Rohit Sharma - Shikhar Dhawan partnership: What numbers say?
There have been many great opening pairs in the ODI cricket. One such great pair was that of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. They held the record for the most successful opening pair- in terms of runs scored together- for a long time and their exploits as openers paved the way for West Indies’ dominance in World Cricket.
Another such great pair was of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, and it was not surprising that their exploits led to the strengthening of Australia’s dominance in ODIs.
India, over the years, also had some successful opening pairs.The pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag blasted opponents all over the world and were seen as a prominent force behind India’s success in the ODIs.
Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag also had a fair share of success while being opening partners for India but, among all pairs, the most successful opening pair in world cricket remains that of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. They hold the record for the most number of runs scored and the most number of century stands by an opening pair.
Recently, in an interview, Rohit Sharma said that he is hopeful that his opening partnership with Shikhar Dhawan can go on to emulate the highly successful pair of Tendulkar and Ganguly. He further added that although he is delighted with the comparisons that people make, the duo has a long way to go if they have to match the success achieved by the Tendulkar-Ganguly duo.
The Dhawan-Rohit duo has been fairly successful for India
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma started to open together for India in ODIs on 6th June 2013 in a Champions Trophy match against South Africa in Cardiff. They got instant success, as their first opening partnership gave India a start of 127 runs vs South Africa, and it was followed by another century partnership against West Indies at the Oval.
Consecutive century opening stands on overseas wickets was a good omen, and it also indicated that India’s search for a stable opening pair after the retirement of Sachin may end soon.
Two years and eight months later, let us see what stats say on their performance as openers and how are they positioned when compared to top 4 opening pair of highest run-getters.
The duo of Rohit and Shikhar currently averages 46.22 which is better than the opening average of Sachin and Sehwag, but they still have a long way to go to match average of 52.55 achieved by the pair of Greenidge and Haynes.
The duo has given 50 plus starts to India per 3.375 innings, which is comparable to Tendulkar-Sehwag’s 50 plus start per 3.1 innings and Tendulkar-Ganguly's per 3.09 innings, but they need to be more consistent to match Greenidge-Haynes’ stat of 50 plus start per 2.61 innings and Gilchrist-Hayden’s per 2.533 innings.
A century stand between the openers not only eases the pressure on the coming batsmen but also puts the team in a commanding position in any match. The pair of Rohit and Shikhar do very well in this regard, as they give a century stand per 6.75 innings which is much better than Tendulkar-Sehwag’s century stand per 7.75 innings and Gilchrist-Hayden’s per 7.125 innings.
The stat is also comparable to Greenidge-Haynes’ stat of per 6.8 innings and is second to only Tendulkar-Ganguly’s stat of per 6.47 innings. This reflects that the pair has had a great impact on team’s performances in ODIs.
Another stat that is worth mentioning is that all the 8 ODI centuries stand between Rohit and Shikhar led to India’s victory; and if this stat is combined with previous stat of century stand per 6.75 innings, it reveals that every 7th match played by India is won by the impact of the opening partnership between them.
This stat alone makes them a great opening pair for India, not to mention the fact that they already sit at the 13th position in the list of all-time highest run-getting opening pairs, which is commendable, considering the pair is only 54 innings old.
Comparison with other peers
Now, let’s see what the numbers of contemporary opening pairs reveal.
|Martin Guptill- Brendon McCullum||47||1904||42.31||4||13|
|Aaron Finch- David Warner||24||978||40.75||3||3|
|Hashim Amla- Quinton de Kock||46||1787||38.84||6||4|
These stats reveal that the opening pair of Rohit and Shikhar is way ahead of their contemporaries, and they are definitely a pair to look forward to. But, statistics hide as much as they reveal, so these stats can’t be seen in black and white.
We must consider the fact that partnership is not only about statistics but also about chemistry. A chemistry between partners is essential to be successful in the long run.
It includes understanding each others’ game, shielding your partner from an in-form bowler when the partner is out of form, being the aggressor when your partner is not connecting the ball well so that he gets time to settle without feeling the pressure, playing the second fiddle when partner is going all guns blazing, and perhaps most importantly, an understanding with respect to running between the wickets.
When we see Rohit and Shikhar on the field, there seems to be a great chemistry between them. When Rohit was struggling early in his career as an opener, to get a quick start Shikhar played the role of aggressor.
Recently, when Shikhar was out of form, Rohit reversed the role and became the aggressor. Unlike the misunderstanding that prevails when Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are on the crease, Rohit and Shikhar understand running speed of each other and run between the wickets accordingly. They also understand each other’s batting style well.
Rohit Sharma has been a revelation since he started to open the innings for India, scoring at a strike rate of 92.63 and average of 60.34. But the inconsistency of Shikhar Dhawan is hindering the long-term success of this pair.
Shikhar’s few big innings are most of the times followed by a long period of lull. Dhawan still has a decent average of 43.82 and strike rate of 90.78 in that period, and it is a commendable record, but if Dhawan can bring a bit of more consistency in his batting, then the pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan can definitely think of emulating or even surpassing great pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and take India to new heights in ODIs.