The greatest sportspersons never bow, except when compelled by superior forces like time. Time is fast running out for the three Indian batting icons, and time is running out for their admirers. Their magical talents, their wizardry with the bat must be savoured before they walk away.
A few hours after the Indian probables for the Twenty20 World Cup were announced, India captain Rahul Dravid explained why he, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly had decided not to be part of the event.
Their decision was not really unexpected, but that did not soften the blow. India must fast get used to life without this troika, and this decision is a reminder of that. “I think it’s a young man’s game, the Twenty20 form,” said Dravid. “At 34 and 35, there was not much that… we basically felt it would be better if the young guys played.
“The three of us felt that that was the way forward for Indian cricket,” Dravid added. “We've got a lot of good young players who need to be given an opportunity.” That was it; Dravid would speak no further on the three intertwined careers that have given joy and hope to millions over this time.
But he did speak about what he has in mind ahead of the first Test. "I know my best top order, we're pretty clear about that, especially going into the first Test," he said. "A couple of small niggles and injuries that need to get sorted out but hopefully in the next game we should be playing our top six."
He gave an indication of what the shape of India's batting line-up might be by speaking of VVS Laxman, who got a half-century against Sussex. "I back Laxman to have a very big tour this time. Last time, he did not have as big a tour and I can see that he's determined to correct that this time around," said Dravid. "From what I've seen over the last two days, he's very hungry to have a big tour. We're going to see a lot of him."
He also singled out MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik as the men England should watch out for.
Actually, he might also have mentioned those three others, men with 40 years of international cricket between them, men still hungry and still motivated enough for more, even as the wheels of time can be heard hurrying close behind.