We’ve seen it happen before and we wouldn’t want it to happen again — not to India at least.
In 1984, Australian legends Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh retired from the game, together, at the end of the 5th Test against Pakistan at the SCG. It forced Australia to embark on a period of heavy rebuilding that saw them struggle as a Test side for quite a few years. In 1985 alone, they had as many as seven debutants which included Geoff Marsh, Merv Hughes, Bruce Reid and Steve Waugh.
Of course, Australia managed to emerge pretty well from this period but with better planning, India would not be forced to go through a similar low. Rahul Dravid’s decision to retire was timed pretty well — it came on the back of a horrible tour of Australia and it came before people could start asking ‘why’.
But the loss of VVS Laxman will hit India hard. For a long time now, the onus has been on the selectors to sit down with the senior cricketers and help them plan their exits. But Kris Srikkanth, who has already presided over his last selection meeting, thought it wise to leave the decision up to the players themselves.
The result is that India may find themselves without two of their most experienced Test batsmen in one go. Laxman may not have had the best time in Australia and England but the break would have allowed him to work on his fitness and the weaknesses that have crept into his batting. India and Dhoni would ideally need Laxman to stick around at least till the end of the England series.
At the very least, it will allow India to zero in on the replacements. Virat Kohli has shown that he is ready to take over Dravid’s role but who will take over from Laxman?
Laxman will be 38 soon and while he isn’t getting any younger, his usefulness to the team has not diminished with age. Over the last five seasons — his averages have been pretty great. In the 2009-10 season, he made 395 runs at 98.75; in 2010, he made 279 runs at 69.75; in 2010-11, he made 488 runs at 48.80; 2011 was a bad season — he made only 425 runs at 32.69; 2011-12 saw him make 453 runs at 41.18. Now, these are good numbers and in no way do they show that he is over the hill.
However, the elegant right-hander is believed to be particularly hurt by comments made by a former India skipper who raised questions about his usefulness to the Indian team. But Laxman has always been someone who just got on with his game. He never really cared about what people had to say as long as he thought he was doing his job.
So what really flipped the switch this time round? A series against New Zealand at home, followed by another one against England would have afforded him the opportunity to silence his detractors and go out on a high. But perhaps the realisation that he no longer is an integral part of India’s plans has tormented him and forced his hand.
At this point, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the selectors should be trying their best to make Laxman stay. If one or two bad series is enough to knock him back, then many of India’s youngsters might find themselves in the same boat as Laxman.