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Promote youth but respect the veterans

Asked if the challenge from younger players put him under pressure, Rahul Dravid deflected the issue. Questions will be asked, the veteran responded, on the basis of runs and also age.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2010 23:23 IST
Amrit Mathur

Asked if the challenge from younger players put him under pressure, Rahul Dravid deflected the issue. Questions will be asked, the veteran responded, on the basis of runs and also age.

Age might just be a number but when established stars get along in years a debate starts about when their innings would close.

As senior India players fly out to South Africa, there are questions on how much time Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS Laxman have.

While it is tempting to say that their best days are past, the recent form of these wonderful players suggests their talent has not diminished. Sachin is in majestic touch, Dravid durable as ever and Laxman a regular match-winner.

With each new Test, the three fight age and the youthful challenge of Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. None of them are in immediate danger of losing his place but there is always a negative sentiment, especially in India, which wants the greats to fail and be humbled.

No less powerful is the feeling that youngsters should be given a chance because they bring energy and a fresh attitude. Because of this romance with youth, kids get pushed up, often before they are battle-ready.

There are enough instances of the India cap being handed out after two knocks in Ranji or one promising spell. Jaydev Unadkat jumped directly from junior cricket/IPL to the India team, many others have made it without taking 50 Ranji wickets.

While experience is a valuable asset, advancing age becomes a burden and handicap. For senior players, beyond a threshold level, each failure brings intense criticism and a minor decline in form leads to calls for change.

Laxman, his career is perpetually on a knife's edge, is a prime example of someone who has fought critics and selectors as much as bowlers from the opposition.

Now, other seniors also have to constantly prove they are twice as good as the hopefuls waiting on the bench.

This experience versus youth debate rages on in Ranji too. Sanjay Bangar, Yere Goud, Pankaj Dharmani, S Sriram, Sunil Joshi, Sitanshu Kotak and Debashish Mohanty are terrific stars, who have spent close to two decades on the first-class circuit.

But there are state sides like Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra who are so pro-youth that they carry out brutal purges every few years and discard anyone above 25!