Thursday, August 02, 2007

Changing of the guard

The Indian batting line-up is probably one of the most feared in the world. Everyone keeps going on about this. But there may be hope.

Here are some ages:

Wasim Jaffer (29 years 116 days)
Dinesh Karthik (22 years 11 days)
Rahul Dravid (34 years 152 days)
Sachin Tendulkar (34 years 49 days)
Sourav Ganguly (34 years 339 days)
VVS Laxman (32 years 223 days)

Yes. Bloody scary. But the Indian line-up is like your great-grandfather: a little frightening at first, but you knew he won’t be about to scare you for long.

There is only one name here that will be part of the India of the future: Karthik. The rest are divided between legends of yore and yesterday’s unfulfilled potential.

Now, England made much of the Australian’s age, and well…you know what happened. So, we can’t bank on the Indian batters forgetting their hearing-aids all the time. Perhaps a run-out here and there won’t go amiss. But age is not an issue of the current series.

What is a problem is the phasing in of the next guard. Not only are all the Indian players old, but they are of similar age. All things being equal, you would imagine most international players to retire at 35 or so. We would expect form to dispose of Ganguly and Laxman earlier than the others. The rest should retire in a year or so.

Now, I have seen a few holes in my time, but filling this middle order is a huge echoing, cavernous abyss.

Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Mohammad Kaif are obvious candidates to plug the breach, but do they have the authority to lead the batting effort? You really need a linch-pin or two to hold the innings together. This ability arises only through experience, but India have not invested in the terrifying middle-order of the future.

Instead, the Old Familiars are preferred. For what end? One last hoorah? Is beating England at home the culmination of a generation’s cricket? I bloody hope not.

So, will India go from having the most impressive line-up in the world, to the weakest. Ayalac says: yes. Yes they will.