Thursday, 12 February 2009

He ain't heavy...

Please god, let them name this team soon. Today there has been no escape. I like to work with the radio on - an all-talk station. It's just wallpaper, undemanding voices that wash over you. Well it was until about 11am at least, when the curiously penetrating sounds of Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting joined the West Country burr of Marcus Trescothick to jostle for airtime.

The subject? Yeah, you guessed it. They were joined by a caller, a businessman who felt strict business principals should apply: when it's not working, sack everyone. Gatt was phlegmatic, Tresco as tolerant as a labrador being jumped on by children. Goochie, though... well, have you seen the end of Dead Poet's Society...?

He was impassioned and urgent, up there on his school desk. His subject was hard work and personal responsibility, as you would expect. But he also talked about the start of the innings and the opening partnership, which is something he knows a little about.

It all comes down to chemistry, was his view. It's not as simple as Strauss and Cook being similar players; it's that they have similar faults at similar times. That makes it easy for bowlers. There is also the worry of Strauss's retreat into nurdlehood.

The truth is, there is no easy answer. Opening partnerships are a bit like songwriting partnerships, fragile and unique. They fit together like jigsaw pieces. Hayden waned when Langer went. Boycott and Gooch shared a work ethic if nothing else. Atherton and Stewart mixed cussedness and pride. 

Gordon Greenidge was in two great partnerships, first with Barry Richards and then with Desmond Haynes. Early on, Greenidge remembers the experience of opening with Richards: 'Quite often the applause was ringing round the ground for his fifty when I was still in single figures.'

What an education. Batting with Richards taught Greenidge to be himself. Self-knowledge is the key to batting wherever you bat, but especially if you go in first. 

Strauss is reinventing his game, Cook is learning his. That's why the partnership is on shifting sands.

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