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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Cricket Columns

Crucial Test ahead for India’s big four in the series Down Under
Amrit Mathur
December 12, 2011
First Published: 00:14 IST(12/12/2011)
Last Updated: 15:24 IST(23/12/2011)

India’s celebrated big four (Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag) face the severest test of their careers in the upcoming series in Australia. All four are ‘legends’, contemporary champions with wonderful records, yet this series can elevate them to a different level, or leave a permanent scar on their careers.

In their own league
One view is, none of them has anything to prove because they are in the ‘been-there-done-that’ space. Between them, collectively, the four have 566 Test caps, 126 hundreds and close to 45,000 runs. Still, as they take guard in Melbourne in two weeks’ time, the true battle is not with Aussie bowling but with themselves.

Considering the heavy baggage of past achievements and massive expectations of sustained success, all four, at this stage of their careers, are playing for reputation and respect as much as runs.

Sachin, who scored his first Test century in Perth 20 years ago, is widely regarded as Bradman’s genuine successor given the sheer weight of his runs. But since England earlier this season, the magic is missing; his bat has failed to hit the right notes and, as he nears the incredible landmark of hundred hundreds, his batting is suddenly scratchy, lacking in style and substance.

For Sachin , a successful tour in Australia will be another grand victory, a final triumph that will confirm his place in cricket's all-time pantheon.

For Dravid, the stakes are a little less but, mindful of cricket's history, the significance of this tour would not be lost on him. Australia respects Dravid for his is technical brilliance, his solid work ethic and relentless focus. At 38, after 13,000 Test runs, Dravid knows he is on test again like a youngster and this is an exam he can't afford to flunk. But he, part diligent student part driven professional, is well prepared, having done the hard yards and accumulating loads of runs.

Aussie favourites
Laxman, another veteran, has a special place among Aussie fans, many of whom rate him higher than Sachin. The big question is, will Laxman, a free-spirited artist in a sport populated by cloned athletes, continue his superb run against Australia and delight fans with his supreme elegance?

Always a threat
After his sensational 219, Sehwag too has put himself squarely in the spotlight. Australian pitches suit his style of crisp batting, with ball coming nicely on to the bat, a savage Sehwag should feast on the conditions and the inexperienced new-ball Aussie attack. Rightfully hailed as the greatest entertainer of the generation, this could be Sehwag's tryst with history.


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