A common point of discussion in almost every recent cricket gathering centred on whether India’s batting without Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman will be as strong as it was in the past. With the prolific Sachin Tendulkar also nearing the end of his career, everyone was sceptical about the future of the Indian team. Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are also not in great form, so it was easy for everyone to predict a gloomy future.
Realistically, this is what is called as a transitional phase and every country invariably has to go through it. Over the years, I have seen countries facing this situation many times, and getting over it as well.
Public memory is so short that most people hardly recall how teams have had to face instances of losing their top players and then returned powerful — and in some cases even stronger than before.
The best example I can think of is the Pakistan team of the 1970s that was made up of classy players like Sadiq Mohammad, Mushtaq Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Majid Khan, Intikhab Alam, Wasim Bari, and later with Sarfraz Nawaz, Javed Miandad and Imran Khan. One by one they retired and new faces stepped in. When Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis began to perform, all those past greats were quickly forgotten.
It was a strange feeling when, after reporting on matches with Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth as the Indian openers, I had to write about Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in the same role. When Gavaskar retired, the big question was whether India’s top order would weaken and who would step into his shoes. In fact, there were many who even wondered whether India would ever have a more aggressive batsman than Srikkanth — but Sehwag proved to be even more aggressive and he and Gambhir are now known to be fearsome openers.
Another team that is likely to move into the transition phase is Sri Lanka. Their batting is so heavily reliant on Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara that two equally talented players will have to come in if they are to carry on in the same manner.
Just a year ago it was difficult to think of Virat Kohli as one India’s finest and most dependable middle-order batsman. So players more talented than Laxman, Dravid and even Tendulkar may step in soon. Right now it may sound impossible, but the history of cricket reveals that greater players quickly fill in the vacuum. If not, cricket would never have remained a glorious and exciting sport.