The Indian team that will take on New Zealand in the Test match beginning Thursday will be a lot different from the team that had represented the nation from more than a decade. The team, which had the best middle-order known, have lost three of their ‘fabulous four’ -- the players who played a vital role in India becoming the top ranked side.
But this wasn’t on unexpected lines as every player, however great he is, has a shelf life and has to make place for others. However, it will take time to sink the feelings. A lot has changed from the time India played their last Test match in Australia. Two of their all-time greats -- Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman-- have retired and that will have a massive effect on the team. It is a fact that in almost all the memorable Test wins that India achieved in the past 15 years, involvement of these players was significant -- be it Headingly, Kolkata, Adelaide or others.
Indian team will miss them for sure, but having said that, it does look like a good decision on the part of these stalwarts. These players had nothing to prove and will be honored and respected till the time cricket is played in India. But the team had to be prepared for future as no player can play till eternity and there comes a time when they have to make way for young blood.
By retiring ahead of the New Zealand Test series, the seniors have provided a good opportunity to the youngsters to get settled in the team and be ready for what will be the biggest challenge of their lives. New Zealand is a weak side at least on papers and there is no point hiding that fact. They are number eighth in the list of ICC Test rankings (which includes nine teams) and were recently thrashed by West Indies (the team which have its own visible problems).
It is a good opportunity for youngsters to score some runs against the inexperienced Kiwi attack and nothing helps a batsman than having runs behind his back. India should do well in the series and the batsmen is expected to score heaps of runs. After eight straight losses overseas, India need a dominating performance and it is a perfect situation where players like Virat Kohli, Pujara, Raina and others should get ample opportunity to bat to get the feel that they belong there.
India have some tough series lined up. England and Australia both embarrassed India when India toured their nations and in the coming season India will have a chance to return the favour at their home grounds. The Indian team will know that they have lost the players who enjoyed playing against these nations. Dravid’s record against England is impeccable and Laxman have always dominated Australia (except for the last series). Another thing that will worry India is that both these teams possess a strong bowling unit and the young players will be tested to the limits.
The big Test for this young team will come when India will travel to the Rainbow nation to play the world number one Test side South Africa. Indian team has done reasonably well in the past two series in South Africa, but this time it will be a lot different.
So, tough times waits Indian Test team and the young players need as much time as possible to get accustomed to the challenge in their home conditions. And overall it was a wise decision from Laxman and Dravid to retire before the start home series as the youngsters will get an opportunity to build up their confidence on their own soil and prepare themselves mentally for the tough overseas tour ahead.
By Gaurav Jha
Indian Sports News
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