There was a distinct feeling of shock throughout the country after VVS Laxman, also known as “Very Very Special” announced his retirement ahead of the 1st Test match for India against New Zealand. Laxman’s announcement wasn’t surprising- what was is that he decided to retire with immediate effect, and not playing the first match in what was supposed to be his sendoff at home in Hyderabad.
Now, Laxman hasn’t been great in the last few years, and performed terribly in Australia and England, leading to his axing from the squad. However, with some good knocks in domestic cricket at home in India, he won a spot in the team in the first tour since the retirement of another Indian legend, “The Wall” himself, Rahul Dravid. What was once a three-headed monster every cricket team feared, with Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and Laxman, is now down to only one, and even Tendulkar’s career probably won’t last more than 2 more years. Indian selector Kris Srikkanth’s term is up in about a month, and who knows how his successor will treat the older veterans. Srikkanth is notably kind and tends to keep the older veterans as long as possible, but his replacement may not.
However, Tendulkar’s slightly different to Laxman and Dravid. He’s a superstar in India’s Test and ODI squad still, and could be in the T20 squad too if he wanted. The only reason Sachin doesn’t play T20I’s is because he would rather have the youngsters get more experience, a wise decision that could lengthen his career. However, as shown in the Indian Premier League, where Tendulkar smacked his first T20 century in IPL 4 as a member of Mumbai Indians, he can shine in the shortest format as well. Don’t forget he’s a useful bowler also, who has a knack of breaking partnerships with his spin bowling. Laxman and Dravid couldn’t do that. All were obviously legends in the game, and Dravid and Tendulkar were great ODI players, but Laxman was a decent ODI batsman.
While Indian supporters in Hyderabad and all around India were shocked by the news, the Indian team didn’t really need any more star power, hammering New Zealand by an innings and 115 runs thanks to the spinners, especially R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who decimated a New Zealand lineup missing Daniel Vettori.
India had a lot to cheer about on Sunday, winning the ICC Under-19 World Cup against Australia in Oz, and that squad is where India’s biggest hopes lie in terms of replacing the legends. Captain Unmukt Chand is the obvious choice to become a new member of the Indian team, but there were other players who impressed. If young players such as Rohit Sharma who has done well in IPL and ODI’s in addition to Suresh Raina don’t fare well in Tests, the Indian selectors can look to Chand as well as seam spearhead Sandeep Sharma, who took four wickets in the final while bowling at impressive lengths. The Indians need an upgrade to their fast bowling department, because while Umesh Yadav has done well early in his career, Irfan Pathan can’t be counted on consistently. Alongside Sharma and Chand stands young left-armed spinner Harmeet Singh, who bowled with great flight the entire tournament, puzzling opposing batsmen, and also showed some skill with the bat, saving India’s campaign in the quarter-finals against Pakistan where India won by a single wicket, Singh leading the charge with Sharma, the final batsmen, to shatter Pakistan’s dream and ultimately lead to the championship.
Former Australian captain Ian Chappell wrote on ESPN Cricinfo about how Chand and Singh were ready to get more exposure on the Indian national team, and I couldn’t agree more, except I feel that Sharma is ready as well. All three have shown huge potential that I believe is enough to not just perform, but perform well on the national stage.