I was trying to explain cricket to a mate of mine from uni who doesn't watch nor understand the game (and till this day, cannot comprehend the fact that we have a game which can last 5 days, yet not produce a result).
When explaining the idea of batting, Australia vs. Sri Lanka was on and I was telling him how the next batsman in (Sangakkara) was Sri Lanka's best batsman. He then asked "then why isn't he in now?" I tried to explain the idea of specialist positions, which he understood, but replied with "well if they're the best, they'll be able to play in any position, won't they?"
It brought an interesting thought to my head. If you placed a team's batting position from 1-11 in order of who the better batsman is (and this can be subjective and come down to opinion in some teams, particularly Australia and to a lesser extent India who have quite multiple talented batsmen), would the team be equally, or even just slightly less effective? Could it still work?
Or are specialist positions so vital in the game that the batting would be significantly less effective?
I'm mainly thinking of tests here actually (despite the game above I was referring to being a ODI), but I'm going to try ODIs too. ODIs are also likely to be tougher, with lower order specialists, and pinch hitting openers etc. being relevant.
I've decided to do the Australian and Indian teams (based on their last test match) myself, and some may disagree with which batsman I rank higher than others, which is fair enough.
Note: I've gone on who I rate higher at the moment, not necessarily form. I know that sounds contradictory, but Hayden is probably in better form than Hussey, but I rate Hussey the better batsman. However Gilchrist over his career is a better ODI batsman than Michael Clarke, but at this moment in time, I rate Michael Clarke better. Not form, but how good they are currently. There's a distinction.
Indian Test Team
Could work effectively. Obviously India would risk losing Dravid and Tendulkar early to the new ball, but at the same time Dravid has opened before (and whilst he doesn't like it, he CAN do it, and definitely can when in form) and Tendulkar has all the attributes to do it. Laxman's probably at his best when at 3, and there were calls for Ganguly to be at 4 during this Aus series, so he could bat there as an aggressive 4. Sehwag at 5 is interesting, he started as a middle order batsman, and also played there in the third test vs. South Africa to hide him from the new ball when he was in woeful form. He's obviously better served as an opener, but he's an excellent player of spin and if he came out with a platform and the ball not moving he'd be dangerous. From then on its the same.
Indian ODI Team
Opening Yuvraj would obviously hurt his effectiveness, as it'd expose him to the new ball. Dhoni's batted 3 before, and done so brilliantly. I can see an argument that he's better than Yuvraj overall, but I'd still have Yuvraj slightly better than Dhoni, despite his poor form. From then on its a little less interesting due to the younger guys being harder to rate. Sehwag's a mediocre ODI player who is dangerous on his day but too inconsistent, but you'd still have to have him higher than the others. Uthappa works anywhere, but Gambhir would lose effectiveness at 6, and I haven't seen enough of Rohit but he wouldn't work at 7 at all I reckon. He's come in late in 20/20 matches and done the job, but he looks much more of an innings builder.
Australian Test Team
Ponting has come in early before at 3, so could open, and Hussey was originally brought into the Australian team as an opener, so its obvious he could do it. Hayden at 3 is interesting, particularly if he came in at 1/180 or something. Jaques at 6 would be the biggest issue really. Would be trouble if he came in against spin. Makes no different where Symonds bats once its after 4 IMO.
Just like to say I was tempted to put Johnson above Lee as a batsman Also I'm guessing Symonds fans may not like the fact I rated Jaques above him.
Australian ODI Team
Ponting could open, of that I have no doubt. Hussey could too, but it'd possibly waste his ability to hit the ball into gaps and run twos. Symonds at 3 would be an issue if Australia lost an early wicket, but he's probably good enough to get through it most of the time so long as its not a green wicket. Hayden at 4 may not work IMO, as he wouldn't have a start when he came in, and if it was after a powerplay I reckon he wouldn't push as many singles as a 4 would to get started. Just a hunch. There's been talk about batting Gilly at 6 or 7 before when he was out of form. He could obviously do it.
Overall, as expected, it seems the test batting has less of a negative effect compared to ODIs. The only issue with tests is you risk your better batsman to the new ball if they're not openers, but generally, from 3-6 there isn't too much of an issue.
India's ODI batting order is significantly effected, as the roles just don't fit the spot. Australia's is less effected though.
Before I finish I'd just like to say how bloody hard it was ranking Australia's ODI batting line-up. No wonder they're frickin' world champions. When Gilchrist is your sixth best batsman you know you have a damn good batting line-up.
Feel free to do other teams to see if they'd also work.