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Time to look beyond Asia Cup exit: Talking Point

The bigger problem at hand, more than a surprising exit from the Asia Cup

It's one strange balance sheet that India will be looking at from their Asia Cup campaign. The Little Master reached his much-awaited 100th international century in Dhaka, while Virat Kohli led India's highest-ever ODI chase with an epic 183 against Pakistan, but still they were on their way home as hosts Bangladesh and Pakistan qualified for the final.

In hindsight, it was not a bad performance after all, except that one crucial game when the Indian bowlers failed to defend 289 on a good batting wicket against Bangladesh. Interestingly enough, the turn of events in Indian cricket over the last few weeks (first Rahul Dravid's retirement and then Sachin Tendulkar's landmark three figures) looks to have kept the Indian media so engrossed that the Dhoni and company bashing has not gained much steam as yet.

The bigger problem at hand, more than a surprising exit from the Asia Cup, is that Indian cricket may find itself at the crossroads by the end of this year. The much-feared fading away of the golden generation has begun — Dravid has timed his exit to perfection, while V.V.S. Laxman is clearly biding for some more time to go out in a high from Test cricket. While it's blasphemous to talk about Sachin Tendulkar's retirement, it's only a sign of the times that even his landmark century has not yet stopped the speculation of his quitting one form of the game or the other.

While one only talks about these modern masters, there could be a bigger hole with fitness issues clouding the future of at least two of other long-time servants of Indian cricket. The lingering question mark over Virender Sehwag's damaged shoulder, not to speak of his general fitness levels, along with the wear-and-tear of Zaheer Khan also do not augur well for the team in days to come. The period of transition has already begun though and the subtle step of elevating Kohli to the vice-captain's position for the Asia Cup was easily the right signal. It will not be long before he, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma form the backbone of the Indian middle order, while it will be left to Mahendra Singh Dhoni to act as a bridge during this phase.

Immediate attention

However, odious comparisons will start as never before was Indian cricket blessed with the collective rule of such a ‘Fab Four'. While the younger crop of batsmen have won the team a few matches, the bowling department wears a much more ragged look which demands immediate attention.

The task, hence, is not an easy one for the Indian cricket administration, which is never known to be either as pragmatic or scientific in approach as their Australian counterparts. For a start, they would of course do well to pick the brains of Anil Kumble (who quit his National Cricket Academy post recently under somewhat unpleasant circumstances), Sourav Ganguly (a member of their technical committee) and of course, Dravid.