From entering into the mold of ODI cricket in 1974 with the ever-dependable Sunil Gavaskar leading the innings to Virender Sehwag smashing sixes for fun in the powerplay overs as the game changed with the turn of the century, India has seen a few famous opening partnerships.
The first long-term partnership India had in ODI cricket was the one between Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth, which pair opened in 55 innings and put up 1680 runs at an average of 30.80. The success of this pair pales in comparison to the modern-day pairs India have had, but they were at the top when India won the 1983 World Cup. They also laid down a template for future opening pairs – where one partner puts a price on his wicket and the other goes for big shots from the outset.
The opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul has started off on a tremendous note – 992 runs in 11 innings at an average of 90.18 – but they do not make it to this list on the basis of not having opened together enough yet.
136 innings – 6609 runs at an average of 49.32
When Sourav Ganguly emerged on the scene on the tour of England in 1996, a long-term problem for Team India was solved – finding an opening partner for Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin had by then established his reputation as the best opening batsman in ODI cricket, but India struggled to find an able partner for him. Navjot Sidhu, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and others had varying degrees of success filling that role, but Sourav’s emergence meant that the onus of leading India’s charge with the bat was not on the Little Master’s shoulders alone.
Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar (2002 – 2012)
93 innings – 3919 runs at an average of 42.13
Virender Sehwag’s entry into international cricket changed India’s approach towards batting like never before.
Sehwag, who modelled his batting on Sachin’s – with an extra dose of attacking intent thrown in – quickly became known for throwing caution to the wind against the new ball. His aggressive approach had two benefits – the number of quick runs added to the total early on and the time his partner would get to settle down without feeling the pressure of dot balls.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma (2013 – 2020)
107 innings – 4802 runs at an average of 45.30
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have formed India’s most stable opening pair since the end of the Sachin era in Indian cricket.
The only pair to have opened more than 100 innings other than the Ganguly-Tendulkar pair, Rohit and Shikhar opening the innings has become an integral part of seeing Team India in action over the last decade.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir (2003 – 2013)
38 innings – 1870 runs at an average of 50.54
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir – both from Delhi – have been two of the best openers for India in ODI cricket in this century. They have had great success when opening together – this is the only pair with more than 30 matches to have recorded a batting average in excess of 50 – but they did not do so often enough because Sachin Tendulkar was still in his heyday.
Even in the 2011 World Cup, in which Gambhir top-scored in the final, it was a Sachin-Sehwag pair that opened for India, with Gambhir coming in at No.3.
Ajay Jadeja and Sachin Tendulkar (1994 – 1996)
22 innings – 1315 runs at an average of 59.77
Ajay Jadeja had seemed the answer to India’s problem of a stable opening partner for Sachin for a while.
Pushed to the top of the order in 1994, Jadeja responded with a string of sensational knocks. Jadeja and Sachin racked up runs at an incredible average of 59.77 while opening for India. Jadeja was pushed down to the middle order with the emergence of Ganguly.
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