How long a vaunted batting line-up has lasted at its prime?
There’s a batting set of Tendulkar-Ganguly-Laxman-Dravid-Sehwag which on an average did a dozen years together and left within a few years of each other.
Advancing years, slowing reflexes, missing often those headed for your temple, fading charm with selectors—count or cook reasons as you want.
The Greenidge-Haynes-Richards-Richardson-Lloyd of 80-90s. On an average a decade together for Lloyd left in mid-80s and the other four, again within 3-4 years of each other in the 90s.
The ones of Waugh brothers-Hayden-Langer-Ponting-Gilchrist?
Again an average of dozen years since Ponting came a decade later to Steve Waugh and lasted a good 3-4 years longer than most.
I won’t take you down to Bradmans or Huttons which none of us remember and there is enough yarn on them anyway for those on couches or with great-grandchildren.
I know you could guess where I am leading to; and already audible with your abuses, for Indians have lost just one match against a prime team, in alien conditions, without any serious hit or long spell in the lead-up.
Or you wonder if our Shami-Bumrah-Ishant could pick up bats once in a while, even in a district league at number 3-4, than face local net bowlers after the prima donnas have retired on bench-on-the-sidelines, gossiping about the latest island up for sale.
Rohit-Pujara-Kohli-Rahane are a few seasons down in their 30s, have been in international cricket for least a decade, and the passage of time would’ve its say in due course.
Unlike most great teams, our Test openers abroad are more on promise than produce. That’s a good enough excuse for Pujara to explain his grit which could be equally frustrating for his own men as it is for rivals. His are a kind of innings which fans swoon about afterwards but rarely bring their hands together while it’s being stitched in the middle. Runs come in his kitty like pennies do to a roadside beggar, never more than a dozen in a day.
Kohli burns bright, never mind an elusive century for a while now. Can’t see any slowing reflexes or lowering decibels towards men in stands. I am sure thoughts do cross him if it was right to go with two spinners or an extra batsman. But cricket is made of such charms as it sweeps us ordinary folks on the imponderables which could’ve been.
Rahane, well, he remains compact though he is still accused of one or the other failing: That he could be a doubtful starter to spin or that he conjures some form of dismissal in his 40s. I don’t remember him doing a Laxman with lower-half but let’s not compare apples with oranges.
It brings us to the original theme: Who after them?
Well there are a few names in the Shikhar Dhawan’s team to Sri Lanka next month. It’s all huff-and-puff cricket against a mediocre team which I offer as a statutory warning while looking for Test batters of tomorrow.
There is Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad who would most likely be in the top three; and then we have Suryakumar Yadav and Nitish Rana in the middle. There are also Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson which, discussing them as Test options, dilutes the intent of this piece.
Manish Pandey, well, at 32, he doesn’t look a prospect for 2024, much like the Gandhi scion on India’s political landscape.
Of course, there is Prithvi Shaw too who is allowed a few failures at 21 years; as should Padikkal and Gaikwad in their early 20s. Prithvi has a couple of dozens of first class games around his waist, the other two still lesser in comparison.
The truth is Indian batting would soon be in a moment of transition. It’s our potent bowling arsenal which does a good cover-up on foreign pitches. One guy on whom we have invested wisely is Hanuman Vihari. He looks a long bet. The call is out on others, if there are a few we don’t hear about in the IP-driven Indian cricket.
India’s morally bound to shore up Test cricket. It has numbers, both on the field and in the vaults. It has to find a way to reward thoroughbreds who choose to resist the charm of IPL and don’t concentrate on scoops over the keeper for a six. That’s first-class cricket, like elephant in the room, for you. Telling them how many hours you bat in first-class cricket would matter as much as your boundaries in T20. It would be a shame if the assembly line dries up and a decaying Rome is unable to resist the Huns.