Many will argue that they are the team’s most significant batters. Their role is to get the team off to a strong start and lay the groundwork for the rest of the game, but what constitutes a successful opener?
The opening batsmen are the players numbered one and two in the batting order. They will begin the innings by facing the new ball and will not have to wait for a wicket to fall before walking to the crease.
Their contribution is critical to their team’s score as well as the game’s outcome.
The opening batsmen’s initial job is to’see off the new ball.’ The new ball is literally taken out of its box and has never been used before. In first-class cricket, the fielding side has 80 overs to utilise that ball before it may be changed
When the ball is fresh, it might bounce higher and move more off the seam. When the ball strikes the pitch, that seam becomes more visible, and the ball might deviate to a larger extent.
Opening hitters will have to deal with the new ball, therefore they will have a more specialised job than their counterparts down in the batting order.
It may be difficult to navigate those early overs, and in test and first-class cricket, batters tend to depend on the defensive skills necessary early in the game, leaving the ball alone.
They will, however, need to play offensive shots and capitalise on poor deliveries when they can.
When the ball is whacked by the bat, the shine begins to fade and the seam becomes less visible. The ball begins to soften and bounce less, and there is less action off the seam.
As a result, the opening hitters’ roles are highly varied.What Qualifies as a Good Opening Batsman?
A strong opening batsmen can modify their game to any surface and overhead circumstances. When the ball leaves the bowler’s hand, it tends to swing higher in the air if there is cloud cover.
If the weather is bright and sunny, the swing should be reduced, but the ball may bounce higher. In the early overs of a match, overhead circumstances can exacerbate swing and seam, and the opening batter must be prepared for this.
The pitch can also influence how the opening batters modify their game. It may be low and sluggish enough that spinners enter the assault considerably early than they would usually.
Opening batsmen will seldom face spin until much later in the innings, generally in the second session of a test cricket match, when the ball has been bowled for roughly 40 overs.
On turning surfaces, however, spin may be used considerably early, particularly in nations such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
In contrast, if the openers come to the crease and the pitch is very green, with a lot of grass, the ball will deviate further off the surface.
The seam bowlers will be on the field for much longer, and we may not even see spin until much later in the game.
To summarise, an opener must have a good all-around game and be ready for anything. The early conditions, weather, and pitch condition will all have an impact on the sort of bowling assault they will face, and the opening batters must be prepared.
This is the foundation of a solid opener. Even big hitters like Australia’s David Warner will have a strong defensive strategy. Meanwhile, because the majority of openers do not play in Warner’s manner, they will need to play more defensively at the top of each inning.
As we have seen, the ball will move more off the seam and bounce more. The attacking team will also be on the pitch. Bowlers will be fresh and should strike their line and length more frequently than later in the innings.
Opening overs should be used to capitalise on faulty deliveries, but they should also be used to play effective defence.
This is the first function of the opening pair, and while we said it earlier, it bears repeating. The new ball is polished on both sides and has a noticeable seam as it comes out of the package. The bowling team must make the most of this ball before losing both of its assets.
A glossy new ball will bounce higher, and with that elevated seam, there will be greater variation.
In previous post, I discussed several sorts of balls, and we know that different brands have varying seams. In all circumstances, though, the ball is in superior shape when it is fresh.
The opening batsmen’s first task is to nullify the power of that fresh new ball. A strong defence is essential, but it’s also critical to score runs when the opportunity arises.
Even if they are primarily defensive, the finest openers will always attempt to put away the poor ball.
The field is up in those early overs, with more slip fielders and other close fielders in action. The bowling team is attacking, which creates holes in the field. Opening hitters do two things by exploiting such spaces.
While having a solid defensive technique is vital, if the run rate is modest during the first session, pressure will begin to develop. Runs win games, and the openers must get the ball rolling at some point to relieve the strain on themselves and the hitters who will follow.
A fresh ball will always get soft and the seam will weaken with time. Bowlers strike the pitch, the ball strikes the wicketkeeper’s gloves, and the gloss and hardness of the ball begin to fade.
However, openers might speed up the softening process by striking the ball in the centre of the bat and sending it to the boundary.
To summarise, there is a delicate balance to be reached here: If you want to be an opening batter, you must have a solid defensive technique, but you must also be able to score runs and keep the scoreboard moving when the opportunity arrives.
Opening batters must have a good mental approach to the game as well. Some may argue that cricket is mostly a mental game, and it’s simple to understand why.
What if the conditions are stacked in favour of the bowling team? The sky may be black overhead, the pitch may be green, and the ball may be fresh.
All of these elements will help the bowlers in their quest for early wickets.
An opening batsman may need all of his or her patience in these instances. As the ball moves more in the air and off the pitch, they may play and miss to a larger extent.
Scoreboard pressure may increase, yet the possibility to play aggressive shots simply does not exist:
In these conditions, all the batsmen can do is ride the storm and preserve their wicket intact. Conditions will improve as the ball softens, increasing the possibilities of scoring runs.
Patience will also be necessary in other situations: perhaps the bowler is consistently hitting their line and length, or perhaps the field is more defensive than usual. At other instances, batters just keep hitting a fielder and can’t seem to get the ball away.
Frustration might grow, but openers must simply be patient. One slip in focus might result in a missed shot, and you’ll find yourself back in the pavilion, wondering what could have been.
We’ve seen how being an opening batsman can put all facets to the test. Technique is obviously scrutinised, but a strong physical and mental attitude is also essential.
Let’s start with the physical aspect. An opening batter has the ability to stay at the crease for the longest period of time of any of his or her teammates.
Most of cricket’s longest innings have been played by openers, so consider starting a fitness regimen that incorporates stamina-building workouts.
There’s also the mental aspect of the game to consider. I’ve discussed the need of patience and mental fortitude, but how can you improve? This is something you can practise both in the nets and on the field.
If you play and miss a delivery, simply forget about it and go on. Your attention should constantly be on the next ball that the bowler releases.
Many elite cricketers will have a small ritual in place after they’ve played a terrible shot to aid them with that refocusing.
Many players may just take a few steps away from the crease, perhaps adjusting their pads or gloves before returning to their posture.
You can’t put off play too long, but if you need a little more time to regroup, you can always ask the umpire for your guard again.
Regarding your actual technique, most of the advice offered here will be identical to that given to all batters. However, as an opener, you have certain distinct characteristics.
You are far more likely to leave the ball in the early overs than you are in the latter overs. As a result, many openers will be keen to get their head in line with off stump.
If the ball is passing outside the off stump, there is no need to play at it in the early overs.
Examine the tips on taking guard and consider moving to the off side with a middle or middle and off stump guard. This may make you more vulnerable to LBW rulings, therefore there is a careful balance to be struck here.
If you’re in the nets and have access to a bowling machine, you can programme it to produce the sorts of deliveries you could get as an opener.
A struggle with the swinging ball is almost certain, so test if your machine can give a combination of inswing and outswing.
If you don’t have a bowling machine, ask your net bowlers to try their best to offer those sorts of deliveries. If they are speedier opening bowlers, they will most likely want to practise these sorts of deliveries anyhow.
Many of us club cricketers are unlikely to have the opportunity to practise with a new ball in the nets. That gleaming fresh cherry with the prominent seam is too pricey and will be saved on match days only.
You can, however, seek for the balls in the finest condition possible. When you’re wanting to polish your talents as an opening batter, a net ball that is entirely worn and the seam is starting to unravel is unlikely to be of much value to you.
The best opening batsmen are sometimes mentioned in tandem. Great pairings include Hobbs and his opening partner Sutcliffe, Hayden and Langer, and Greenidge and Haynes.
Geoffrey Boycott was one of my early cricketing heroes, and he ranks high on the list of England’s best ever opening batters. Graham Gooch was the man who took over after Boycott retired.
Sunil Gavaskar was a great example of the patient player with many of the attributes described in this round up among the international openers I loved.
In today’s game, it’s all about the batters at numbers three and four. When compared to the ‘big four’ – Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, and Joe Root – there is a relative shortage of world-class opening batsmen. Perhaps there is an issue that should be addressed by national teams.