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Opening blues persist for Kolkata

cricket Updated: May 12, 2008 02:31 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
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What was expected to be the team's strength has turned out to be an area of concern. Kolkata had a few potentially deadly opening options but a combination of injuries and international commitments of their foreign recruits have left the captain and coach in a seemingly endless search for the right men.

The first blow was Chris Gayle's injury and the second came in the form of Brendon McCullum's unavailability after four matches. As result, Sourav Ganguly and John Buchanan have been forced to try out six pairs in eight matches. Just once have one of these pairs been used in successive matches.

In this tournament, teams with good opening combinations like Delhi and Jaipur are doing well. Kolkata put an end to their four-match losing streak with back-to-back wins, but they were achieved without the openers's involvement.

In the absence of Gayle and McCullum, it appeared that Ganguly and Salman Butt were the obvious choice. It didn't work because problems in the middle-order meant the skipper had to drop down, while Butt is yet to become a certainty in the XI.

Not that the openers are expected to figure in 50-run partnerships in Twenty20 games, but after achieving that in the first match, Kolkata have failed to get even half of those runs in the last seven matches. Though they did beat the two most non-performing sides in the last two games, there are no signs of the problem being sorted out.

Ganguly cited the absence of foreigners as reason. "We are the worst-hit team on that front, never got the opportunity to stick to a combination as people kept leaving the team. So we have to keep trying out new combinations." He added he would continue to play in the middle-order since the ploy has clicked.

Under the circumstances, it looks as if Aakash Chopra will be persisted with. He is known more for his technically correct approach than his ability to score quickly, but he may just stay on because Butt's place is far from secure.

Since a foreigner has to be left out to accommodate Shoaib Akhtar, Butt seems to be the likely casualty. After some struggle, Ganguly's bowling stocks look settled and the inclusion of Akhtar is expected to make it more potent. Even on the day when Ganguly and David Hussey played like super humans, the same could not be said about the batsmen in general and openers in particular.