Veterans face heat as India fall apart

Pressure is mounting on India's ageing Test batsmen to make way for fresh talent after the team sunk to the "lowest of lows" in Australia where they suffered a humiliating 4-0 series whitewash.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2012 08:11 IST
India vs Australia 2012,Sachin Tendulkar,Rahul Dravid

Pressure is mounting on India's ageing Test batsmen to make way for fresh talent after the team sunk to the "lowest of lows" in Australia where they suffered a humiliating 4-0 series whitewash.

The eighth consecutive overseas Test defeat on Saturday -- following an identical scoreline in England -- left a battered India searching for a way to stop the rot.

Fingers were being pointed at underperforming batting stars Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman -- all pillars of the Indian lineup for more than a decade.

Tendulkar, the world's leading Test and one-day batsman who turns 39 in April, was clearly burdened by the pressure of chasing his 100th international century, a feat which continues to elude him.

His highest score in the series was 80 and even though he made 287 runs at an average of 35.87, the milestone -- which no other player has achieved -- seemed to shackle his usually free-flowing batting style.

Dravid, 39, the second-highest scorer in Test cricket after Tendulkar, managed just 194 runs in eight innings at a poor average of 24.25 with one half-century.

And Laxman, 37, who has thrived against Australia in the past, looked woefully out of touch as he jabbed and plodded to 155 runs at 19.37.

Tendulkar will get another chance to make amends in the upcoming one-day tri-series against Australia and Sri Lanka, but Dravid and Laxman are not part of the limited-overs team.

With India not due to play another Test series until September, the senior players have time to ponder their future amid calls for an overhaul of the side.

"Indian cricket has sunk to the lowest of lows," wrote Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal, who said the revered trio could no longer be banked on to deliver.

"In another time these very men... would have been relied on to forge a revival. But their time has gone now. Indian cricket has no option but to embrace the future, however uncertain it may seem."

Even International Cricket Council president Sharad Pawar, a former Indian cricket chief, felt younger players needed to be thrown in the ring.

"The time has come for some changes in the Indian team," Pawar told the CNN-IBN news channel. "One has to take risks and give an opportunity to the younger generation.

"Such a move might change the entire atmosphere in the team."

But former India captain and spin legend Bishan Bedi called for an immediate end to the witch-hunt against the senior players.

"Please show some respect to the players who have served the country for so long," Bedi said. "They don't need our suggestions as to when they should retire.

"Someone will eventually take their places. But we will probably never be able to find replacements for these once-in-a-generation players."

Bedi last week lashed out at what he said was the Indian cricket board's obsession with the glitzy Indian Premier League (IPL), accusing it of ignoring the longer form of the domestic cricket.

"The board's priorities are wrong," Bedi said. "The Ranji Trophy (first-class domestic tournament) should be our most valued tournament, not the IPL.

"Mark my words, this IPL will strike a fatal blow to Indian cricket and that day is not far."

The annual IPL, which started in 2008, features players from around the world playing Twenty20 cricket for private franchises, with multi-million-dollar fees for the top stars.

Meanwhile, Indian cricket chief Narayanaswamy Srinivasan defended the battered Test team, saying the one-day series could change the tourists' fortunes.

"There is no need for a knee-jerk reaction," he said. "We have faith in the team. We should not put pressure on the players. Only months back they won the World Cup."

First Published: Jan 29, 2012 08:05 IST