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End of an era in Indian cricket

Every Indian cricket fan erupted in joy as Sachin Tendulkar took the run to reach his 100th century. Every newspaper and TV channel had experts and analysts admiring the Little Master’s unique feat and congratulating him. Some even called it a fitting end to a glorious career. The icing on the cake. But should this legendary batsman bid adieu to international cricket, Team India faces a stiff road ahead.

With Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid having hung up his boots a few weeks ago, and Saurav Ganguly retiring a couple of years ago, Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement – and if that were to happen, VVS Laxman, at 37, may follow suit, adding fuel to fire – may put the team in difficulty. Over the last decade, these players have been crucial for the team, if not indispensable.

For more than 15 years now, India’s batting line-up has arguably been the strongest in the world. And why not? Team India had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid as the backbone of the batting order. Which other team could boast of such names in their side at one single time? Each of these batsmen, though vastly different in their approach to the game have been very successful in their own ways. And, with each year, these players have meant more to the team than before, helping Team India with the bat and the youngsters, with their experience. But there was more. Rahul Dravid, even took to keeping wickets when the team needed him to, while Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar served the team adding depth to the bowling attack.

Led by a capable captain in Saurav Ganguly, Team India progressed from being a dormant side to a dominant one, which could challenge any team, any time. Rightly regarded as one of the most successful captains of India, he led the team which was once ranked in the bottom half of the ICC rankings to the 2nd position.

In 2000, after the match fixing scandal, Team India looked totally out of sorts. There was a desperate need for a strong leader to carry the team through the turbulent times. It was in such a situation, when Saurav Ganguly had stepped up to take control of the team. The team witnessed major changes as an effort to improve the results. The measures saw success, as the team returned to winning ways. But it was the victory in the Test series against Australia in 2001 which sparked a great run of games from India. The test against Australia in Kolkata was historic, as India became the third team to win the game after having to follow-on. Inspired performances from Laxman and Rahul Dravid turned the game on its head, as they held Australia at bay. Such was the impact that Steve Waugh had declared India as the ‘Final Frontier’ because of the Aussies’ inability to win a test series in India.

As much as the game was unique, it symbolized the contribution of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, and even Saurav Ganguly to Indian cricket over the years. Or as Steve Waugh put it,

If you get Dravid, great. If you get Sachin, brilliant. If you get Laxman, it’s a miracle.

Now, as Team India faces the Herculean task to replace these ageing legends, it remains to be seen how quickly the team can fill their absence.

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