Cutting a reliable figure at the top
With India facing a sustained scarcity of capable opening batsmen at Test level, Shiv Sunder Das could be just the man to fill the yawning gap at the top of the order. Blessed with an excellent temperament, the Orissa opener focuses on keeping the game simple, prodding the scoreboard through an array of sound cricketing shots without trying to be flashy.
A former India Under 17 captain, Das has journeyed through the ranks of junior level cricket with distinction. Although making 98 on his first class debut as a sixteen year old in the 1993-94 Ranji Trophy pre-quarterfinals, he was no overnight prodigy, honing his skills over several seasons of domestic cricket. In the 1999-2000 first class season, Das scored 799 runs at 49.93 with one century apiece in the Ranji and Duleep Trophies.
The big break for him was selection to the National Cricket Academy in May 2000 where he got the chance to interact closely with his idol Sunil Gavaskar among others. In June-July, Das visited the Australian Cricket Academy under the Gavaskar-Border scholarship, which he believes was the best thing that happened to him. The intensive six-week course has instilled a sense of professionalism in the pint-sized opener. His attitude towards the game has matured and his confidence levels have soared skyhigh.
Six months ago Das admits to being a totally different player and the sojourn down under has firmed up his backfoot play, especially cutting and pulling. He was in full cry during the NCA's victorious campaign in the MRF-Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai in September, making a marvellous 184 against Karnataka. With India having tried six different Test openers last season with scant success, 23 year old Das senses the opportunity lurking ahead and is girding his loins for the challenge.