Ever since Gilchrist combined keeping wicket and opening the batting with quite devastating effect in ODI, pretty much very other country has tried to replicate the formula. However for the most part, the selectorial alchemists have only managed to make fool's gold.
The missing ingredient is that they all conveniently forgot that Gilchrist was brilliant enough to be picked for his batting alone. Instead. all manner of wholly unsuitable glovemen have been elevated above their station in a mostly forlorn quest to find a new Holy Gilchrist (see full list here).
Not many have been a success. Brendon McCullum has done reasonably well and the regal Kumar Sangakkara managed to score four hundreds in 19 ODI before returning to the middle order. Alec did it in 76 ODI and managed to average 35 - albeit at a pretty sedate run rate of 69.50.
But that is pretty much it. Australia have tried to shoehorn Brad Haddin and Tim Paine into the role since Gilchrist departed with limited success - surely Haddin in particular would be better suited to coming in at six and blasting some boundaries in the latter overs (especially when Australia has Shaun Marsh in reserve).
That serial underachiever Kamran Akmal has opened in 57 ODI and averages under 27 (as well as no doubt dropping numerous chances behind the stumps). Even Ridley Jacobs did it 26 times and three Kenyan keepers have combined to open in over a century of ODI.
Indeed only South Africa - never ones to follow the latest trend – have not joined in, perhaps sensibly concluding that Mark Boucher offered much more down the order than he would atop it.
But England are perhaps the worst offenders. Matt Prior, Stephen Davies, Phil Mustard, Craig Kieswetter and Geraint Jones have all been tried and none has convinced. They have 51 ODIs between them at the top of the order and the grand total of zero hundreds – Kieswetter’s hundred against Bangladesh came when Prior was wearing the gloves.
Yet, England seem rooted to the belief that their keeper – whichever misfortunate has been handed the task – should open the batting.
Prior is an excellent strokemaker down the order. But he isn’t an opening batsman and England should stop trying to make him one.
In the absence of a Marcus Trescothick type – a proper opener who could hit the ball over the top in the powerplay overs (Alex Hales is a long-term prospect here), one of the other batsmen (probably Ian Bell) or a pinch-hitter (Graeme Swann could be a good bet for the sub-continent) should be given the job.
Whatever, England’s quest for the Holy Gilchrist seems doomed to failure like that of pretty much every other team heading to the World Cup.
Heroes: Adam Gilchrist
Zeroes: Kamran Akmal
Check out all our Reverse Sweep heroes and zeroes including amongst others Graeme Swann, David Lloyd, Channel 9, Charles Colville, Bob Willis and David Gower
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