4 batsmen who changed the trend of slow starts in ODI Cricket
- How the batsmen responded to the swinging new ball in ODI cricket.
There was a time in cricket when scoring runs swiftly was a tough ask, primarily because the pitches were not batsmen-friendly and the batsmen were circumspect to the new ball. Moreover, the bowlers had devised new variations which made matters even worse for the batsmen to score freely. Although there were fielding restrictions, more often than not the batsmen failed to capitalize on it. The new ball was seen as a threat rather than an opportunity to score runs. It will not be a misnomer to call this era as 'The golden era of fast bowling', which witnessed the bowling legends like Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Waqar Younis, Dennis Lilee, Malcolm Marshall, etc.
The opener's sole job was to play out the new ball, in order to ease the pressure on the middle-order batsmen, which in turn accounted for defensive stroke-play and cautious slow starts.
However, there were a few batsmen who had different plans to counter the swing and pace with their attacking cricket.
#1 Romesh Kaluwitharana
Kaluwitharana started his career as a middle-order batsman in 1990. Failing to impress in the middle-order, the wicket-keeper batsman was pushed to open the innings alongside Sanath Jayasuriya. Kaluwitharana caught plenty of eyeballs with his phenomenal stroke-play as he played a vital role in the 1996 World Cup.
Kaluwitharana played 189 One-Day Internationals for Sri Lanka scoring 3711 runs at an average of 22.22 and an impressive strike rate of 77.7.
#2 Shahid Afridi
Shahid Afridi started his career at an age of 16 as a leg-break bowling all-rounder. He proved his prowess as a batsman in his second ODI, scoring a 37-ball ton against Sri Lanka, which remained a world record for almost 17 years. Afridi had the ability to annihilate any bowling attack and he was one of the most dangerous batsmen of his era.
The all-rounder ended up scoring 6892 ODI runs at an amazing strike rate of 117.01, which included 351 mammoth sixes.