A money-spinning, coloured-clothing series driving a wedge between the country's cricket structure; legends of the game walking away at the same time; and a captain once hailed as the saviour losing his grip on reality. The crossroads Indian cricket finds itself in today is eerily similar to
where Australia stood, dazed and confused, circa 1984.
The World Series of Cricket had a detrimental effect on Australian cricket. Unlike the Indian Premier League, it didn't breed technical shortcomings; the damage was more personal, creating a rift between the establishment players and Kerry Packer's rebels.
Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee all called time on their legendary careers in the New Year's Test at the SCG in 1984. Chappell struck a majestic 182, Lillee took eight wickets and Marsh effected six dismissals. Australia won the match (and series) against Pakistan, but the void left by the departure of their best batsman, bowler and wicket-keeper proved too huge to fill as the Aussies went almost four years without winning a Test series.
Kim Hughes was the captain when the Big Three retired. Speaking to HT during last winter's tour, his advice to the BCCI, selectors and captain MS Dhoni was simple: Blood youngsters while VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar are still batting lest they be all at sea when they exit. And so it has proved.
"The Indian selectors must give the Kohlis and Rohit Sharmas a chance to bat alongside the Big Three. If they suddenly leave and the youngsters are still inexperienced in the Test arena, it could be a nightmare for India," he said prophetically. Hughes felt that new batsmen should bat higher up the order in Tests, and was disappointed at Dhoni's refusal to alter the batting line-up even as the overseas losses kept mounting. He even said shifting Sachin Tendulkar from number 4 should be tried, a statement that would seem sacrilegious before you realise that pushing Ricky Ponting down from number 3 was the first thing Michael Clarke did as captain of a transitional Australian side.
"Kohli is wasted at number 6. A new guy will never master tough conditions batting that low down the order. I think India must even explore the possibility of moving Kohli up to number four. Sachin has been around so long, it won't make a difference to him if he bats at number 4 or 5," he said.