Onus on big three to rise to challenge

Onus on big three to rise to challenge

Dravid, Sachin, Laxman need to show the way

So much vitriol has been spread about them in the last fortnight after their below par efforts thus far in the Test series against Australia that the Indians might be feeling like national villains.

cynosure: Sachin Tendulkar makes a point during a practice session at the WACA on Wednesday in preparation for the third Test against Australia starting on Friday. AP

The Indian batsmen, to be precise, have borne the brunt of a nation’s anguish expressed through tweets, hate mails and TV shows after they were blown away in Melbourne and Sydney, India’s perceived home away from home, inside four days.
Even their last few days in Perth, venue of the third Test, have not been easy.

Instances like Ishant Sharma’s middle-finger gesture, criticisms about their visit to a local karting centre, and the traditional mind games by Australian players, including the talk of a menacing WACA pitch, have been harrowing a beleaguered unit.
So, should we already accept a 4-0 margin, and write off the Indians? Do that at your own peril as scripting a comeback is certainly not beyond them, and this is the perfect time for senior stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to take centre stage.

These three men have seen the highs and lows of international cricket like no one else while forming the backbone of the Indian batting together for over a decade and half. The dream of winning a series in Australia is already over, these titans should pull their weight collectively for one more time to rescue India from the ignominy of another whitewash.

That task should spur them to defy the odds, and touch the high level of batsmanship they are capable of. Over the years, no other batsmen have tormented Australia like the Indian troika, while producing some of the most memorable innings in the history of cricket.

Dravid’s masterpieces at Kolkata and Adelaide, Laxman’s epics at Kolkata and Sydney, and Tendulkar’s double hundred laced with grim determination at Sydney are innings tattooed forever in memory in golden hue. Those outings against Australia have been the biggest source of pride for these great men, the most glittering points in their CV and towering edifices of their skills and temperament against a set of equally uncompromising competitors like Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie.

However, a few Australian rookie pacemen have humbled them during their last Down Under trip. James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus have dented their pride, never allowing them to reach the expected heights. Dravid’s moment of brilliance so far on this tour has been restricted to his Bradman Memorial speech, and he has averaged a measly 28 after two Tests.

Tendulkar has an average of 56.50, but has failed to kick on after going past fifty on a couple of occasions, while Laxman’s fabled elegance was on view only in the second innings at Sydney where he made a half-century, and his average on this tour now stands at a paltry 17.75.

In the last stretch of their remarkable careers, these men will certainly not like to go out with scarred images, and India’s fate in the remainder of this series will depend on how far and how quickly the old hands can turn the clock back.

They will also not cherish a phone call from a selector enquiring about their future plans, as they would think, rightly so, that it’s their prerogative to walk out on their own terms after performing some glorious deeds for the country.

But then, it’s not about their personal records alone. A forceful effort by the veterans will also spur others in the team, particularly for someone like Virat Kohli who is struggling at the moment, to raise their bar of performance.

Perth, where India had scripted an epochal victory four years ago under Anil Kumble, is the perfect place to start the turnaround in their fortunes. And, with it, the country’s too.