Bengaluru: The opening conundrum has always been a sticky issue for teams: a good start means a job half done. Though it may not necessarily reflect in the ultimate result on the Test arena, the confidence of the openers, the ease and equilibrium with which they handle the new ball rubs off on the team. For a long time India has had to do with makeshift openers for reasons ranging from skewed selection to team composition. The current set of Indian openers — Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan — by order of experience seem to be finding the form that the team needs most.
The left-handed Dhawan, who had a horror first Test at Mohali, bagging a pair and feeling the pressure with the likes of KL Rahul breathing down his neck, must have breathed a sigh of relief after getting his first runs of the series on Saturday afternoon following South Africa’s debacle for 214.
Soon, the rub of the green was back and the southpaw was caressing the cherry like he is known to, moving to an unbeaten 45 off 62 deliveries even as Vijay, of renowned Test temperament, held fort with a studious 28 off 73 deliveries. It’s opening partnership like these that form the fulcrum of Test cricket: flowing batsmanship at one end and sturdy, yet efficient support at the other.
Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t build on the momentum on the second day. Having guided India to 80 without loss in 22 overs, the openers waited out till the umpires called off play at 2 pm without a ball being bowled.
The 29-year-old Dhawan, in his 17th Test, has forged a good combination with Vijay, who in his 35th Test is the senior pro. The duo’s unconquered stand on the opening day was the best for the team since their fabulous 283 against Bangladesh at Fatullah in June this year. It puts into perspective when we realise there have been just two 50-plus stands for the first wicket in the last 10 Tests.
Skipper Virat Kohli, while talking about partnerships admitted as much. “It is a nice feeling to see two professionals building a partnership and it is always a good feeling to know that you have two guys in front who know how to score runs,” said the skipper on the eve of the match.
While detailing Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara’s contribution in the first Test where the latter was rock-solid as ever and especially in the sub-continent, Kohli added: “Vijay has been so consistent for us, Pujara has made a tremendous comeback, he is willing to play at any position and give the team the kind of flexibility.”
Kohli’s reference was in response to Pujara’s role which was almost like an opener at Mohali given that Dhawan had failed in both innings forcing the No.3 batsman into the middle by the second over in the first innings and the third in the second.
“We can learn a lot from them, the way they applied themselves, It is always a very calming influence in the change room for the guys sitting outside or the bowlers as to say, they can feel pretty relaxed and pretty calm about those batting in the middle.” Only a good opening combination can bring about this, more often than not.
Download the all new Deccan Chronicle app for Android and iOS to stay up-to-date with latest headlines and news stories in politics, entertainment, sports, technology, business and much more from India and around the world.