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Of feasts and famines

trundler

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
The previous decade was notoriously easy for batting and there was a dearth of good fast bowlers. This has been rectified in this decade as even India have a decent pace bowling unit. But there are no truly great opening batsmen since Cook retired. None. The question which originally popped in my head was this: is this unusual? Are great opening batsmen simply rare or are we going through an anomalous period? This led me to wonder about eras which had great riches when it came to opening bats. So I thought I'd make a thread about eras which had lots of great players of one type or another. The 90s were a great time for fast bowling and so on.
 

SillyCowCorner1

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
I think the true purpose of the opener is to get the shine off the ball, to make it easier for the rest of the batsmen to handle...Warner does this quite well, although his most recent Ashes shows his weakness against the Duke ball delivered by a very good seamer.

The white ball hardly does this...I feel that Azhar Ali fits the mold of a classical opener. Not great, but alright. Karunaratne as well.
 

Engle

State Vice-Captain
The openers are the 1st batsmen to handle the playing conditions. Their role is to see off the fast bowling attack, then lay the platform.

Since the 60's onwards (earlier ?), openers have averaged below middle order batsmen. If a Test average of 50 is used as a benchmark, only Gavaskar and Hayden have surpassed this, barely. Even the great opening pairs of Lawry/Simpson, Boycott/Edrich/Gooch, Greenidge/Fredericks/Haynes et al have retired short of the mark. Whereas an abundance of middle order batsmen have surpassed this, some at a much wider margin.
 

trundler

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
A 42+ average is decent enough for an opener. I'm wondering if there was a time with plenty of great openers around to counter the current dearth. In the 60s England and Australia both must've had decent openers. Goddard and Barlow were around too. So was Hanif. Not sure how much of that overlapped with Hunte. I'm possibly conflating eras.
 

Line and Length

International Captain
I may be wrong, but I feel some of the great keepers of the past have been replaced by batsmen who are reasonably competent glovemen.

An era where the likes of Don Tallon, Wally Grout and Godfrey Evans were selected purely on their keeping skills seems a thing of the past.
 

TheJediBrah

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
The previous decade was notoriously easy for batting and there was a dearth of good fast bowlers. This has been rectified in this decade as even India have a decent pace bowling unit. But there are no truly great opening batsmen since Cook retired. None. The question which originally popped in my head was this: is this unusual? Are great opening batsmen simply rare or are we going through an anomalous period? This led me to wonder about eras which had great riches when it came to opening bats. So I thought I'd make a thread about eras which had lots of great players of one type or another. The 90s were a great time for fast bowling and so on.
Which came first the chicken or the egg? Didn't we just have a thread about this?

anyway Warner is statistically just about as good as any opener from the previous decade tbf

Obviously he's notoriously bad in certain conditions, though you could say that about a lot of "great" players, eg. Jimmy Anderson
 

cnerd123

likes this
Part of the reason why openers average less than everyone else is that teams often do not send their best batsmen out to open

We had a phase from the 90s to the 00s where pitches were really batting friendly, which neutralised the new ball to some extent. This was mostly driven by a commercial need to ensure games last 5 days

Groundsmen have gotten better and can now prepare pitches that last 5 days but also provide support for the bowlers. The ICC has also begun cracking down on dead pitches. I think this is why we've seen more bowler friendly cricket in the last 5 years, more than any perceived decline in batting quality/improvement in bowling

Batting techniques have changed to suit limited overs cricket, and while I think this has had no effect on overall batting quality, it's definitely a factor behind why it's so hard to find a good Test opener now. The skill sets required for an opener in Red and White ball cricket are more different than they have ever been, to the point where I don't think you can be a good Test opener in bowler friendly conditions unless you specialise in that. You could be like Warner and Dhawan and find a way to bring that style across into Tests, but there will be limits to your success
 

cnerd123

likes this
Probably also worth noting that there are very few places left in the world where being an opener = seeing off the new ball. In the subcontinent the new ball is often the most productive time to be a batsman, which is why the Rohit experiment works and why Ashwin often comes in to bowl in the first 30 minutes.
 

Fuller Pilch

Cricketer Of The Year
Part of the reason why openers average less than everyone else is that teams often do not send their best batsmen out to open

We had a phase from the 90s to the 00s where pitches were really batting friendly, which neutralised the new ball to some extent. This was mostly driven by a commercial need to ensure games last 5 days

Groundsmen have gotten better and can now prepare pitches that last 5 days but also provide support for the bowlers. The ICC has also begun cracking down on dead pitches. I think this is why we've seen more bowler friendly cricket in the last 5 years, more than any perceived decline in batting quality/improvement in bowling

Batting techniques have changed to suit limited overs cricket, and while I think this has had no effect on overall batting quality, it's definitely a factor behind why it's so hard to find a good Test opener now. The skill sets required for an opener in Red and White ball cricket are more different than they have ever been, to the point where I don't think you can be a good Test opener in bowler friendly conditions unless you specialise in that. You could be like Warner and Dhawan and find a way to bring that style across into Tests, but there will be limits to your success
Latham is pretty decent in bowler friendly conditions despite playing a totally different role as a no 5 (and keeper) in ODIs.
 

cnerd123

likes this
Latham's success in ODIs in the middle order is actually more surprising to me than his success as a Test opener. Not quite sure how he's pulled that off. I guess he does runs well between the wickets and is good at sweeping the ball, so he has a few extra dimensions that work for him. But he's quite exceptional.

Also, talking about successful all-format openers, Tamim Iqbal is always overlooked. He has been very good for a long time.
 

TheJediBrah

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
Interesting take. Latham looked highly suspect against the new ball last year in Aus and I would have thought that would be one of the easier places to take on the new rock.Even when he survived for a bit it took a lot of luck. His technique looked pretty ordinary to me, may have been a bit of the bounce that undid him? Maybe it was just the quality of bowling
 
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Flem274*

123/5
it was the extra bounce. latham does really well at home and in the subcontinent. while the bounce in nz is still very good on a global scale, a lot of his bread and butter shots like the tuck off the hip (his first dismissal of the series i think) weren't working because he wasn't adjusting to the more pronounced bounce in aus.

that and new zealanders always find new ways to technically or mentally collapse when faced with an australian cricketer and this is never addressed because our sports media call australian cricketers meanies instead of demanding improvement.
 

TheJediBrah

Cricket Web: All-Time Legend
He looked to me like he would be better suited to a middle-order role tbh. Sort of a Chanderpaul or Lehmann-type player. I'm not surprised he's done well in the middle order in ODIs. Having said that, of course if opening the batting is what the team needs from him then that's what he should do. NZ have a strong-ish middle-order already.
 
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Flem274*

123/5
i think he would definitely score more runs in the middle order against spin and the old ball, but him being a competent opener is too valuable to the team. he is a strong leaver of the ball which helps him a lot opening in nz.
 

Starfighter

Hall of Fame Member
it was the extra bounce
Seems to be a New Zealand tradition to have at least one opener look absolutely bereft against proper quick bowling. Blair Hartland's duck in a shooting alley impression against Wasim Akram being the best example. I watched highlights recently of NZ vs WI in '99 (a series NZ won comfortably) and Gary Stead gave all indication of being imminently killed. I see he infused the spirit into both Latham and Raval at points against us.
 

Flem274*

123/5
yep. what's annoying is both have shown they can handle the jandal. latham obvz has a solid test record and raval had an impressive series against south africa.

i think hartland was one of those dudes who struggled to average 30 in fc but we were throwing darts at the wall.
 

Engle

State Vice-Captain
I may be wrong, but I feel some of the great keepers of the past have been replaced by batsmen who are reasonably competent glovemen.

An era where the likes of Don Tallon, Wally Grout and Godfrey Evans were selected purely on their keeping skills seems a thing of the past.
England immediately felt the absence of batting value that Knott brought when he was replaced by Taylor. Knott was genuinely good behind the stumps, but conceded that Taylor was better. ' Keepers are now expected to earn their keep with the bat, in addition to the glove.
 

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