Looking for last hurrah

Sachin, Dravid, Laxman keen for a final flourish

Looking for last hurrah

Four years later, and amazingly enough, nothing appears to have changed. The scenes at each ground and every match are replete with heart-felt respect to the most popular cricketer in the world. His 100th international ton has so far remained elusive, but the anticipation hasn’t diminished one bit. Ever since he set his feet on this part of the world and batted his way into the hearts of English fans with his maiden Test ton as a teenager in 1990, Tendulkar has toured this country five times and the latest one could most probably be the last one.

The right-hander will be almost 42 when India visit England again in 2014, and despite his unbelievable longevity, it is difficult to imagine that the little master would be part of an Indian squad when they arrive here next time. Quite possibly then Tendulkar could be playing his last Test match in this land when the fourth and final match of the ongoing series begins on Thursday at The Oval. He may not be alone doing so though. In all probability Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman too could be making their last appearance in a Test in England. In a series where little has gone right for India, the veteran trio would be looking for one final hurrah and help their team redeem some pride.

Barring Laxman, who somehow hasn’t quite managed to solve the English riddle, Tendulkar and Dravid have enjoyed great success here.

Barely had the Mumbai batsman cut his teeth in international cricket, he took his first big step towards greatness with a masterly century at Manchester helping India draw the match. There were four centuries from the English batsmen and an epic 179 by Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin, but Tendulkar was chosen the man of the match for his impeccable knock. He had already shown signs of his outrageous talent, but his innings at Old Trafford was the first big defining moment of his career.

But never in his previous four visits to England has the owner of the highest runs in Tests, endured such a bad run. Just 159 runs at a meagre average of 26.50 aren’t the returns he was looking forward to when he took a month’s break to keep himself fresh and ready for the challenge. There is nothing much he can salvage from what is clearly a lost cause for India, but a big innings may go a long way in restoring the credibility of what is (or was?) widely regarded as the best batting line-up in the world.

Dravid has had more success in England. A traditionalist that he is, the Bangalorean has always been charmed by the love and respect the English fans have for the Test format. And more often than not the right-hander has enchanted them with one classy knock after another. Personally, his debut at Lord’s was at once a delighting and disappointing experience, but then he would have gladly taken a score of 95 when he went out to bat for the first time in India cap.

In the subsequent three visits, however, the Karnataka stalwart has scored five centuries, with two of them coming on the current tour during which India have failed to stitch together a total of 300 even once in six attempts. He has won matches for India here, led them to a series win last time, and has been the only saving grace in batting in the ongoing series. There are no fairytale endings, but when Dravid looks back he will have more reasons to elate than regret.

Notwithstanding his low-conversion rates, Laxman’s century duck against England is a bit surprising. He has a modest record– 560 runs at 37.33 – in England, and the present series has been his most forgettable assignment on the English soil. The Hyderabadi, however, still has one more chance to make amends.

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