Two days ago - that's Saturday for those keeping score - Rahul Dravid told an Australian news channel that he had not made a decision on whether to retire or not. This came after widespread reports in the media about Dravid's imminent retirement following India's crushing defeat in Adelaide, which had prompted the team management to issue a statement saying that none of the under-fire seniors were about to call it quits. Earlier, Virender Sehwag had emphatically stated that there was no need for anybody to retire. Before that, Gautam Gambhir had said that a woefully out of form VVS Laxman should have the right to choose when he retires.
This loop of comments has done nothing to address the real issue facing Indian cricket: what is the future? Comments by the men directly in question and their team-mates and support staff are entirely valid, because these illustrious cricket players - in Dravid's case, a true great of the game - do not have to answer to the media or public about when they should or should not go. But instead of having players come out and tersely address the media, it is the BCCI that needs to come out and speak about the future. Its remaining mum on the matter is not helping the situation.
What we seem to have in front of us is a non-committal BCCI waiting for Dravid, Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar to retire. No selector or board official is going to call up these three and tell them their time is up. It's not Australia. But the question has to be asked: is the BCCI planning for the future? Do they have a plan for the next 12 months, the next two years, for India's next overseas tour? Are they content_cn waiting for the three veterans to announce their retirements?
If so, it is a very meek frame of mind. India have lost their past two overseas tours by 4-0 margins with Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman in the side. It's difficult to see how Dravid and Laxman can contribute any more at the ages of 39 and 37 respectively, given that India don't have any Test cricket lined up until October (murmurs of a four-Test series in Sri Lanka this summer could possibly turn true, however).
Indian cricket is heading for a tough time once Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman retire. It is inevitable that the team will struggle in Tests. Instead of holding onto these three veterans, it is better that the BCCI accepts the oncoming struggles and bloods the younger generation. Since they are the future, why not let them play now?
The decision to include a 38-year-old Tendulkar - who hasn't featured in any of the 20 ODIs India have played since the World Cup - for the upcoming tri-series smacks of opportunism. There is clearly no long-time goal in mind. Tendulkar has been stuck on 99 international centuries for nearly a year. If he wanted to be a part of India’s ODI squad and help mould it for the future, he would surely have played against West Indies last summer and before the Australia tour. His being allowed to choose what series he plays and misses is unacceptable. In India the person has to often been more important than the team, and sadly nothing seems to have changed despite all that this team has achieved under Gary Kirsten. So what happens if Tendulkar does get that 100th hundred and helps India win the tri-series? Will he play the Asia Cup? Is India even thinking about the Asia Cup? Or about their next ODI series, considering they are world champions?
India's management made the right choice in sticking with Virat Kohli after his failures in Melbourne and Sydney. But they missed a trick by not including Rohit Sharma for the Adelaide Test. Here was an opportunity to build for the future by playing a highly talented batsman in overseas conditions and with the team totally flattened. Instead, they stuck with the same batting line-up as in the three Tests and India were shellacked.
What this shows is the clear lack of thinking toward the future. Is Rohit not a future Test batsman? With the series lost, and nothing to gain from Laxman scoring a few runs considering India's calendar, what was the harm in handing Rohit a debut? In doing so, the management would have been able to assess his temperament.
It is sad that the reputations of three of India's greatest batsman - Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman - have been dealt severe blows following the second 4-0 whitewash in as many overseas tours. It is also sad how they have been castigated in the media. Yes, Dravid and Laxman were made to look very ordinary. But in such times it is imperative that we remember what they have achieved as cricketers, and more so in the past decade when Indian cricket changed its course on the basis, largely, of their batting. Let us remember them for their achievements before England and Australia, and move forward by accepting that an era has ended.
The BCCI can start by honoring these three batsmen, and chalking out the path forward. Indian cricket needs a long-term goal, not stop-gap measures.