VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid's predicament an eye-opener for Sachin Tendulkar

If Tendulkar is to leave the stage with VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, it will leave a big hole in the Indian team’s middle-order. But at the same time, Tendulkar has to avoid hitting the kind of trough that Laxman and Dravid find themselves in © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Two horrific overseas tours resulting in eight consecutive defeats is abysmal ebb in Indian cricket. For a team that held the No 1 spot in the Test rankings less than a year ago, the disasters on the English and Australian soil have rocked the very set-up and crushed the pride of the team. A generation of great Indian batsmen who took India to great heights are heading towards sunset in a scenario that was unimaginable a couple of years ago.

 

The sharp decline in form of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman is astonishing and inexplicable. They drifted from the zone of sublime touch to the ignominy of struggle in a jiffy.

 

Prior to the England tour, Dravid and Laxman were in the middle of a rich vein of form. Dravid’s form in the West Indies affirmed his position as the team’s anchor at No 3 and his outing in England further assured the public of his prowess. As the other Indian batsmen struggled to come to terms with the strong English pace attack, he looked class apart.

 

On the other hand, Laxman had been at his majestic best for two years before landing in England. Some of the knocks he played were career-defining and helped seal or set up memorable wins. All that went downhill in England but recovered during the home series against the West Indies. In Australia, his favourite destination, conditions worsened as the graph dipped alarmingly below standard.

 

The nightmare in England had led to calls for tough decisions but it was difficult to alter the structure then. The real burning issues at that point of time were improper scheduling, players selected for Tests on the basis of one-day performances and injury management. To sack Laxman then would have been considered a harsh move, given the fact that England was a blimp after a long run of good form. Furthermore, keeping the Australia series in mind, one would have backed him to come good, given the history of contests and his recovery against the West Indies.

 

A Dravid in brilliant nick and Laxman were essential members for this touring party and it is very unfortunate that both failed at the same time. The biggest disappointment has been their struggle and the manner in which they have been getting out. It is unfathomable that champions of their stature didn’t learn from their mistakes and kept falling to the same trap. The hole in Dravid’s “Wall” allowed too many deliveries to hit the woodwork and Laxman’s tendency to poke at deliveries outside off proved fatal on numerous occasions.

 

Through all the drama, Sachin Tendulkar’s quest for the elusive 100th international hundred gripped the nation’s attention. Although, he hasn’t been as prolific as he was in 2010-11, he has looked in good form. He hasn’t struggled when compared to Laxman or Dravid (in Australia) as he has continued to show his class. However, his performances in the last two Tests do ask serious questions.

 

The alarming decline of Laxman and Dravid has proved that once age catches up, it doesn’t take too long to get into a horrendous phase. While Tendulkar seems to be in good flow, he must remember that fans wouldn’t like to see him go down the same road. The fate of his distinguished compatriots should come as an eye-opener. The timing of that fateful decision has to be perfect and exit when people ask “Why?” and not “Why not?”

 

The Indian team management and the players continue to deny retirement reports as the world speculates about the future of the seniors. With India’s next Test series almost six months away in Sri Lanka, the process of rebuilding should start in all sincerity. Is it in the national interest if the ageing seniors hang around and keep India’s future plans on hold?

 

This dilemma calls for sensible solutions. The team management and the Big Three have to sit on the table and chart out individual exit strategies. The departure of all three at the same time will hurt the Indian team which is why sound planning is imperative. Young blood needs to be injected, but sweeping changes may not be a very wise thing. At least one of them would have to call it a day before India’s next assignment, two at the most.

 

However, one gets the feeling that Tendulkar may be asked to stay at bit longer than the other two as his absence may leave a huge hole in the batting order. In place of Dravid and Laxman, two tyros would come in to fill the spots, but if Tendulkar is to leave the stage with them, it may be a very difficult proposition to follow. At the same time, he has to avoid hitting the fatal trough.

 

Indian cricket requires tough decisions – not radical ones. The team may stutter a little after tough calls, but a radical move would be damaging and unsettling.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)