February 10, 2010

Tendulkar should forget retirement


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

After watching the first Test of the ongoing series between India and South Africa there’s very little doubt in my mind that the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have done greater service to their country than being thought of generally.

India owe their success in the recent past to their world class batsmen, having proven record against all teams. Their bowlers have also come up with improved performance particularly abroad but everyone knows that it were their own batsmen to have laid the strong foundation more often than not.

India started winning overseas games more frequently when they had the strongest-ever batting line-up in the world. That allowed their bowlers the luxury of attacking the opponents with purpose.

Take the example of Anil Kumble. Why did he have an ordinary record abroad by his own high standards at a time when he was considered only a match-winner at home in the 1990s? It was the time when the Indians didn’t possess a settled or consistent batting-order that could put huge totals on the board in the challenging conditions abroad. That meant Kumble and others didn’t get the opportunity to have a go at their opponents.

Things changed from the moment India found the most charismatic middle-order with Tendulkar and Dravid getting the support of Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. The emergence of the master blaster Virender Sehwag at the top of the order made their batting the most formidable in the game.

While Sehwag and his opening partner Gautam Gambhir have fired in every format of the game the stalwarts like Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman have had far greater utility in Test matches where the occupation of crease remains paramount.

India, who won the inaugural ICC Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007, have produced quite a few outstanding dashers of late but the performance their raw youngsters in the Nagpur Test brought to light the fact that they lack in the backup talent for the longest version of the game.

The failure of the trio of Murali Vijay, Subramaniam Badrinath and Wriddhiman Saha, must have served as a warning bell for the Indian think tank. None of the three young batsmen could make it count.

Vijay had played in the past as well but he used to be drafted in a side packed with stars all around him. This time he himself was senior to two debutants in the playing eleven. It presented a golden opportunity of making a big impression to all of them but they just couldn’t deliver.

With the youngsters not showing the application needed to stay afloat against a high quality bowling attack it has become increasingly important for the seasoned campaigners to extend their career. They should forget about retirement for a long time.

Tendulkar and Dravid are still the backbone of the Indian batting in Test matches with Laxman not too far behind. These three batsmen need to take fresh guard and continue performing with the same passion that has been the hallmark of their illustrious careers.

Tendulkar obviously remains the most important component because of his versatility even in his 20th season in international cricket. Having 46 in his bag already the golden figure of 50 Test hundreds must have started crossing his mind.


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