In the game of cricket, openers are the backbone of batting. They face fast bowlers and provide a solid start to their team. Test cricket demands consistency, technique, talent, and temperament and it becomes supremely important that the openers have the ability to play for a long duration.
There have been plenty of opening batsmen in Test cricket. Lot of them could not sustain the pressure and faded away. Few went on to become the greats of the game.
Today I have discussed the top 8 opening batsmen of all time and ranked them according to impact and superior performance. They played for a long time and created a name for themselves which is still etched in memories of their fans.
#8 Gordon Greenidge
Gordon Greenidge made his debut against India in 1974 and played for 17 years. A fierce competitor, the West-Indian was known for his brilliant stroke play. His cover drives were elegant, and batting was packed with a solid defense. He played 108 matches and scored 7558 runs at an average of 44.72.
Batting alongside Desmond Haynes, he scored 6482 runs in 148 innings. They are still considered the best opening pair of all time.
#7 Geoffrey Boycott
Geoffrey Boycott played with a copybook technique and could bat for hours with his grit and determination. He was the leading run scorer for England when he played.
They knew him for his arrogance and had was not known for his friendships even with his own teammates. Boycott played 108 matches and scored 8114 runs at an average of 47.72.
#6 Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag was a dynamite with an awesome temperament. He scored fast and dominated the bowlers from the word ‘go’. Sehwag did not have a perfect technique, but he made it up with his beautiful hand-eye coordination. He could hook and pull the ball and take on spinners with mighty sixes and fours.
Ramiz Raja had once said, "When Viv Richards retired I thought it was the end of entertainment. But then came Virender Sehwag, the King of Entertainment."
#5 Graeme Smith
The South African was one of the best the game has ever seen. He was a left-handed batsman who could hook, pull, and play straight drives with equal ease. Smith is also the most successful Test captain in cricket history (53 Test wins).
He played 117 Test matches and scored 9265 runs at an average of 48.25.
AB de Villiers said on his retirement, “I thought he had a year or two, look everyone's situation is different, maybe it is a good time for him to move on, and he’s obviously got his reasons, his personal reasons. I'd rather look back to a superb career, and just say congrats on what he has achieved over many years.”
#4 Len Hutton
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack described Len Hutton as one of the greatest opening batsmen in the history of cricket. An English batsman, he played 79 Test matches and scored 6971 runs at an average of 56.67. He was a marvelous player with good cricketing brains which helped him captain England.
Denis Compton said, "We were different characters but very good friends, and he was the greatest opening batsman I have ever seen. I say that because in our day we played on uncovered wickets. His powers of concentration were remarkable, but when he wanted to be he was one of the best stroke makers in the game."
#3 Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook is a dashing left-handed batsman who holds the record of being the youngest player to score 1000, 2000 and 3000 runs. He has all the shots in his kitty and can play seamers and spin bowlers with equal ease.
Cook is playing the last of his 161 Test matches and had 12254 runs before the game at a decent average of 44.88. Graham Gooch said, "He is a genuine legend of English cricket. He is a legend not only because of his performances, but, because of his attitude, his sacrifices, the way he has carried himself and the example he has set.”
#2 Matthew Hayden
The Australian legend, Matthew Hayden was aggressive and fiery in his approach towards batting. A left-handed batsman, he broke Lara’s record of 375 runs, by hitting 380 runs.
Hayden played 103 Tests and scored 8625 runs at an average of 50.73 which is brilliant.
Glen McGrath said, "It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to play with him, and even more so to call him a mate. I'd have him in every team I played for."
#1 Sunil Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar was a technically superior batsman with nerves of steel. An opener for all seasons and conditions, he batted like there was no tomorrow. His power of concentration was unmatched. Equipped with a sound temperament, he could play seam, bounce, off-spin and googly with equal ease.
Colin Cowdrey once said, "A pocket-sized battleship armed with an impenetrable defense and astonishing gunpowder. The bigger the battle, the better the performance."
Gavaskar played at a time when Imran Khan, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Andy Roberts bowled at a pace of 90 miles per hour, and he faced them with his sound technique and elegant stroke play.