The ‘fab four’ of Indian cricket – The Wall, Master Blaster, Prince of Kolkata and Very Very Special Laxman – have certainly changed the mindset of Indian cricket, especially while playing outside the subcontinent. They showed nerves of steel and won Test matches and even series on swift and bouncy tracks of England, South Africa, New Zealand and even Australia. They played crucial roles in taking the Indian team to the zenith of Test cricket a few years back.
Now when the fab four have hung their boots, it’s time for the next generation to take over. Though it would surely be a herculean task for upcoming stars to fill these big boots, Indian youngsters have no dearth of talent.
India’s tour of South Africa is about to kick-start from December 5th, comprising three ODIs and two Test matches. It’s a much trimmed and short sojourn to the rainbow nation, but regardless of that, stakes would be at an all time high.
After the retirement of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar – last one to retire from Test cricket of the fab four -- India will be touring overseas for the very first time. It’s certainly a high profile series, which might play a crucial role in shaping the future of Indian cricket. If on one hand, India is at the zenith of ICC’s ODI rankings then on the other, the African side is right at the top in the ICC Test rankings.
On the lively pitches of South Africa, where the fast bowers will get fair assistance, it would be a testing time for comparatively young Indian batsmen to prove their mettle – in almost alien conditions. Even cool and calm Indian skipper MS Dhoni would also be under pressure after the disgraceful Test performances by his team in the away tours of England and Australia back in 2011-12.
In the limited over formats, India have certainly proved time and again that they have got enough talent to take the baton forward quite successfully after the retirement of senior pros. But in the longest format of the game, the real test has just started for these lads.
The current crop of Indian team is richly talented, but the question is whether this young troop also has that temperament and will of a monk – two crucial credentials -- to succeed in Test cricket.
Batting has always been India’s strongest point. At the moment, India have an opener in Shikhar Dhawan, who is high on confidence. If he continues his sublime form with the willow in the upcoming tour, it would give India a much needed lift. Murali Vijay is yet to cement his place in the Test side, so he has to perform up the order to show that he can deliver overseas as well.
At number three position, India has Cheteshwar Pujara, who has a solid technique, along with patience and hunger to play marathon knocks. So the tour of Africa would be a crucial one for this right-hander from Saurashtra, who is also seen as a successor to Rahul Dravid.
The new run-machine of Indian cricket, Virat Kohli, is also a batsman to watch out for. He has proved that he can bat even in adverse conditions and is again in tremendous form. It would be an interesting battle to watch between Kohli and South African speedsters, especially Dale Steyn. However, thus far Kohli has won all the battles against the best of the bowlers he has faced, but in those bouncy tracks, it would be a challenging yet exciting contest for him.
Rohit Gurunath Sharma is yet another batsman who is the future of Indian cricket. Sharma is in the form of his life. After playing match-winning knocks while opening for India in the recently concluded seven-match ODI series against Australia, he made his much-awaited and delayed Test debut against West Indies at home. He went on to make the series quite memorable. In his debut Test at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, he played a match-winning knock of 177 runs and then in the second Test (at Mumbai), he scored an unbeaten 111 runs. Sharma is a gifted played, who can anchor his innings according to the situation. But his sheer talent would be tested on the bouncy and moving tracks of South Africa.
If Indian skipper Dhoni wants his team to perform well, then he has to lead from the front, which he is well known for. The two Tests on South African soil will certainly give a fair idea of how secure the Indian cricket future is in the hands of these talented youngsters.