April 2011: when the summer in India will be flexing its muscles for a full show of strength in the days to come.
April 2011: Taking off from an article by Peter Roebuck, when the age of the Indian middle order as we know it today, will be: 38, 38 and 36 (Tendulkar, Dravid, and Laxman).
What crime then, have I committed, would ask Sourav Ganguly, for he too would – only-be 38 then?
If there is a semblance of truth in the story that Ganguly was about to be asked to leave (around the time he announced his ‘retirement’), then probably the selectors need to swallow a lump in their throats sooner rather than later, and belt up for some tough tough decisions again.
After all, try this on for size.
How does one ask Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar to consider retirement?
Did I just say that? No, really?
For most of us, it is impossible to paint a wholesome picture of the Indian batting line-up without Tendulkar, for he has become the proverbial ‘furniture’, a permanent fixture in the team. For that matter, as far as the test team is concerned, Rahul Dravid too may not be that far off from being a ‘fixture’, what with around 15 years in the Indian team next year. Laxman? Ditto, with 1996 being his year of test debut.
Why? Why then these words? Is it that these batsmen are not pulling their weight, not scoring runs? Hardly. Or does one perceive any lack of commitment? Perish the mere thought. Are they not serious ‘leaders’, passing on the beacon of knowledge to the next generation? Far from it, for going by what one reads, these gentlemen appear to be the epitome of grace, kindliness and tutorship.
So is this then, a mere exercise in intellectual, err, stimulation?
Hardly, I submit.
For how can one go to war, with aged (if very capable and experienced) warriors? Because at the end of the day, victory in sport, as in war, belongs to the young and brave, to the one with courage in his heart, and sinew in his biceps; to the one with a point to prove, and maybe to the one with some angst against the cruel world. To the young, does the world belong.
Bless God, he went as soldiers, His musket on his breast, Grant God, he charge the bravest, Of all the martial blest! So said Emily Dickenson.
Experience is nonpareil, without doubt, for only after one has escaped landmines and ducked splintering shells and bullets, does one ultimately end up a General. But show me a General fighting in the trenches, and with some effort and luck, I may probably conjure up images of pigs flying.
So what point do I seek to make? Do I demean experience, courage, commitment, grit, the wisdom of age? Hardly.
Let me put it this way.
For a second, can we imagine a wrinkled and cranky fifty year old Tendulkar or Dravid batting and competing, taking body blows in the boiling hot cauldron of battle with the Aussies? Giving as good as it gets to a cuss-by-the-minute Protean fast bowler? Probably hard to imagine. So, if not at fifty, at what point between now, and when they turn fifty does one finally say, today, today is a good time to go?
Empirical evidence has it that for cricketers, the body takes on a mind of its own, and does not always answer the call of the ‘official’ mind, so to speak, around the ages of 35 to 37 (and then too, that generosity seems to be reserved for batsmen and spin bowlers, for it’s a much crueler world for pacemen).
So now, here are some juicy thoughts, and without doubt, much fodder for your cannonsJ.
The options on the table for the top seven:
Sehwag, Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh (!) M.S. Dhoni.
Take aim. And fire.
p.s. the sad part in all of this is, inasmuch as one would want to write about the bowling line-up, for that’s where one tends to ends up winning test matches, there seems to be not much to write home about. Literally and sadly.