5 Indian openers who showed promise before fading away
Opening in Test matches is a difficult art. The primary job of an opening batsman is to survive and take the shine off the ball. They should possess good technique and sound temperament to negotiate the overhead conditions.
Team management expects the openers to go out and face the new ball bowled by the fastest opposition bowlers at their freshest. One needs to be courageous to accept the challenge and it is not a job for the chicken-hearted.
There have been legendary openers in cricket like Sunil Gavaskar, Matthew Hayden, Alastair Cook and Gordon Greenidge.
We have seen the plight of Indian openers who have struggled to get going overseas after scoring tons of runs in India during 2016-17. However, there were a few Indian openers in late 90's and early 2000's who showed promise before fading away.
#5 Vikram Rathour
Vikram Rathour was one of the promising openers in India in the 90's. He had a blockbuster season in First Class Cricket which led to his selection in the 1996 England tour. Rathour had previously played a few ODIs for India and even scored a fifty against South Africa in Sharjah right after the 1996 World Cup.
Rathour debuted for India against England in 1996 purely on merit based on his consistent performances in domestic cricket. However, he struggled against the English pace attack and struggled to negotiate the swinging conditions and looked a pale shadow of his own self.
His lack of footwork and adaptability was one of the reasons for his abject failure at the international level. He didn't possess the temperament of Rahul Dravid or Sourav Ganguly who were success stories on that tour, and hence slowly faded away from the international arena.
Rathour had who had a great FC career, also served as a national selector for India.
#4 Shiv Sunder Das
Shiv Sunder Das was once hailed as the answer to India's extended search of a proper Test opener. Das was the second cricketer from Odisha who struggled to save a fledging career after making Test debut against Zimbabwe in 2000-01.
Das had all the qualities to succeed as an opener; he had a flawless judgment of his off stump and never lost his shape when he played his strokes.
His biggest issue was his conversion rate in International cricket. Das was India's first-choice opener for a while and he scored a few fifties and an impressive 84 against McGrath and co in Chennai in 2001. However, he could never get going against top-quality opposition in alien conditions.
After struggling against West Indian fast bowlers in India's tour of West Indies in 2002, he fell out of the selector's radar and even though he scored a triple hundred in FC cricket, he could never make a comeback into the Indian test team.
Das now serves as a coach to the Manipur Cricket team.
#3 Sadagopan Ramesh
Sadagoppan Ramesh was a talented opening batsman from Tamil Nadu, who looked like India's answer to Saeed Anwar. When he scored a brilliant century against West Indies A where he faced the likes of Ian Bishop, Franklyn Rose and Cameron Cuffy, Krishnamachari Srikkanth advocated his inclusion and the selectors obliged by giving him an opportunity against the touring the Pakistani team in 1999.
Ramesh showed courage and big match temperament in his debut series facing the pace-trio of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar and the spin of Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed with equanimity and scored his maiden fifty, a 96 in the 2nd Test at Delhi. He even averaged 50 after 6 Tests which made many believe that India had unearthed a world class opening batsman.
There were experts who pointed out to his faulty footwork and technique and had a strong opinion that he would suffer in alien conditions. He too had an issue with conversion rate throwing away good starts and struggling with soft dismissals. Once Sehwag became a success story, Ramesh fell out of the selector's radar.
Ramesh now acts in Tamil movies and he has done commentary stints in TNPL.
#2 Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra was a classical opener in the Geoff Boycott mould whose primary job was to survive with sound technique and take the shine off the ball. These attributes helped him in getting a Test berth against the touring New Zealand side in 2003 season where he scored his maiden fifty.
When India toured Australia in 2003, he enhanced his reputation further by providing solid starts in partnership with Virender Sehwag and the duo had 2 hundred run stands to go with 3 fifty-plus partnerships.
Although Chopra failed to cross the 50-mark in the four Tests against Australia, he showed exemplary technique and patience to see off the new ball. Chopra was dropped from the team after an unimpressive performance in the home series against Australia in 2004.
He too like many others had an issue in failing to convert starts. Even though the Delhi batsman had some impressive performances in the domestic circuit, he was never recalled to play at the Test level.
Aakash Chopra now is an expert and regularly writes columns for leading dailies. He is also a regular commentator for sports channels and also participates in exclusive shows during IPL.
#1 Wasim Jaffer
Wasim Jaffer was an opener brought up in the Mumbai School of batting. Jaffer scored a triple-century in only his second first-class game.
After a disastrous tour of Australia in 1999/00, the entire team was overhauled and he was handed a Test debut in February 2000 in Mumbai where he found Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock too hot to handle. He was dropped from the side and spent almost 6 years in domestic wilderness scoring truckloads of runs.
Jaffer received his second opportunity against England at Nagpur in March 2006. In his comeback match, he notched up his maiden Test hundred and followed it up with a double against West Indies in June 2006.
Jaffer scored runs against Pakistan and England in 2007 before losing his form and his place in the Test side to Gautam Gambhir. However, Jaffer continued to score runs in the FC cricket and recently became the all-time highest scorer in Ranji Trophy scoring over 11000 runs.