Opening is the key to success in Australia. It’s important to set the right tone, since the quality of the start is bound to influence the final outcome of the match. If you give the Aussies an opening at the top, they’ll walk straight in. Here are a few things to remember as an opener to succeed
Know your off-stump
Whether you like or not, you’ll be forced to leave a lot of balls in order to survive the new Kookaburra ball, especially on Day 1 of a Test. Most surfaces Down Under are slightly damp on the opening day and provide fast bowlers lateral movement off the surface. If you try to play every delivery, you’re doomed. It is mandatory to allow a lot of balls to go safely to the wicketkeeper and choose the right balls to play. Since you can always trust the bounce on Australian surfaces, you can leave the ball on length too.
Look for full ball
As much as you’re tempted to stay on the back-foot to increase your chances of scoring on hard and bouncy Australian tracks, you shouldn’t forget to keep looking for the balls that are pitched up. Short of length deliveries are a tool to push the batsman back before slipping a teasing full ball inducing an edge.
See off the shine
The new Kookaburra ball is twice more dangerous and tricky to handle than its scraped version. The pronounced seam on the new ball makes it dart around considerably after pitching. The new ball moves appreciably in the air too. It’s important to curb your natural aggressive instincts till the ball loses its sheen, for exposing the middle order to the new cherry can spell doom.
Justin Langer told me after the last Test match in Sydney during the 2003-04 tour that as an opener you’ll encounter wicket-taking deliveries quite often. That’s because the ball is new, bowlers are fresh and the wicket untested. Since you won’t get a start every time you bat, it’s important to make the starts count, he added. Both Gambhir and Sehwag would do well to remember these words whenever they find themselves batting beyond 20 overs.
The writer opened for India during the 2003-04 tour to Australia