Indian cricket suffered intense transition pangs in 2012, underlining the fact that sport is exacting and unforgiving when it comes to even marginally slowing reflexes and diminishing eyesight.
A national team that touched great heights over three years and then won the 2011 World
Cup at home had already revealed huge cracks coming into the year. Those have only widened, and as the year draws to a close, many questions remain unanswered.
The inexorable march of change was symbolised by the retirements of batting giants Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman from international cricket and Sachin Tendulkar from one-dayers. None of these decisions really came as a surprise as they were in the twilight of their careers.
But what stood out in these major decisions was that none of them bade farewell at any of the venues they had lorded over for over a decade-and-a-half, more than two decades in the case of Tendulkar.
Getting the signal
Dravid was convinced it was time to go after his legendary defence was breached repeatedly on the disastrous tour of Australia, as he was bowled in six of the eight innings. The man who would have been hailed as India's greatest batsman but for a team-mate, decided to play his final innings at a press conference."The game is lucky to have you and I have been lucky to play before you," he said, paying tribute to millions of his passionate fans. However, those who had watched him since the Test debut at Lord's in 1996 and the new age faithful too would have hoped to bid him farewell at the ground, with a standing ovation.
While Dravid said at his retirement that it was a considered decision, Laxman, the wristy artist of many memorable wins, walked away upset with the way things were handled by the selectors, his captain and Board bosses.
He did struggle in England and Australia, indicating that his phenomenal skills were on the decline, but the fact that he even gave up the chance to finish in front of his home fans in Hyderabad showed that no platform had been laid for a smooth transition in the team.
And Tendulkar, although still in the frame for Tests, called time on his great one-day career with a terse statement through the Board, barely minutes before the team for the ongoing Pakistan series was announced on Sunday.
Sachin deserved better
The face of global cricket on and off the field, who inspired India to two World Cup finals and a semifinal,
surely deserved a testimonial on the ground.
Even unsentimental Australia gives fans and the rest of the cricket world the opportunity to bid adieu to their favourite players, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting being prime examples. That shows those administrators realise that the best tribute to a sportsman would also give fans the 'I was there' moment.
It would also provide a historical reference point for those who will be inspired to take up the game in the future.
As the year winds down, Indian cricket transition appears to be an unbridled progression. The concerns now are that it should not go into a free fall.
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