Impact of sheltered openers in life of Pakistan cricket by Hassam Chaudhry 23rd May 2012 For any team, any format or any surface, the opening batsmen are defined as two sets of imperative individuals who set the tone for the entire game. The sport of cricket has envisaged an aggressive change over the last decade but amidst the attacking approach appointed by many batsmen at all positions, the importance of a stable and a steady opening pair is still as vital as it has been forever. Closer to home, Pakistan has been highly infamous with regards to the continuous shuffle in opening combinations after the departure of Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail, and the art of opening the batting has supposedly been the one of the weakest links in the batting line-up for years, often causing panic in the ranks. Throwing in players into the limelight at the sport's highest form of discipline and skill is an attribute that is associated exclusively with Pakistan and while it has fashioned many a great bowling legends, despondently the swindle has worked little wonders in the opening department. Over the last decade, Pakistan has tried no less than 57 opening combinations in order to integrate a similar level of stability to the batting facility but most have gone rather in vain. Starting with the early part of the century, there were a staggering amount of no less than 35 yearly opening combinations tried in 96 innings between the year 2000 and 2005, resulting in an overall team win/loss ratio of 1.73, with the standout year being 2003 where the newly formed duo of Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar gave a glimpse of hope to the entire nation as they moulded into a complimenting and striking duo with an incredible partnership average of 72 in 7 innings together including three mighty stands over the 100 run mark. However, the contentment was to be short-lived as controversies and brisk slump in form saw the pair being disengaged summarily. The radical impact it had on the team results was instant. For the next half of the decade, Pakistan witnessed an even lesser overall team win/loss ratio of 0.70 between the years 2006 and 2010. No surprise guesses here at all as the think-tank started on a then never-ending journey to find the right opening combination yet again. With a mere total of 5 stands of over 100, 21 different yearly opening combinations were tried in the 75 innings and the entire method of operation was surely but steadily starting to turn comical across global eyes, when came in another glimpse of hope, and this time, fortunately it was to remain. Since taking hold of proceedings in 2010, and following the spot-fixing controversy, Mohammed Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar have struck up to be one of the more stable test opening combinations to have come out of Pakistan....ever. The results therefore speak for themselves, as Pakistan have enjoyed an extremely healthy overall team win/loss ratio of 6.00 in the year 2011. The duo has come out together on 23 occasions and have a partnership average of just over 43 with 3 stands of over 100 respectively. To summarize, this was the first instance in over a decade that Pakistan persisted with a single opening combination for the entire year and while the variation percentages have reached close to an embarrassing 50% over the years, there is a sense of anticipation that the figure will remain at a decline for the years to follow. While the information sounds extremely positive, lets remind ourselves that this is Pakistan cricket and each day brings in a new chapter in the life of players, at times for the cost of complete contradiction. Looking forward to the upcoming tour to Sri Lanka, one can safely assume the burden of towering expectations on the pair once again to grit out under the sun and put in the long hours. As well-wishers of the nation, we can only hope that the current opening duo will continue to walk out together and shine for Pakistan on numerous further occasions and ultimately bring the opening hunters to the ground for some time.