There is always a cause for alarm when legendary cricketers are on the verge of retirement. There was this frightening thought as to what would happen if all the five retired in quick succession.
By Partab Ramchand
There is always a cause for alarm when legendary cricketers are on the verge of retirement. Such thoughts occurred as the famed quintet of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble entered the evening of their careers a couple of years ago. There was this frightening thought as to what would happen if all the five retired in quick succession. Where were the replacements?
Even at that time I never shared this pessimism. I was convinced that Indian cricket has this happy knack of unearthing the right talent at the right time and with some experienced players around the future of the game in this country would still be in good hands.
Three years down the line Ganguly and Kumble have retired. It surely will not be long before Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman ride off into the sunset commendably as they are still performing. But even a cursory glance at the considerable talent around and one can turn into an optimist. While of course it may be well nigh impossible to find suitable replacements for the class of the players who will be retiring overnight it must be remembered that the process of rebuilding takes some time. Also Indian cricket has shown itself to have deep wells of strength under such circumstances. For example Sunil Gavaskar retired in 1987 and Kapil Dev seven years later. There were fears as to how India would fare following the departure of the giants. The fact remains that India drew or won the next two Test series on each occasion.
Just compare the scenario three years ago to that prevailing today. Yuvraj Singh was then the leader of the next generation and one justifiably pinned hopes on him going by his talent and record. Also on their way up were Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were comfortably perched on the top of the order and they had age on their side. In any case there was the promise of Murali Vijay in the opening slot to keep them on their toes. Dhoni having just taken over as Test captain had the likes of Dinesh Kartik as a contender for the stumper’s slot. The pace bowling department seemed to be in safe hands with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma the spearheads and S Sreesanth, RP Singh, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel very much around. Harbhajan Singh was the kingpin of the spin attack and he could count on support from the likes of Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha. In addition young players like Manish Pandey, Cheteshwar Pujara, Robin Uthappa, Subramaniam Badrinath and Abhisekh Nayar were progressing along the right lines and there was always the hope that cricketers like Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik and Md Kaif were capable of making a comeback.
What a sea change in the scenario these days! Some of the players mentioned above are largely forgotten while newer young lads no less gifted have appeared on the horizon. Yuvraj’s fortunes have taken a bit of a nosedive while Rohit, Virat and Raina are now the front runners for the middle order slots. Add the names of Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwari and Pujara and the Indian cricket fan will feel that much more comfortable. In the pace bowling department most of those mentioned above are now fringe performers while youngsters like Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar, hardly anywhere in the picture a couple of years ago, have taken rapid strides even as the experienced duo of Ishant and Zaheer is around. There is also considerable change in the spin scenario. An attack without Harbhajan would have been unthinkable not too long ago. Now India have played a Test series and two ODI contests without giving Harbhajan a thought. Ravichandran Ashwin has taken over as the No 1 spinner though the tour of Australia will remain his acid test even as the leg spinning promise of Rahul Sharma has come to the fore. And in another year or two during which the big three may call it a day some other exciting prospect could well be discovered.
So whichever way one looks at it there is little cause for worry as regards the future of Indian cricket is concerned. In the meantime let us continue to enjoy the batting of the famed trio and hope that in the evening of their careers they have it in them to script some of the most memorable chapters in Indian cricket history.