London, July 17 (IANS) At the twilight of their incredible careers, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman could be touring England for one last time. The batting trio has been a force behind India’s rise to World No.1 Test team and their improved overseas record.
When they play at Lord’s Thursday in the first Test, which will also the 2,000th Test match and 100th between the two nations, they will have new barriers to cross.
The British media has already written realms about the much-anticipated series, diagnosing every small aspect of both teams like a surgeon’s scalpel. The anticipation has been built not only around the series but also the three Indian stalwarts and their exploits in the bygone decade.
Tendulkar, since his first Test century, a match-saving 119 at Old Trafford in the summer of 1990 when he was still only 17, has assumed cult status here. It will be a perfect setting for the ‘genius’ to get to his 100th international century at Lord’s.
The ‘wall’ or the ‘builder’ Dravid, who made 95 on debut at Lord’s in the match where Sourav Ganguly began his fairytale journey with a maiden hundred, is held in high esteem for his rock solid defence and impregnable temperament. He, Tendulkar and Ganguly were instrumental in the Headingley victory of 2002.
Laxman is still to score a century in England, something he would like to achieve in this tour. But the ‘artist’ rules the heart of fans and media here by virtue of his dominating performance against Australia.
They were not in great touch when India toured last time in 2007. Dravid’s form dipped with captaincy and he managed just 126 runs. Laxman averaged 50, but without any century. Tendulkar had only two half-centuries. Now they are back to show their class one last time.
The Guardian compared the trio with the three Ws — Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Everton Weekes.
‘Since the three Ws played a pivotal role in West Indies’s emergence as a cricket power, it is hard to think of three batting contemporaries who have had such an impact on a nation’s cricket fortunes as India’s middle order. They have been slotted into boxes that they each dislike – the genius, the builder and the artist – but for 15 years, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman have been united by a common purpose,’ it said.
‘With more than 35,000 Test runs and 99 centuries between them, they have helped define Indian cricket’s most successful era.’
When Laxman made his debut in November 1996, India were far from being cricket’s pre-eminent power. India were hard to beat on spin-friendly surfaces at home, but they found the going tough away from home.
India had produced great batsmen before them, most notably Sunil Gavaskar and the two Vijays, Merchant and Hazare. ‘But away from home comforts, their task usually involved digging trenches and saving face.’
‘Half the India’s 110 Test wins have come in the period after Laxman’s debut. Before then, India had won 13 of 139 Tests overseas. Since, they have triumphed in 24 of 83. In the last decade, when they came into their own, they have won more (22) than they have lost (19) away.’
Under John Wright as coach and Ganguly as captain, India started to hold their own in alien conditions. Victory in Pakistan for the first time (in 2004) was the pinnacle of that era, but once Wright gave way to Greg Chappell, the scenario changed.
They found inspiration in different ways under Gary Kirsten. Dravid scored a career-saving century against England at Mohali (2008), while Tendulkar put together the most prolific year of his career in 2010.
Laxman has enjoyed two of the best years of his career, battling crippling back problems to script epic victories against Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa in the last 12 months.
‘Like the three Ws, who made their debuts within a month of each other in 1948 – they have achieved all this without the clash of egos that can often tear a team of big personalities apart.’