India’s long history of cricket since 1932 reached its zenith in an early Sunday morning of November 2009 when India ascended to the Top ranking in the test ladder. Without a bowling attack to infuse confidence, side managed to hold on to the hot seat until July 2011 when a spirited England side dethroned the Indian side that was distraught. In the bowling front, most of India’s victories should be credited to Zaheer Khan. He has been supported by the rest of the cast led by Harbhajan sometimes. However the strength of India has been its batting. Rated among the most prolific line ups ever in the history of cricket, the Indian batting line up is blessed with stars and legends as no other.
The trend in the past four years has been noticeable notably. Every year, one of the Indian batsmen or other has enjoyed the prolific form marauding the opposition to submission mercilessly. While every other batsman came up with innings of merit every now and then, each season had a standout performer who kept scoring runs at consistent basis. The problem however has been that the line up as a whole has not clicked often.
In 2008-09, Gautham Gambhir was the man in roaring form. Having reestablished himself in 2007, he formed a destructive pair with his state mate Sehwag. His run included a series of eight centuries in thirteen tests. He made a double against Australia in 2008, a marathon match saving hundred against NewZeland in Napier when he batted for more than thirteen hours. He passed fifty in six consecutive matches, scoring runs at wish and will. While Sehwag kept hitting out, he scored his runs without much fuss. He was rightfully the ICC Test player of the Year in 2009. His form dipped latter due to injuries and breaks. He has a long way ahead and should lead the Indian batting line up in post Fab three days.
Sehwag made his debut as an off spinning allrounder in 1999 but lasted just two matches. He made his re-entry in a grand manner in 2001 and soon was elevated to an opener. He revolutionized the test batting, scoring runs at T20 pace in test format. For a batsman identified as hitter, he is such a rarity with so much success in the toughest form of the game. He made India’s first triple against Pakistan in 2004, another one in 2007 against South Africa and almost the third against Srilanka in 2009. His alarming dip of form saw him out of the test side. He got a leeway in the last Australia series and since then has been a concern for the bowlers. The period of 2008-10 was when Viru was at his very best. At Galle, he made 201 of India’s 329. He scored two consecutive hundreds against Srilanka in late 2009 when Murali was turned into a club bowler by the Delhi Dasher. He followed it with a back to back hundreds against South Africa, giving India respectable total in the first test and perfect launch pad in the second. In 10 tests between March 2009-February 2010, he made 1074 runs in 10 tests at an average of 71.8 and amazing strike rate of 98.8. He began the 2011 World Cup with 175 runs of bliss against Bangladesh and recently broke the record of highest individual score in ODIs scoring 219.
At his 21st year in International Cricket, 37 year old Tendulkar enjoyed yet another year of grand success. Ever since the Tennis Elbow in 2006-07 season, he has been in consistent scoring hundreds at regular intervals and playing so many innings of repute. However the purple patch was attained in 2010, when he began the year with four hundreds in as many matches against Bangladesh and South Africa. He soon completed the honours of scoring ODI’s first double hundred against South Africa. In Srilanka he made a double at SSC gorund and in the Australia’s tour he made a match winning double century at Bengalooru. The much anticipated 50th test century was accomplished in losing cause at Johannesburg and he followed it with a match saving knock against marauding Steyn at Cape Town. In all, the 11 tests between Januray 2010 and January 2011, he made 1774 runs in 15 matches at an average of 82. It comprised of 8 centuries and five fities. He capped his season with a World Cup win where he scored 482 runs and was second in the batting charts.
If Tendulkar hit purple patch at 37 years, his long time friend and most reputed partner, Dravid came out of a career threatening slump to knock 5 centuries in 2011. He slowly regained form with a hundred of authority in West Indies and peaked at England when all the other batsmen failed to make a mark as India was duly thrashed 4 nil. He was the block between England and Indian humiliation. In four tests when the whole side surrendered, he stood head held high with three centuries, each coming under tough conditions, single handed knocks. But for him, India would not have managed 200 runs even once in the series. In the following series at home in West Indies, he was India’s highest scorer. He is right now behind Tendulkar in test charts and is highest scorer in 2011.
The might of Indian batting is such that, their best man under pressure often goes unnoticed. But Laxman had performed when it mattered. He made just 4 good knocks in 2010 and all came in match winning causes. He guided India at a graveyard of batsmen in Durban, battled a bad back with No 10 to steer India home against Australia at Mohali. Now, after the top four enjoying a season of excellence, time is ripe for Laxman to hit the purple patch. Among his opponents, it is the Aussies that he enjoys playing. Whenever he has faced the Kangaroos, he hits form with ease of negotiating club bowlers. Now that the impeding Australian series, it is his best shot at beginning his purple patch. He has never been out of form but a purple patch at the time when his career appears to end in year or two would do Indian team a world of Good.
Following Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar and Dravid will 2012 be Laxman’s year?