Once upon a time an opening batsman, especially a test match opening batsman used to be a member of an exclusive club. Noticeably different from their middle order colleagues in style and technique, the opening batsman was considered a specialist role and certainly not one that non-openers were queueing up to try.
My, how things have changed. These days the number of specialist openers actually opening the batting is so few, I am starting to wonder if they are going the way of the dodo.
Take Australia for example. Shane Watson used to be an injury prone, under-performing all-rounder who was lucky to bat as high as six. Now he has been reborn as a test match opener who has surprised everyone (probably even himself) by being a success and keeping a specialist opener with a career average of 60 (Phillip Hughes) out of the side. His partner in crime is another former middle-order batsman turned opener in Simon Katich, who has also been significantly more successful since his rebirth.
Other countries are no different. Tillakaratne Dilshan was an underperforming number six who was in and out of the Sri Lankan side. Now he is Son of Sehwag and has taken to opening like a politician to sleaze as he replaced another reinvented opener Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the order. Sehwag himself, lest it not be forgotten, was also a middle order batsman before realising that his best route to a regular spot in the Indian team was to reinvent how openers should approach test cricket.
Maybe teams like Pakistan and New Zealand should take note. The former have never replaced Saeed Anwar as a succession of specialist openers have struggled in the role since his retirement. Maybe Umar Akmal should have a go at emulating Sehwag and Dilshan? The Black Caps have similarly struggled since the departure of Mark Richardson (and he started as a number 11!) and arguably even all the way back to John Wright. I am sure that SuperDan(iel Vettori) will soon be taking on that role as well.
Chris Gayle and Tamim Iqbal are hardly typical opening batsmen, with their carefree approach more Sehwag than Boycott. And even those starch conservatives South Africa have taken to reinventing Ashwell Price and Neil McKenzie, one with more success than the other, rather than picking a specialist opener to partner Graeme Smith.
Which leaves England. Here at last in the bastion of cricket tradition is a test side with two specialist openers in Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook. Forget fads like pinch-hitters. Forget reinventing Kevin Pietersen as an opener, specialists like cucumber sandwiches and warm beer will continue to be the preserve of at least on cricket team in the World.
So whilst thanks to the home of cricket, the specialist opener is not quite extinct yet, they clearly need an endangered species tag around their necks.