Stakeholders: Indian Cricket Team, Senior members of the team – Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman (collectively called the Fab Four) and Anil Kumble, the BCCI, cricket fans in India and across the world
· The poor performances of senior members of Team India in recent tours (before Australia’s tour of India) intensified the calls to replace them with younger cricketers. In the wake of this, the BCCI came up with a proposal to ensure dignified exits for these great players who had served the country with distinction for so long.
· The proposal received mixed reactions. Some ex-cricketers insisted that the players should be allowed to decide how long they wished to continue playing. The BCCI also received a lot of flak for the timing of the proposal, coming as it did on the eve of the Australia series.
· According to the proposal, senior cricketers could voluntarily approach the board with their future plans and ask to be considered for a specific period of time till a certain series before quitting. Provided the timeframe was not too long, the board was willing to accommodate the players.
· The player’s decision to quit after the timeframe would be made public and they would have to retire irrespective of how they performed.
· This would not only ensure graceful exits for the seniors but also give the BCCI enough time to groom youngsters to step into the shoes of the greats.
· Some ex-cricketers rejected the proposal, saying that it would not work in the Indian context and that it should be left to the players to decide how long to continue.
· Anil Kumble, then Captain of the Test team, denied being pressurized to quit the game on account of his age. He blamed the media for placing players under scrutiny, without respecting their achievements.
· In the midst of all this came Saurav Ganguly’s decision to quit after the Australia series. Though it was on the cards, it still came as a shock. The famed Fab Four that had bolstered the Indian middle order for so long had lost their inspirational captain.
· Ganguly’s decision shifted the focus on to Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble to follow suit.
· Under fire from several quarters for their immature handling of a sensitive issue, the BCCI did a volte-face and denied ever having proposed such a scheme to the senior players. But the damage had already been done and the seniors vs. juniors debate was once again out in the open.
· The below par performance of the seniors in the first test at Bangalore did not help their case much. It only added fuel to the debate.
Why the seniors may want to accept the Proposal
· There are no two opinions about the fact that the seniors deserve a chance to bow out of the game with dignity. With their futures decided, they can play their last few games without undue pressure.
· As great as these players are, they cannot go on forever. The squad needs fresh blood. Youngsters, such as Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, are biding their time on the benches because there is no place for them in the Indian middle order.
· The performance of the seniors has not been inspiring of late. Their disastrous tour of Sri Lanka, where they fell to the guiles of Murali and Mendis, bears testimony to this fact. The selectors may be forced to take the harsh decision of axing these greats any time now. Tendulkar and Laxman redeemed themselves somewhat with solid performances in the Australia series, but the question of the longevity remains.
· The players will find it difficult to quell allegations that they are holding on to their positions for the sake of records and endorsements. Even Kapil Dev, India’s greatest ever all rounder, was accused of desperately hanging on to break Sir Richard Hadlee’s then record of 431 test wickets.
· With the advent of T20, cricket is increasingly becoming a young man’s game. Even Test cricket is played at a faster pace than before. This requires players to be extremely fit, which is not the case with some of the seniors in the team.
Opposition to the Proposal
· The seniors, especially Tendulkar, have at least two good years of cricket left in them. Older players, like Hayden and Jayasurya, are doing exceptionally well in international cricket.
· The youngsters have not done enough to fill the shoes of these great players. Even Yuvraj Singh, the most accomplished of the lot, has had a patchy test career at best.
· Team India would find it very difficult to bounce back from a situation where a clutch of their most experienced players have retired almost simultaneously. It might be a better idea to follow a rotation policy and blood in some youngsters while still retaining some experience.
· It is unfair to judge players of this caliber on the basis of one poor series.
· The players would know when it is time to hang up their gloves. Considering that they have had such glittering careers, they would be the last to want to spoil it at the very end.
· The proposal would affect the selection procedure. It would virtually ensure that the senior players would be picked even if their performance does not merit them a spot in the final eleven.
· Age becoming an issue for 'Fab Four'
· Fab Four debate gathers momentum ahead of Border-Gavaskar Trophy series
Group Discussion Topics
1. Is Team India ready to look beyond the Fab Four and Kumble?
· India has done exceedingly well in the shorter versions of the game without them. The team won the T20 World Cup in 2007 (without these players) and the one day series in Australia in early 2008 (with only Tendulkar, out of the said players).
· Leg spinner Piyush Chawla made life difficult for the Aussies in the only warm-up game they played. He is ready to take on the mantle from Kumble. Leggie Amit Misra also proved himself in the Australia series.
· Mahendra Singh Dhoni has shown that he is a very good captain in the shorter versions of the game. He looks prepared to take on that responsibility in test cricket as well. India won both the test matches he captained in the Australia series and drew both matches played under Kumble.
· India has to blood in more youngsters in the test team. Test cricket is the true test of a cricketer’s character. And it is strong character that will help India erase the bad memories of the 2007 Limited Overs World Cup debacle and do well in the 2011 World Cup.
· The next generation of Indian cricketers is completely untested in international cricket. Many teams, like the Australians of the late 80s, have struggled through a period of rebuilding after their most experienced players have called it quits.
· With the Fab Four quitting, players like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Virendra Sehwag would become the senior pros in the team. These players are temperamental and need cool heads to guide them. It is difficult to see them as the players that youngsters in the team can idolize at this stage.
· The retirement of the great players will put a lot of pressure on the youngsters replacing them. They would be expected to do as well as the players they are replacing. Many players could break down completely under that kind of pressure at the very beginning of their careers.