Like every good thing, two of this generation’s great batting talents, VVS Laxman’s and Rahul Dravid’s cricketing career will also come to an end pretty soon; sooner than we had expected prior to the Australian tour.
There is no quarrel with the old adage that no one is indispensible. But some rare people with rare talents certainly come close to being indispensable. The above mentioned two stalwarts certainly come close to that ‘rare’ category.
In sports, as in life, everyone has to go through lean patches. But sports can be pretty cruel sometimes. When you are young, you may be given some lifelines to resurrect your career. But, as soon as you cross 35, even a single failure can spell doom for your career. It has now happened to Dravid and Laxman too. Their failure with the bat which resulted in India’s horrendous two back-to-back foreign tours almost sealed their careers.
Though, there is no formal announcements yet, it’s almost certain that they would themselves call it quits or would be asked to retire considering the fact that the next Test series is six months away and India won’t be touring England, Australia or South Africa in two years.
It gives BCCI a perfect chance to groom some youngsters who could fill in the big shoes of these batting geniuses.
Zeenews.com’s Sports Team looks at some players, who can replace the two veteran cricketers in the Test team when India start a whole new era in the middle of this year. They are other than Virat Kohli, who seemed to have made the No. 6 position his own with his fine show on the difficult Perth track:
Rohit Sharma: Going by the current form and circumstances, it’s natural that Rohit Sharma would be replacing VVS Laxman in the near future. Hailed as one of the brightest stars ever since he made his debut in grade cricket for India, Rohit burst into the international scene in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 and helped India win the coveted trophy. But he has flattered to deceive after the World Cup.
In spite of his talent, the Mumbaikar has not managed a regular place in India’s limited-overs squad, let alone pushing his case for a vacant No. 6 slot in the Test side in last three years. His indifferent form coupled with his reckless lifestyle almost destroyed his career. Ignored for India’s successful World Cup campaign last year, Rohit showed his grit and fought back his way into the team again.
A trim and much fitter Rohit scored heavily in the Caribbean on his comeback trail. Though, he injured himself again in England, his consistent form in the shorter format saw him getting a place in the 15-member Test squad for the tour of Australia. There is hardly any question about his ability to perform in Tests as long as he stays grounded and understands the work ethics which helped Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman become great batsmen.
Ajinkya Rahane: If Rohit Sharma typifies the current Mumbai batsmanship with his flashy attitude, Ajinkya Rahane is the quintessential Mumbai batsman who likes to score big, once he sets himself in the middle.
A heavy run-getter in the domestic circuit for the last four seasons, Rahane virtually broke the door of Team India with his consistent show. With a first-class average of nearly 70, technically correct Rahane is certainly waiting to grab his opportunity once the likes of Dravid and Laxman decide to hang their boots up.
Since he has opened the innings for Mumbai and has also played in the crucial No. 3 spot, he can be utilized in both the positions according to the need of the team. Don’t be surprised if he makes Dravid’s No. 3 slot of his own in near future. He has looked a composed batsman in his initial outings for India in ODIs.
Cheteshwar Pujara: Technically and temperamentally Cheteshwar Pujara is the closest to Rahul Dravid among Indian rookies who are pushing for a place in the Indian Test squad. The Saurashtra batsman came to limelight in 2009 with three triple tons within a month. His consistent show made him one of the most talked about young Indian cricketers before getting injured in South Africa.
Such was the consistency and perseverance of this young man that he was being touted as the ‘Wall in Waiting’- - ready to replace the real ‘Wall’ of Indian cricket, the great Rahul Dravid, who is in the twilight zone of his dazzling career. The young man from Rajkot has all the qualities required for carrying forward the legacy of Dravid; he is technically precise and has the patience to play marathon innings in the longer format of the game.
His consistent show as a fringe cricketer forced his entry into the Indian team against the touring Australian side in 2010. He made his debut in the second Test in Bangalore and instantly made a big impact when he helped India win by scoring a gritty 72 in a tricky run-chase.
Manoj Tiwary: After India’s disastrous 2007 World Cup, two names that came up who could replace the ageing seniors in the ODI team were Manoj Tiwary and Rohit Sharma. Like Rohit, Manoj was scoring heavily in the domestic circuit, taking Bengal to two Ranji finals.
His performance got him into the Indian team touring Bangladesh, their first assignment after a dismal World Cup campaign. When the stage was set for his debut, he suffered a career-threatening shoulder injury on the eve of India’s match against Bangladesh.
He made his comeback when India toured Australia in 2008 when he was SOS-ed as an injury cover-up. He made his debut against the Aussies just a few hours after landing Down Under and was bowled for 2 off a Brett Lee yorker. Though he remained on and off the ODI and T20 teams, he finally heralded himself in the international scene with a fighting hundred against the touring West Indies side on a difficult Chennai pitch.
Those who know Manoj from the close quarters still believe that he can be a very good Test prospect considering many a long innings he has played in the domestic cricket.
Yuvraj Singh/ Suresh Raina: They may be down at present but they are certainly not out yet. Southpaws Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have somehow not realized their Test dreams so far, in spite of having Test centuries against their names.
They have a lot of similarities -- both are attractive, attacking left-handers; both are match-winners on their days; both have established themselves as superb limited-overs players. They had played musical chairs for the No. 6 slot for last three years, none ultimately made it their own, until Virat Kohli dislodged them.
While injury and indifferent form have let Yuvraj down, Raina has suffered due to his inability to handle short-pitch balls. For Yuvraj, it’s more of a mental issue. And for Raina, some technical adjustments can mould him into a better Test batsman. Since both have burning desires to succeed in Tests, they can very well take forward the mantle of great Indian Test batsmanship.