A new chapter in Indian cricket unfolds at the Wanderers in Johannesburg today.
For the first time in 24 years, an Indian cricket team will take the field in the knowledge that their batting icon Sachin Tendulkar will never be part of their XI again. It’s an era that starts with hope, may get exciting and probably have its share of despair.
Tendulkar will not be around to walk in at No 4. His scratchy form before his last Test series in November notwithstanding, he will be missed more than ever — on the big stage against the big boys of Test cricket.
As cricket sages have said over the years, ‘the game goes on.’ On the flipside, just like they said in Australia when celebrated cricket commentator Alan McGilvray put a full stop to his microphone duties in the 1980s, ‘the game is not the same.’ Acceptance of these two thoughts is inevitable in the context of Indian cricket.
Quite naturally, there is a degree of concern over the future when a great player bows out of the game, but history has shown that new players arrive, prosper and the fears get dissolved with every passing performance of the new player.
No one can replace — in the true sense of the term — a player like Tendulkar, but batsmen like Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have already brought about some sunshine to evaporate the so-called gloom caused by Tendulkar’s exit.
Erstwhile India captain Sourav Ganguly reminds us ad nauseum that even Tendulkar’s career had a starting point — such a simplistic thought, yet so true.
When Tendulkar first took guard in 1989, two Novembers after Gavaskar played his last game for India, cricket lovers were still worried about the void left by the iconic opening batsman.
But Indian cricket went along and, without taking any credit away from Gavaskar’s wondrous and courageous deeds, India achieved greater success abroad. At one time, India boasted of the greatest batting line-up in the world.
Although India have not enjoyed great success abroad under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the production line of players has been admirable. Despite
losing batsmen of the calibre of Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman (in retirement order), India have not been disastrous.
South Africa’s batting legend Graeme Pollock said that he has been impressed by the talent emerging from India and what is most impressive is that they are not scared of getting under the skin of the opponents.
Interestingly, India have the better of South Africa when it comes to the head-to-head record in Tests at Johannesburg. But that is all set to change. The two-Test tour of South Africa will be testing, but failure shouldn’t be viewed as doom.
More than worrying about how to deal with the post-Tendulkar era, Indian cricket has to worry about putting consistent processes in place. It’s a shame the team goes into a Test match in South Africa, of all places, without more than one scheduled game which got washed out.
Captain Dhoni says in a commercial, ‘it is how you run the game that wins it.’ That’s exactly where the Indian cricket board has slipped badly where this tour is concerned.
If that is achieved, India’s post-Tendulkar era will be less rough. Why, even smooth. Indian cricket’s new stairway is ready at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. It’s only meant for an upward climb. Meanwhile, Tendulkar can only watch!
Madhav Apte: Sachin will always be missed but every team has to go through this challenge. We did badly in SA conditions, but conditions will vary in different countries. The difference between a good player and a great player is in his ability to adapt.
Nari Contractor: Everything comes and everything goes. Sachin has retired and you have to live with it, so why worry?
Bapu Nadkarni: Sachin Tendulkar was going to announce his retirement some day. It’s just that this time a young Indian team is playing in SA, which has bouncy pitches, that we are not used to. But this team will mature with time.
Milind Rege: Nobody can replace Sachin. There was a time when Sunil Gavaskar retired and people asked who would replace him. It’s the same now. The youngsters in the team are good, but let’s not expect results soon.