Who is the greatest Test opener in the modern era? Sehwag or Cook?
On this day, last year, former England captain Alastair Cook had crossed 10000 run mark in Tests and experts say he may surpass Sachin Tendulkar when he hangs up his boots. But before getting into all these comparisons with the greatest batsman of our generation, the God, Tendulkar, let us just think about, ‘Is Cook the best Test Opener in the recent years?’ Or ‘Is it Virender Sehwag, one who redefined the ways of playing Test cricket?’
Cook has made 11057 runs, but he has an average of 46 which is less than Sehwag’s 49. The former is more of an accumulator, a traditional copy book style of player. The other, an attacker, with a style of a play that he invented his own, has a strike rate of 82. Yes, you read it right. Sehwag has a strike rate of 80+ in Tests where World’s top batsmen strike around 40-50, and his runs per hundred balls are more than the ODI strike rate of legends like Sourav Ganguly and Brian Lara.
On the other hand, Cook has shown a tremendous level of concentration, and he has proved timed and again, his ability to bat longer periods of time. He bats, bats, bats, and bats. He doesn’t possess the elegance that left-handers are blessed with, but the number of runs is all that matters as long as it comes.
Sehwag – The Match Winner
Over the years, India boast of one of the strongest batting line-ups and when Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman played together they were invincible. Not taking anything away from these batting maestros, it is Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir who led India’s ascendancy to No.1 spot in the longer version of the game. Sehwag always took India to explosive starts, and that allowed Gambhir to play freely at the other end. And the duo, as a pair did wonders for team India.
Sehwag, in particular, singlehandedly won many games. On the first day of a Test match, every batting team is likely to the press the caution button and tries to build an innings. Caution, fear, panic. No, no, Sehwag didn’t even hear these words till now. Attack. It is the first word in his dictionary, and I think that is the only word he knows.
He wasn’t a blind slogger like Shahid Afridi or Yusuf Pathan(When he played for India, now he is a much-improved player) and is a player who goes with instincts and more importantly, he played the ball, not the bowler.
Not disrespecting Tendulkar, Dravid or Laxman, but Sehwag is the best match winner, India have ever produced in Tests. Match winner is not a player who play for longer periods or scores a lot of hundreds but one who win matches with innings of substance, innings of impact. In that sense, Sehwag was a complete match winner.
Cook – The match Saver
It is not easy to bat when others around you falling like nine pins and Cook did it plenty of times. He has scored 2942 runs with 9 centuries in the second innings when his team was facing a deficit at an average of 47.45 and more importantly, he amassed nearly 30% of team runs in those. He is only behind Tendulkar(3649) on the list but has played 40 innings less.
There are two ways to put a monkey on fielding captain’s or the bowler’s back. One, beat them. Two, make them bore to death by leaving the ball again and again and not even scoring of bad balls.
Cook chose the latter. He has left 4465 deliveries till now, and it is the most by any batsman since his debut.
The only English player who has crossed 10000 run mark and at, 32, with at least 7-8 years of cricket left in him and considering he is not in the scheme of things for ODIs and T20Is, he has a fair chance of beating Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’s record as the highest run-getter.
Note: Stats in the last section are updated on June 3, 2016