The hard truth is that VVS Laxman's time on the international stage is over

VVS Laxman (left) and Rahul Dravid… Perhaps international cricket has seen the last of this fabulous “jugalbandi” that has produced many epics © AFP


By Sidhanta Patnaik


The charming peculiarity of Hyderabad and its aestheticism is intoxicating. The casual elegance in the air is touched by a faint breeze of chaos. But underneath the atmosphere, calmness and confidence prevails. It’s easily loveable; people can effortlessly make strangers feel at home and the belief that despite rough weather, such as the Telangana issue, the purpose of existence will be attained. More importantly, the cultural richness of the place allows lavishness and humbleness to coexist.


It is not surprising that Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman, an iconic citizen of the city, has carried its DNA to cricket fields all over the world and mesmerised every witness with his artistry. Though the eternal desire of all his fans and well wishers will be for him to continue to spread his class yet with every possible fear coming true in England and Australia where defeats have been huge and his contribution minimal, with a tinge of sadness, honesty has to emerge. It is time for the artist to put down the brush and leave the international arena with grace.


Poor footwork, inability to adapt to the foreign conditions Down Under, lack of judgement, pace, ineptness of the bowlers to continuously pitch it up in the right areas, some poor selection calls, failure to apply, stubbornness to not change the team composition. The reasons for failure are aplenty. India’s cricketing cycle has reached a juncture where change of guard has to be swift to revive Indian cricket and breakaway from the unfolding horror Down Under.  When a team loses seven overseas Test matches in a trot, the last one coming in just over two days, accountability calls for a roll of heads.  Re-finding an appropriate team composition and charting a fresh vision is only natural.


Arguments can be made against Virender Sehwag whose last Test century outside Asia came in Adelaide in 2008, against Gautam Gambhir whose assurance has gone missing, against Rahul Dravid who has been bowled eight times in his last ten innings, against Sachin Tendulkar whose approach while batting has been slightly tentative in the current season, against Mahendra Singh Dhoni whose lack of technicalities has exposed him overseas. They are all valid. Maybe Ajinkya Rahane can be given a chance to open the innings, but a unit whose fulcrum revolves around its batting cannot afford to make wholesome changes overnight as a solution to stop the rot. While Gambhir, Sehwag and Dhoni have still more and enough of cricket left in them, the Big Three has to be phased out in the next 12 months.


Indians love clinging on to the past glories of their stars and questions will be raised regarding appropriate replacements but time and space has to be allowed for a new core to be nurtured before favourable results are again to be seen in overseas Test matches. With India’s next commitment outside the subcontinent scheduled in 2013 when they tour Zimbabwe in the summer and South Africa and New Zealand in winter, the Adelaide Test match, which starts on January 24, is time for the new sunrise. Based on current standing, Laxman has to be the man to go. A cricketer like him deserves a better swansong, but cruelty of sport cannot afford it.


Series averages have never been Laxman’s forte, considering the position and conditions in which he has batted for most of his career. But the biggest indication that his time has come ironically is reflected on the timeline of the social networking site Twitter. At the close of play on Day Two of the Perth Test when India were 88 for four, the timeline was filled with hopes of another miracle in the lines of the Eden Gardens Test match in March 2001 against the same opponent. But then Laxman was a young 26 and Dravid was 27. Prior to that innings, Dravid had just two centuries in 22 innings, both against Zimbabwe. Laxman, who went on to become one of Australia’s biggest nemesis, had taken 29 innings to score his first Test century at Sydney in 2000.


Applying the same logic, the current crop of youngsters need to be inducted, persisted and given the confidence and security to express themselves. A few failures have to be accounted which should not deter the focus. In the 2010-11 Ranji Trophy season, out of the 422 players named in the squad of the 27 teams, only 45 players were aged above 30. It indicates that Indian cricketers peak early, have their best days under the sun in their 20s and then fade into oblivion by 30s. Subramaniam Badrinath and Yuvraj Singh (victim of myopic planning of the past) lost out because of their timing of birth. But same is not the case now.


Virat Kohli’s brave 75 at Perth is the first sign of his responsibility in the Test team. Rohit Sharma and other talents need to be experimented and given their due so that a new nucleus is formed. Only then can Indian cricket bloom again and it has to be a trial and error method.


The point is that failing is not uncommon in sport, it is cyclical. But to fail young sets the base for progress than to fail as old. It is time for a revamp and revamps have hardly been turbulent free.


(Sidhanta Patnaik is a sport marketing professional, public speaker and writes for Cricketcountry. His twitter id is @sidhpat)