Doing it consistently well is even a greater task, only reserved for the strongest of mind.
Then why does a stylish left-hander – who scored a Test century on debut in the comfort of the middle-order batting at No 7 – want to audition for the role?
“It’s the only spot available to play regularly in the best team in the world,” says Proteas’ Test batsman Stiaan van Zyl.
“I mean long term; it’s the only place that is free with Alviro’s (Petersen) retirement. I desperately want to play for my country, a dream I’ve had since a little boy.
“And having had a taste of that environment last summer, it really was great. Everyone makes you so welcome, and that is a family I want to be a part of and if that means I have to open the batting, I am more than willing to do it.”
Van Zyl has spent the majority of his first-class career walking out at No 3 for the Cape Cobras, where he stacked up mountains of runs season after season to earn his call-up to the national squad.
It is a role he is familiar with, and it was only during last summer the former Boland Landbou prodigy moved up to opener.
Many casual observers believe there is not much difference to batting at No 3 and opening, as the first-drop must often come to the crease after the fall of an early wicket. The fast bowlers are still fresh with the new ball seaming and swinging about.
In theory this would be all correct, as a solid technique is undoubtedly a prerequisite for batting at No 3, but according to Van Zyl the subtle differences to opening lies between the ears.
“I have batted at No 3 a lot in my career. And there are times when you out there second ball and you need to be solid at the crease.
“You need to know where your off-stump is because you’re required to leave the new ball quite a lot. Technically, I think the same is required of an opener as that of a No 3,” he explained.
“For me though, it is more the mental shift that is necessary. If you’re batting at No 3, you don’t need to rush off the field immediately when the opposition have been dismissed or have declared.
“There is only a 10-minute changeover between innings. That’s the disconcerting part because you run off the ground to get padded up quickly. It messes with the head a little bit, whereas at No 3 you have a bit more time to get settled. That’s the big difference, but I am getting used to it.”
Knights’ opener Reeza Hendricks has been included in the Proteas Test squad for the two-match series against Bangladesh next month. With Highveld Lions batsman Temba Bavuma also in the squad, coach Russell Domingo could play two of these three young batsmen in his starting XI due to AB de Villiers being on paternity leave.
Van Zyl hopes Domingo looks his way, regardless of which number he calls out in the batting line-up, because he has been watching the Tigers closely on television over this month.
“I’m glued to the TV. Every game Bangladesh play, I watch because these are the guys we’re playing in a short while. They’ve been doing really well of late, so we can’t take them lightly.
“They have some impressive young seamers coming through, especially the young left-armer (Mustafizur Rahman). We don’t know if he will play in the Tests, but it always good to have an idea of guys you might play against.
“Where do I want to bat? I just want to play. If that means I am opening then that’s also great, because it is generally easier to bat upfront on the subcontinent. The ball is still new and hard, and it comes onto the bat, even if there is a spinner opening the bowling.”Being the opener for the Proteas is not for the faint-hearted but this doesn't faze Stiaan van Zyl.
Original source: Stiaan eyes opener’s slot