Johannesburg: Both as opener and captain, Mark Taylor will be somewhere at the top in cricketís Hall of Fame. The other day, Taylor (who is on a TV assignment) spoke to The Telegraph exclusively about his favourite openers. With 7,525 Test runs (average of 43-plus, 19 hundreds) and over 3,500 in ODIs, his comments carry weight.
Incidentally, in the World Cup context, Taylor captained Australia to the 1996 final.
The following are excerpts
On the qualities he would look for in an opener
The same qualities I would look for in a good batsman. High on my list is the ability to read the game and adapt accordingly ó either by raising the tempo or dropping anchor. The Gordon Greenidge-Desmond Haynes pair comes readily to mind... They adjusted brilliantly... Then, obviously, the skill factor comes into play, as does temperament.
On the criteria in selecting his top five
Except for Michael Vaughan, Iíve picked contemporaries. I mean, a Sunil Gavaskar and a Barry Richards have legions of admirers, but I didnít play against them. Nor, for that matter, did I see them from close quarters. Also, Iíve chosen specialist Test openers.
On his choice (alphabetically):
Saeed Anwar: Very explosive, with the ability to transform a match in just one session. Quite like Greenidge, I would say... Beautiful to watch, with excellent wrist-work.
Greenidge: Known more as an attacking batsman, but could defend with ease as well. Had great shots and a superb technique.
Haynes: Most believed that being aggressive only came naturally to Greenidge. Well, nothing could be more untrue... Haynes could attack at will, take any bowling apart.
Michael Slater: In the Greenidge-mould, capable of winning you a game in one session... Of course, he could get out early but, if he got a 20, he would get the next 80 so fast that exciting options would be placed before the captain. I enjoyed batting with somebody so explosive... Will he make a comeback' Given Matthew Hayden and Justin Langerís form, that seems unlikely.
Vaughan: Has a terrific future... I saw lots of him during the recent Ashes series and was most impressed. He took on Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie... Something I hadnít seen anybody do in a long, long time. Surely, Vaughan is there to stay and somebody who will continue to invite appreciation.
On whether somebody narrowly missed making his top five
Perhaps Graham Gooch...
On the immensely successful Hayden-Langer combination
They are different and complement each other... Hayden is tall and powerful and likes hitting boundaries... Langer generally prefers playing square of the wicket... He has improved his cricket and, once he got Slaterís place, announced he didnít want to give it away. (After a pause) Itís significant that Hayden and Langer are good mates... They inspire each other.
On how he approached the openerís job
(Grins) I would try and relax, not think too much about the bowlers... After all, till you are out there, you never quite know how you will hit the ball and how well your feet will move... You may think you are in great form but, after 30 minutes, you could be on three only. Equally, there may be days when youíll get 20 off the first three-four overs... Opening isnít just about getting runs when batting well, itís about getting runs when you arenít batting well.
Finally, his message to the young ones
Watch the Sachin Tendulkars, but donít copy anybody too much... Understand your own game and, once you can do that, adapting to varied conditions will be easy.