

    Every single one of these has also batted in the middle-order. Every. Single. One. Now, van Jaarsveld can be counted-out as he only did it once in an emergency... except for the fact that a specialist opener, Rudolph, was already in the side and batted three in that match.

    Specialist openers like Rudolph, Dippenaar and de Villiers have been forced to bat in the middle-order for countless matches. While people like Hall (and now McKenzie), who's never had any pretensions whatsoever as an opener, have been pushed up to open. Insane.

    The only remotely decent arrangement they came to was when they had Smith and de Villiers opening and Gibbs at three. Even that was abandoned as they insisted on having Hashim Amla (someone with a terrible technique much best suited to being kept away from the new-ball) at three.

    Why can South Africa not pick openers to open, middle-order batsmen to bat in the middle-order, and instead of thinking "he's too good to sit on the bench" when an opener has 2 or 3 bad Tests, either persist with him or drop him?

    Is it any coincidence that the only consistent batsman South Africa have had in the last 6 years is Jacques Kallis, who's never batted anywhere other than four?
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    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    Some of the best (better) opening batsmen over the years have been middle order batsmen who have had the technique or temperment to succeed as openers. There have probably been more middle order batsmen who have succeeded at the top recently then specialist openers e.g Langer, Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Shewag, Gayle, Vaughan, Jaques etc.

    Not saying MacKenzie is going to succeed as opener, but it is something that has worked successfully for a lot sides. Sometimes only short term, but when teams take things series by series they may only want short term success.
    Last edited by chaminda_00; 02-01-2008 at 08:29 AM.
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    Hall of Fame Member Goughy's Avatar
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    Im a little upset about this. It looks like the selectors have set McKenzie up to fail.

    He is very popular in SA, is the best captain in the country has been brilliant for the last 3-4 years and had to watch whist less deserving players have been given the nod.

    There is little doubt that there are some that dont want him there. By putting him as opener, he has a good chance of failing and they can turn around and drop him easily.
    If I only just posted the above post, please wait 5 mins before replying as there will be edits

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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Mr Mxyzptlk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaminda_00 View Post
    There have probably been more middle order batsmen who have succeeded at the top recently then specialist openers e.g Langer, Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Shewag, Gayle, Vaughan etc.
    Wigga say what? Chris Gayle was picked for West Indies on weight of runs opening the batting for Jamaica.
    Sreesanth said, "Next ball he was beaten and I said, 'is this the King Charles Lara? Who is this impostor, moving around nervously? I should have kept my mouth shut for the next ball - mind you, it was a length ball - Lara just pulled it over the church beyond the boundary! He is a true legend."

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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Top_Cat's Avatar
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    Wigga say what? Chris Gayle was picked for West Indies on weight of runs opening the batting for Jamaica.
    Same with Jaques and Sehwag.

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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Mr Mxyzptlk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Top_Cat View Post
    Same with Jaques and Sehwag.
    Jamaica was a powerhouse back in the day.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaminda_00 View Post
    Some of the best (better) opening batsmen over the years have been middle order batsmen who have had the technique or temperment to succeed as openers. There have probably been more middle order batsmen who have succeeded at the top recently then specialist openers e.g Langer, Jayasuriya, Atapattu, Shewag, Gayle, Vaughan, Jaques etc.

    Not saying MacKenzie is going to succeed as opener, but it is something that has worked successfully for a lot sides. Sometimes only short term, but when teams take things series by series they may only want short term success.
    Jaques is a case which has interested me - he didn't open in his first season at Northants, but has done (for his variety of domestic teams over here and NSW) ever since, and has excelled. I've often wondered what he was doing before he begun his First-Class career.

    Vaughan actually did open for more of his domestic career than not, but there's no way he's had a good career as a Test opener.

    I also very much hope Sehwag doesn't go down as a good Test opener, and very much believe that's do-able.
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Top_Cat View Post
    Same with Jaques and Sehwag.
    As I said, I always wanted to know what Jaques' case was, but Sehwag has never opened for Delhi I don't think. He was pushed up to open in 2002, did reasonably well, then had that decidedly fortunate but still decent tour of Australia in 2003\04 and things exploded from there.

    Sehwag's good fortune against Pakistan has made him look better than he is, but even excluding games against Pakistan his record as a Test opener is good. Which is odd given that Gambhir and Chopra have been Delhi's first-choice openers for, well, a long while (sure someone like SJS or Akhil would know exactly).
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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Top_Cat's Avatar
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    Jamaica was a powerhouse back in the day.
    Shame they couldn't hold onto those two or the WI could have had one heck of a top-3.

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    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    Jaques is a case which has interested me - he didn't open in his first season at Northants, but has done (for his variety of domestic teams over here and NSW) ever since, and has excelled. I've often wondered what he was doing before he begun his First-Class career.
    Batting at 3 for Sutherland and NSW 2nds. He opened the batting here and there, but mainly due to limited options. NSW had a hole at the top of the order after Taylor and Slater retired so they pushed him up to open the batting. As at the time the middle order was stacked (Bevan/S Waugh, M Waugh, Clarke, Thornley) So there was no spot for Jaques when Clake wasn't in the ODI squad. Also Matthew Phelps was ahead of him in the peaking order as well in the middle order as well. The rest is history, but doesn't make him a specialist opener.

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    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard View Post
    Vaughan actually did open for more of his domestic career than not, but there's no way he's had a good career as a Test opener.

    I also very much hope Sehwag doesn't go down as a good Test opener, and very much believe that's do-able.
    Their overall records with averages of 45 plus as openers would say otherwise, unless of course you use some selective stats to prove nothing.

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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Top_Cat's Avatar
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    Batting at 3 for Sutherland and NSW 2nds. He opened the batting here and there, but mainly due to limited options. NSW had a hole at the top of the order after Taylor and Slater retired so they pushed him up to open the batting. As at the time the middle order was stacked (Bevan/S Waugh, M Waugh, Clarke, Thornley) So there was no spot for Jaques when Clake wasn't in the ODI squad. Also Matthew Phelps was ahead of him in the peaking order as well in the middle order as well. The rest is history, but doesn't make him a specialist opener.
    Yeah but where do you start categorising batters? By the same rationale, Mark Waugh was a specialist opening bat for Bankstown and was forced to bat down the order for NSW and Australia. If the cut-off is FC cricket, Jaques is a specialist opener which I reckon is right because at grade level, some players bat all over the place. Although, it does ask the question just how important it is to categorise players. If you're good enough to play FC cricket, you're probably largely good enough to bat in most spots. Problems only seem to occur when players are shuffled around too much.

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    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Mxyzptlk View Post
    Wigga say what? Chris Gayle was picked for West Indies on weight of runs opening the batting for Jamaica.
    Wasn't his first 10 or so innings in ODIs as a middle order batsmen. Was under the impression he only got put up to open the batting to get Jamaica or West Indies to faster starts in OD matches. Also started his Test career at No 3. Was always under the impression he was middle order batsmen that was asked to open after initial success in that role.
    Last edited by chaminda_00; 02-01-2008 at 09:11 AM.

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    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Top_Cat View Post
    Yeah but where do you start categorising batters? By the same rationale, Mark Waugh was a specialist opening bat for Bankstown and was forced to bat down the order for NSW and Australia. If the cut-off is FC cricket, Jaques is a specialist opener which I reckon is right because at grade level, some players bat all over the place. Although, it does ask the question just how important it is to categorise players. If you're good enough to play FC cricket, you're probably largely good enough to bat in most spots. Problems only seem to occur when players are shuffled around too much.
    The thing is he started his FC career for Norts as middle order batsmen. Only started opening for NSW as there was no spot in the middle order.

    But at the end of day when it comes to Gayle, Jaques, Shewag, Atapattu, Vaughan, Langer and Mark Waugh, they really aren't middle order batsmen or opener batsmen. They are what you call specialist top order batsmen.

    The real issue only comes when you push lower middle order batsmen like Jayasuriya to open the batting. Jayasuriya worked but more often then not they fail.
    Last edited by chaminda_00; 02-01-2008 at 09:14 AM.

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    State Vice-Captain gettingbetter's Avatar
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    I think what cat is trying to say is that the is a hyper-sensitivity associated with batsmen playing out of position - if you can make it to such a level e.g. FC, surely you can bat everywhere. Adding to that, I tend to agree, and shortcomings are due to an individual's technique, not what postion they bat.

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