Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are by far India’s best openers in terms of runs scored and average. In 87 innings as openers, they have scored 4412 runs at an average of 52.52 with 11 100-runs and 25 50-runs partnerships. Other than their individual records, (especially Sehwag), this is one of the reasons why they make it into the team despite dismal performance in last two years.
Since 2011 World cup, Sehwag and Gambhir have opened in 24 innings and have scored 861 runs at an average of 35.87 with just one 100-run and 6 50-runs partnerships, way below their career record (52.52). Their individual form hasn’t been great either. In 15 tests since India won the world cup, Sehwag has scored 865 runs at an average of 32.03 with 1 century and 5 50s. The only century came in last year against England at Ahmedabad. Gambhir hasn’t been inspiring enough, in last 16 tests, he has scored 787 runs at an average of 28.10 and 5 50s. It’s been more than 3 years since Gambhir scored a century, last being 116 against Bangladesh at Chittagong in Jan 2010.
This brings us to Wasim Jaffer, who was dropped from Indian team after 2007/08 season and hasn’t been considered again. He hadn’t had a great run at International level, in 31 tests, he has scored 1944 runs at an average of 34.10 with 5 centuries, 212* against Pakistan at Eden being the highest score. The Ranji stalwart has been scoring runs consistently at domestic level. The table below shows Jaffer’s record in Ranji Trophy since he has been dropped.
(Wasim Jaffer in Ranji Trophy)
In last 5 seasons Jaffer has played 44 Ranji Matches and has scored 3867 runs at an average of 67.18 with 15 100s and 16 50s. In the process he became the highest run scorer (9155 runs) in Ranji Trophy surpassing former Mumbai teammate Amol Muzumdar’s record of 9105 runs. Also he has been instrumental in 3 Ranji Trophy victories in last 5 seasons in 2009, 2010 and 2013. What makes it more special is that he was the captain in 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons. In the last season, Mumbai was struggling; especially top-order in Jaffer’s absence in first 3 matches as he had gone for Haj but he turned it around for Mumbai with 835 runs in 7 matches. He scored 3 centuries at an average of 75.91 and helped Mumbai win their 40th Ranji title.
Jaffer has been a top contender for the opening slot and considering the fact that we are playing at Home, he is the strongest candidate. He has the highest runs in Ranji (9155), most number of centuries (32) and he is also 3rd highest (1260) for most runs in a season (2008/09). Overall in first class cricket, in 210 matches (346 innings), Jaffer has scored 16049 runs at an average of 51.43 with 47 100s and 79 50s, 314* being the highest score.
Come 16 Feb and Jaffer would turn 35, he is not that athletic in the field too but then he has taken 246 catches in 210 First Class Matches. Having played for so long and for Mumbai, handling pressure situation comes naturally to him and with the exit of Legends Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, India has been struggling and with the openers out of form, it’s time that Jaffer gets a chance. There couldn’t be a better time to play one of the most experienced domestic players when we have already lost the home series against England.