Openers' failings emerge again

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The Independent Online

One of the main reasons for the problems that haveenveloped West Indies batting for so long was evident within half an hour of the third Test here yesterday.

One of the main reasons for the problems that haveenveloped West Indies batting for so long was evident within half an hour of the third Test here yesterday.

In no time, the openers Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith were both removing their pads in the concerned silence of the dressing-room and Brian Lara was once more left with the responsibility of rebuilding an innings in early strife.

There are several differences between the great teams under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards that so dominated the game for 15 years in the Seventies and Eighties and those since, but none is more pronounced and critical than the uncertainty at the top of the batting.

In the 16 years that Gordon Greenidge went in first, he carried only two regular partners, the left-handed Roy Fredericks, between 1974 and 1978, and Desmond Haynes, with whom he formed a more enduring and famous association between 1978 and when he made his exit, aged 40, in 1991.

It was a settled reliability that repeatedly built foundations for the powerful middle-order. Viv Richards and, later, Richie Richardson seldom found themselves having torepair immediate damage against fresh, fired-up fast bowlers with the new ball, as Lara has had to do.

No other pair was nearly as long-standing as Greenidge and Haynes. They shared 148 Test innings together and averaged 47.31 a partnership. They were both right-handed with contrasting styles, but developed an understanding that was the bedrock of their success.

Most of the outstanding teams in the history of the game have had similar stability at the top - Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Hutton and Washbrook, Boycott and Edrich for England; Lawry and Simpson, Taylor and Slater for Australia; and Stollmeyer and Rae when West Indies first made their mark after the war.

The West Indies teams of the more recent past have failed to find even a reasonable combination. Since Greenidge's departure, they have used nine different openers - Campbell, Griffith and Chris Gayle in this series, and prior to that Haynes, Phil Simmons, Stuart Williams, Carl Hooper, Robert Samuels, Clayton Lambert, Philo Wallace and Suruj Ragoonath.

The umpteen combinations out of that lot have managed only four century partnerships. Yesterday's failures only perpetuated a depressing trend that goes a long way toexplaining the low totals that have caused the West Indies so much trouble.

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