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As time goes by, India will feel the crunch

The mass retirements in Australia only prove that teams have to constantly re-invent themselves, writes Amrit Mathur.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 13:48 IST

The mass retirements in Australia only prove, yet again, that though the stage remains, the performers move on, and teams have to constantly re-invent themselves to maintain standards.

Strangely, when it comes to retirement, age works in a complex manner. In Australia nothing counts except performance, and age is only a number. That is why Matthew Hayden is back in the one-day squad and Hussey, a senior citizen by cricket standards, continues to soldier on.

Still, age does catch up with everyone and remains a big factor — else, Langer, McGrath and Martyn would not have quit. Unlike Australia, though, in India age matters a lot, and post-30, time is up for most players. Which is why the thought: are we ready for a team that has no Tendulkar, no Dravid, and is without Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble?

Already there are signs that their skills are diminishing. Sachin has acknowledged he can’t bat the way he did because his body, reflexes and attitude have changed. Laxman and Kumble have suffered because the selectors wanted to build a team for the future.

Ganguly seems to have re-formed his alliance with Team India but the partnership remains tricky. And Dravid, despite years of top cricket in him, is unlikely to lead India into the next decade.

In the event of a mass exodus, India would look to Yuvraj-Kaif-Mongia, or show faith in the Rainas and Venugopal Raos. The worrying aspect of this ambitious plan is, can these players deliver?

Reverse age-bias is a dangerous part of Indian cricket. Our selection policies are heavily pro-youth — kids are picked on potential shown in a few innings, and brief flashes of magic are sufficient to fast track a young player to a higher league, where he might not belong.

There are innumerable instances of next Kapil Devs and Sunil Gavaskars who never arrived, of talented players who got lost in transit. The infant mortality rate in Indian cricket is alarmingly high.

Apart from the obvious bungling by selectors, a major share of the blame for this falls on the various age group competitions, where players participate on fudged age certificates and compete with others much younger.

Right now, under-19 is in favour because university cricket has died; performances there get noticed and players are quickly pushed into Ranji squads. But once these under-19 stars compete with others as equals, they are exposed. There are many examples of India A and under-19 stars who have disappeared.

Australia, given their tough domestic structure and bench strength may well survive the mass departures. But India, with its main players gone, could become too weak.

First Published: Jan 11, 2007 01:18 IST