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Openers’ Evolution: Sehwag, Jayasuriya, Rohit, and Pre-Smith Success Stories

Australia’s Steven Smith will bat first in the upcoming Test series against West Indies. looks at other batters who started out in the middle order in Test cricket but went on to have great careers as openers.

Virender Sehwag

In attempt to fix India’s top-order problems, then-captain Sourav Ganguly convinced five-Test old Virender Sehwag, an ODI opener, to go up. Despite being a middle-order batsman in domestic cricket, Sehwag agreed and adapted swiftly.

Like his century on Test debut, Sehwag’s 96-ball 84 at Lord’s created a mark in his new role. He followed up with 100 in Nottingham to exorcise his own and the public’s demons. He scored 147 against West Indies in Mumbai before a blistering 195 at the MCG on day one. He became India’s first Test triple century in Multan and spearheaded the 2004 series win in Pakistan.

He converted 11 successive century into scores of over 150, including three double-hundreds and a remarkable treble against South Africa in Chennai, joining Don Bradman, Brian Lara, and Chris Gayle in that list. A couple more strong innings later, he thrashed the Sri Lankan attack to all corners of the Brabourne Stadium, coming close to breaking Don Bradman’s record 309 in a day. He scored 284 in 293 innings. As India reached No. 1 in the Test rankings for the first time in 2009, he and Gautam Gambhir formed India’s most successful opening tandem.

Simon Katich

Katich debuted in the 2001 Ashes at Headingley and struggled as a middle-order hitter until 2005, when he was dropped for low scores. Losing his national contract in 2007 was a career turning point. He broke Michael Bevan’s single-season run record with 1506 runs in the domestic Pura Cup later that year for New South Wales. He was called up to the Australia team for the Caribbean tour to open the batting with Phil Jacques.

In a career-defining turnaround, Katich 2.0 scored 2928 runs at above 50 at the top. That led to his best performances, including a resolute 131 against New Zealand in Brisbane in 2008, when he carried his bat, and a career-high 157 against West Indies.

Ravi Shastri

Ravi Shastri, India’s current head coach, initially began his Test career at No. 10 against New Zealand in Wellington in 1981. As he showcased his batting prowess, he climbed the order, reaching No. 6 in a home Test against England in Mumbai, contributing significantly to India’s victory. His rapid ascent continued as he was asked to open in the second Test in Manchester against England in 1982. Despite early struggles, including ducks in his first and third outings, Shastri found success with a promising 66 at The Oval.

Although not a permanent fixture at the top, Shastri delivered some of his best innings as an opener, including a career-best 206 against Australia in Sydney. In this innings, he formed a formidable 196-run fifth-wicket partnership with a young Sachin Tendulkar before falling victim to Shane Warne. As an opener, Shastri maintained an impressive average of 44.04, a notable improvement from his overall batting average of 31.73 in other positions.

Wilfred Rhodes

Wilfred Rhodes, the original lower-order left-arm spinner turned opening batter, made his Test debut as a No. 10 batter in 1889. Thirteen years later, he and Jack Hobbs established a record 323-run opening stand against Australia in Melbourne, a mark unbroken for 36 years.

Rhodes, boasting the longest Test career spanning over 30 years, occupied every batting position, finding particular success as an opener. Opening for England against Australia in 1904, he played his last innings in the same role against Australia in Sydney in 1921. Nine of his 11 fifties and both his hundreds came as an opener, including a career-best 179 in the renowned partnership with Hobbs. In a curious turn, Rhodes concluded his Test career at No. 10 against West Indies in 1930.

Sanath Jayasuriya

Initially seen as a bowler with batting capabilities, Jayasuriya transformed into a formidable opener. He debuted as an opener for Sri Lanka in the Hero Cup in India in 1993, displaying immediate success with three half-centuries in ODIs against Pakistan in 1994. Encouraged by his captain Arjuna Ranatunga, Jayasuriya was promoted to the top order in Test cricket as well. Despite a modest start at the P Sara Oval, where he managed only 9 and 1 in a losing match, he bounced back in 1996, solidifying his reputation as a dynamic Test batter.

After a year’s absence from the Test squad, Jayasuriya returned in 1996 and carried his aggressive batting style from ODIs to Tests, scoring 48 and 112 against Australia in Adelaide. His pinnacle came with a remarkable 340 against India in 1997 as part of Sri Lanka’s monumental 952 for 6. Concluding his Test career as an opener, Jayasuriya maintained an impressive average of 41.48.

Tillakaratne Dilshan

A decade into his Test career, amid criticism for inconsistent performances in the Sri Lankan middle order, Dilshan underwent a transformation that elevated him to an all-format star. In his 56th Test against New Zealand in Galle, he made a significant shift to opening the batting, scoring a rapid 92 off 72 balls in the first innings and following it up with a century in the second.

This move sparked a prolific year where he recorded six hundreds, accumulating over 1327 runs at an average of 64.52 from the top of the order. Across 29 Tests as an opener, he amassed a total of 2170 runs, with his career-best 193, against England in Cardiff, also achieved in that position. Dilshan concluded his time at the top of the order with an average of 42.54.

Rohit Sharma

Debuting in November 2013, Rohit Sharma made a delayed yet instant impact in Test cricket, securing centuries in his first two Tests against West Indies. Despite the promising start, he faced a sporadic Test career over the next six years due to fierce competition and India’s preference for five-bowler strategies.

With an opening spot available during South Africa’s 2019-20 tour, Rohit, then 32, seized what seemed like his last chance to establish himself in Test cricket. Already a premier opener in white-ball cricket, Rohit, with limited prior experience in the role in first-class matches, proved his mettle. He kicked off with three centuries, including a double, in four innings against South Africa. Subsequently, he continued to amass crucial runs against the new ball, with notable performances like a tone-setting 161 in Chennai against England in 2021, a match-turning third-innings 127 at The Oval later that year, and an authoritative 120 in Nagpur against Australia in February 2023.



  1. Pawan

    January 17, 2024 at 7:13 am

    Rohit Sharma consistency as an opener is remarkable.

  2. Param

    January 17, 2024 at 8:02 am

    i just love to read all of urs articles thanks a lot!

  3. sandeep1

    January 17, 2024 at 8:32 am

    i just love visiting ur website everyday cus i found it really helpful

  4. Rajdeep

    January 17, 2024 at 8:44 am

    Rohit Sharma always the best

  5. sandeep1

    January 18, 2024 at 8:44 am

    each leaving an indelible mark with their unique styles and contributions to the game.

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