BanglaCricket.com: Article


Friday, October 31, 2014
Updated: Sunday, November 05, 2006
The openers saga: Guess the numbers

Rubu Islam
 

Bangladesh has played 136 ODI matches so far. As an avid fan of Bangladesh cricket, I must have followed at least a hundred of these matches. As I watched our fragile opening pair being changed every so often, I asked myself this question: "How many times have we changed the opening pair so far?" The answer was a surprise even to me!

Try guessing the number before you read further. Go on. Just so that we are on the same page, I am not talking about how many pairs we have used so far, but how many times we have changed the opening pair. In other words, if A and B opens in game one, A and C opens in game two, and A and B again opens in game three, we changed the pair in every game.

Are you ready dor the answer? The number is a whopping 73. Yes, we changed the opening pair every 1.86 matches. Are you still surprised that we do not have any stable opening pair even today? Well, let’s not jump to conclusion so easily based on one number. We have some other numbers to ponder on. Let us proceed.


Shahriar Nafees: Most succesful opener

In one-hundred-and-thirty-six matches, what is the longest duration during which we did not change a pair? Hint: this happened only very recently. So recently that many of you can actually count it. Here is the number: seven. The lucky pair is Shahriar Nafees and Javed Omar. The good part of this is that the selectors are at least making some tiny effort to stabilize the opening pair. The bad part is the same old story, we never gave anyone enough time to settle down with a partner in the opening slot.

One might argue that if a pair is broken in between and then the same pair is brought back, it should not have any effect. The pair will still have time to settle down with their partners. For the sake of argument, let us say that this is true. The obvious question then would be what are the numbers? Try to guess again; what is the pair that opened for Bangladeshthe maximum number of times. I think you will guess this one correct, Javed Omar and Shahriar Nafees, a max of 15 times. Since we are at it, let us see some more of these. The second luckiest pair is Rajin Saleh and Shahriar Nafees. I will make a comment on this latter, but for now, just keep this in mind. Two more pairs worth mentioning here are Javed Omar/Al Shahriar and Mehrab Hossain/Shahriar Hossain. They both opened seven times. This number is not high enough by any means. It juts goes to show that we did not give enough time to any pair even from this point of view.

Have you guessed any number correct so far? If not, here is another chance for you. How many players have opened for Bangladesh so far? Remember, we have played 136 games. Technically, there can be 272 people. Fortunately, the number is much less, only 30. That is, we introduced a new opener every 4.5 games. I’m not sure if any other country has such a high rate. You have probably been wondering who these 30 people are and how many times have they opened? Well, here is a nice chart for you for all the openers of Bangladesh, how many times they have opened, and what their averages at the opening position are. Needless to say, their career average can be different from these averages as almost all of them have played at other positions besides opening.

Want to guess again who are at the top of the list for averages? If you guessed three names, most likely you only got the second one right. Have a look:

No Player # of times opened Average
1
Anwar Hossain
1
42.00
2
Shahriar Nafees
28
36.65
3
Manjarul Rana
2
32.00
4
Rajin Saleh
17
29.38
5
Mehrab Hossain
16
27.00
6
Mohammad Rafique
8
26.00
7
Athar Ali
14
24.43
8
Javed Omar
51
23.02
9
Hannan Sarkar
19
20.47
10
Shahriar Hossain
19
19.11
11
Naimur Rahman
3
18.33
12
Nafees Iqbal
13
18.23
13
Azhar Hossain
6
15.50
14
Mohammad Ashraful
24
14.92
15
Habibul Bashar
6
14.00
16
Alok Kapali
2
13.50
17
Al Shahriar
19
11.21
18
Sajjad Ahmed
1
11.00
19
Ehsanul Haque
4
11.00
20
Raqibul Hasan
2
8.50
21
Faruk Ahmed
2
7.00
22
Khaled Mahmud
1
6.00
23
Zahid Razzak
2
4.00
24
Aftab Ahmed
1
4.00
25
Nurul Abedin
4
3.75
26
Maniruzzaman
1
1.00
27
Sanwar Hossain
1
0.00
28
Rafiqul Islam
1
0.00
29
Khaled Masud
2
0.00
30
Harunur Rashid
2
0.00

Now, the first and third on the list opened only once and twice respectively. Since the frequency is very low, we cannot draw a conclusion from this. However this question must be asked: "Why does someone opens once, scores 42 runs but never opens again? The same goes for Rana as well. If he had such a high averagre after two stints, why was he not tried more often? The worst possible reason is that the openers were changed even if they did well (that is without reason). I do not know the exact reason they never opened again. I guess we will just have to leave this as inconclusive.

Some more important points to notice here: Ashraful is not an opener. He, after opening 24 times, finishes 14th among 30 competitors with a mere average of 14.92. Javed Omar, after opening a grand max of 51 times, still finishes at 8.

What is my conclusion? I have several to make actually.

We never had a stable opening pair, ever. We need to get that ASAP.

Next, who should open? Shahriar Nafees is one, no one will doubt that. He has the best stats on everything among the openers who are still playing.

But who should be his partner? This time, you probably have correctly guessed the name I am going to suggest. I know, many of you will disagree with me, but I am going to say this anyway: Rajin Saleh. He is at the top of the table among those who are maintaining a healthy average after quite a few innings, and he will give us the much wanted left-right combination that Mehrab Hossain Jr will not provide. Also, Mehrab Hossain has not proven himself yet at the big stage. Once he can do that, he would be my first choice. Until then, let us give Saleh a bit more chance.


Rajin or Mehrab?

But no one other than these three should be considered for the opening slot. No one else.