Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Rahul Dravid have added 6520 runs at an average of 50.93 © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

When one talks of great partnerships in cricket, the names mentioned are invariable opening partnerships like Jack HobbsHerbert Sutcliffe, Bobby Simpson-Bill Lawry, Gordon GreenidgeDesmond Haynes, Mathew HaydenJustin Langer etc.

 

Rarely does one talk about great and enduring partnerships in the middle order. One enduring partnership that has not got the credit it deserves is that of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. The pair’s monumental achievement went unsung on India’s disastrous tour of England when their partnership set a world record for the highest partnership aggregate. The Dravid-Tendulkar partnership has now aggregated 6520 runs at an average of 50.93, surpassing the 6482 runs by openers Greenidge and Haynes.

 

It is odd that a middle-order firm has forged the most successful partnership in Test cricket because it is supposed to be openers who hunt in pairs. But a walk down stats alley punctures that and some other cricket myths.

 

The next highest partnerships in Test cricket are:

Matthew Hayden & Justin Langer                      – 6081 runs

Mahela Jayawardene & Kumar Sangakkara   – 5261 runs

Matthew Hayden & Ricky Ponting                       – 4765 runs

Alistair Cook & Andrew Strauss                          – 4635 runs

Marvan Atapattu & Sanath Jayasuriya                – 4533 runs

Sourav Ganguly & Sachin Tendulkar                  – 4173 runs

Rahul Dravid & VVS Laxman                                – 3902 runs

Michael Slater & Mark Taylor                                 – 3887 runs

 

Five of these are opening pairs and one half of another is an opening batsman.  Test matches are won not only by good opening stands but also effective middle order consolidation. But it is a staggering insight that there are middle-order batsmen who hunt so effectively in pairs. In some cases like Tendulkar-Dravid, the partnership is as good as the record of an excellent Test batsman with a long career. So what do teams do when such firms set up shop on the pitch and go about their business? Send out a prayer, I assume!

 

Tendulkar-Dravid have amassed 19 centuries in tandem, also the highest for any Test partnership. This once again suggests that it is not only opening pairs who frequently surpass 100 in an innings in tandem. Oddly for such a massive firm, I find it hard to recall as many notable partnerships as I ought to.

 

One that immediately came to mind was their 150-run stand at Headingley in 2002, an innings in which three Indian batsmen helped themselves to centuries.  Also from the same year is a 120-odd stand at Trinidad. In the final Test of the India-Australia series of 2001, the pair mounted nearly 170 runs. All of these came in the first innings of matches that India eventually won. That has unfortunately not always been the case when the firm has dropped anchor. For instance, at Mohali in 1999, both batsmen scored centuries but India could not close out a win bowling on the last day of the match.

 

The more illustrious Laxman-Dravid partnership obviously derives its legend from the twin back-from-the brink stands against Australia at Kolkata and Adelaide respectively. They also amassed 130 runs at Rawalpindi in 2004 in another famous away win for India. But, believe it or not, theirs is statistically the least significant of the three Indian entries in the top 10 Test partnerships of all time.

 

Sneaking ahead of them is, surprisingly, Tendulkar and Ganguly. The Ganguly and Tendulkar firm was at one point one of the best ODI opening pairs; in fact occupies an exalted place among Test partnerships too. Intriguingly, both bat in the middle-order in Test matches! And no, Laxman and Dravid have played more innings together and average 52.02 against 61.36 for Tendulkar and Ganguly.  Once again, other than Leeds 2002, I am hard pressed to recall memorable partnerships between the two.

 

A memorable firm that, however, does not make the top 10 is Mark Waugh and Steve Waugh with 3435 runs. The twins enjoyed an unforgettable stand at Kingston, their respective centuries seizing an Australian win and eventually wresting the Test crown from the once mighty West Indies. Turns out they only topped 100 on eight other occasions, though. More proof that the game remembers singular, if one off, feats much better than steady accumulation.

 

This article will not be complete without mention of the formidable Sri Lankan pair of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Both batsmen of sound technique and vast reserves of patience, they, together with Muttiah Muralitharan’s spin wizardry, ensured Sri Lanka remained a largely impregnable fortress. The zenith of this partnership was their – hold your breath – 600-plus stand against South Africa in 2006. Jayawardene scored 374 and Sangakkara the small matter of 287 runs as South Africa were crushed by an innings. Ha, no opening stand beats that for sheer magnitude. It is in fact the highest stand for all firms surpassing 3000 runs.

 

What could be some formidable middle order partnerships of days to come in Test cricket?  The twin immovable objects of Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis have scored 2904 runs in tandem. Kallis teams up with the more swashbuckling A B deVilliers for a 2604 run partnership.

 

A similar pairing of aggressor and accumulator – Alaistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen – accounts for 2723 runs. Will South Africa’s middle-order depth offset England’s steadier opening suit?  That’s for when South Africa visit England next year.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)