A quality opener & an all-rounder in the making

Published : Jun 23, 2001 00:00 IST

THE Test victory was fine but what pleased me most was the arrival of Shiv Sundar Das as a quality opener. The little dynamo played a significant part in the victory and his performance augurs really well for Indian cricket.

Das is very different from some of the young batsmen I have seen in the last few years. He is compact, consistent and brave. Three great qualities to keep the mood in the Indian dressing room positive.

It takes a lot to groom a cricketer, and if he happens to be an opener, the task becomes tougher. An opener's slot is a key position in any team because he has a very different job to do when compared to the others. I must say that Das fulfils all the requirements of an opener.

Let us not compare Das with any one because he is one of a kind. His attitude is quite positive and he is mature beyond his age as he walks to the middle with such confidence and then carries the innings on his shoulders.

For those bred on docile tracks, as is the case with most of the Indians, international cricket presents various challenges. They come in all forms and the greatest of them all is the fear of pitches. I don't blame the youngsters because I know from experience how tough it is to adapt. The reason why I rate Das high is that he has this ability to adapt.

Das is technically very well equipped. He is so sure of his off-stump and that is the first step to grinding the opposition. Being an opener is not about playing shots. It is not about just wanting to dominate. It is about survival. It is about providing the shield for the later order batsmen. I am not suggesting that Das is shielding Sachin Tendulkar. But then I am sure even Tendulkar would prefer coming to bat at 100 for two than 10 for two. Opening the innings is about laying the platform for the team to build its challenge upon.

The problem for Indian batsmen has been the short-pitched ball. Not many have handled the rising ball competently and it is this vulnerability that has been the bane of Indian batting when engaged overseas. Das brings a refreshing change.

I have known batsmen who, after being tested by a short ball, become apprehensive of front-foot play. In the process their footwork takes a beating and they become sitting ducks against the short ball. Once your footwork becomes circumspect, there is little you can do. Das, from what I have seen, is one batsman who does not get rattled by the short ball. A good sign.

Das' instinctive approach speaks for the young man's confidence. He picks the right ball to leave and the right ball to play. It has to be natural talent even though one can try and perfect this technique.

Another thing which impresses me about Das is the fact that he does not reach for the ball. It is a sign of a good batsman if he allows the ball to come on. He is cast in the mould of a Sunil Gavaskar or a Sanjay Manjrekar. Technique certainly is a strong point of Das' game and it is seen from his tight defence.

For an opener to succeed, he has to have loads of patience and Das has shown that he has this quality. He knows how to play the waiting game. It is good that Das plays within his limitations. You can see the full face of his bat as he plays in the traditional 'V' and looks a difficult batsman to dismiss. For a man of his age, I am very glad that he shows no signs of being overawed by the opposition. He has learnt early to treat the ball on merit and he is not bothered about a bowler's reputation.

Rotating the strike is an important aspect of building a partnership and here Das takes full marks. He ensures that his partner gets his share of deliveries and the partnership grows. To play session by session was a lesson I learnt very early in my career and Das too has picked the habit quite early, and quite efficiently.

Apart from Das, we had Harbhajan Singh warming up the hearts of his mates with a superlative performance in the Bulawayo Test. I call it superlative because this time he was shining with the bat, and not just the ball, thereby swelling the membership of his fan club.

Harbhajan may have come across as a surprise packet for many, but not for me. I have seen him play some exceptional knocks in Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy. It was a matter of him believing in himself because we always knew he had the potential to bat well.

I think Harbhajan has the calibre to develop into an all-rounder. It is one position which has remained vacant since the retirement of Kapil Dev and Harbhajan should be groomed. I don't want to impose the technicalities on this man because that will curb his natural instincts.

Harbhajan likes to dominate and attack and he should be allowed to pursue his game. It is his natural ability that counts and that is what the team management should take care to protect.

Kapil also took time to develop. He started as a number eleven batsman and graduated to become one of the finest all-rounders the game has seen. Harbhajan has the potential to become a quality all-rounder and I would strongly recommend my former Punjab mate to take his batting seriously. He played some champion shots during the course of the innings which actually shaped the Indian challenge after the established batsmen had failed to drive home the advantage gained by the bowlers.

A quality opener and an all-rounder in the making. Good signs for Indian cricket at the start of the season. These two cricketers have had to work hard all the way. They know the importance of getting into the Indian eleven and should guard against any complacency. They have a bright future ahead and I wish them well at this point of their careers.

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