'Fab' five promise batting feast

New Delhi, February 11, 2011

By Manoj Vatsyayana

Imagine Kevin Pietersen, Sachin Tendulkar, Chris Gayle, Jacques Kallis and Shahid Afridi batting for the same team. Their captain could relax, but not the bowlers in the opposition.

Pietersen’s improvisation, Tendulkar’s strokeplay, Gayle’s power-hitting, Kallis’s conventional but highly effective approach and Afridi’s unorthodox shots will make bowlers believe they have strayed into wrong territory.

With India’s Tendulkar opening an innings with West Indies’ Gayle, runs are bound to come thick and fast from both the ends as they like dominating the attack on all tracks.

Tendulkar has amassed a record 17,629 runs with 46 centuries – the most by any batsman in one-dayers — but retains the desire to excel and the love for the game even after spending more than two decades in international cricket.

The 37-year-old is getting better and hungrier with age, having smashed the first double-century (200 not out) in one-day internationals only last year, against South Africa in Gwalior.

Tendulkar will be keen to deliver as much for himself as for his team, for he will be playing in his sixth and probably last World Cup, the only trophy missing from his showcase.

Left-handed Gayle is known for ruining bowlers’ line, length and reputation when on song with his explosive power-hitting. Pace or spin, Test or one-dayers, he just believes in attacking the bowling.

He batted in the opening Test against Sri Lanka at Galle last year as if in a one-dayer, racing to 333 with 34 fours and a West Indian Test record of nine sixes.

Gayle also became the fourth batsman to hammer two triple-centuries in Tests after compatriot Brian Lara, Australian Don Bradman and India’s Virender Sehwag. His form will be the key to his team’s fortunes in the mega event.

England’s Pietersen, currently one of the most exciting batsmen, is second to none when it comes to boldness and inventiveness. His penchant for switch-hitting has only made field-setting difficult for the rival captains.

With England lacking a free-stroking batsman at the top, like Gayle or Sehwag, they are expected to rely on Pietersen’s big-hitting in setting or chasing a stiff target.

England failed to reach the 2007 Cup semi-finals in the Caribbean, but Pietersen enhanced his reputation as a big-stage performer. He was the only England batsman to score a century.