India in England 2011 July 20, 2011

Trinity offer a Test match special

India's batting triumvirate of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman is set to make a final stand at the home of Test cricket as the clock winds down on the golden age of Indian batting
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On the flight from Mumbai to London, I sat alongside Kiran More, the former India wicketkeeper who was not so long ago the chairman of the national selection committee. He was flying in to watch the Lord's Test, but was paying for the trip himself. This is something he planned to do a long time ago. "I am here to watch Sachin, Rahul and Laxman," he said. "A pity Sehwag isn't there."

More knows what the rest of us do. The clock is winding down on the golden age of Indian batting. You could even say the golden age of Test batting. Only Ricky Ponting remains from the great Australian line-up; Brian Lara went long ago; Jacques Kallis is fit and hungry still, but he is on the wrong side of 30. Perhaps AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla will join their ranks before they finish, and Kevin Pietersen, if he finds his second wind, may end up as one of the all-time greats, but India's batting wealth in the last 10 years has been freakish.

And while everything is cyclical, as Twenty20 skills grow more and more vital to the professional cricketer, it is likely that the best of Test match batting as we have known it is already behind us. This summer presents an opportunity - one of the last few - to savour what remains of it.

It had seemed improbable in 2007, when India toured England last, that Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid would be back again. Even VVS Laxman was a marginal case. But they have all endured. Tendulkar has grown even more resplendent; Laxman has become India's great saviour; Dravid's powers have waned but he was still able to produce a match-winning innings on a difficult pitch in Kingston last month. Still, it can be said with a degree of certainty - though with Tendulkar nothing can be ruled out - that this it for them as far as England goes: one last summer in what remains the finest and strongest bastion of Test cricket.

They will play before full houses, before crowds that cherish and understand Test cricket, in conditions that will challenge them and against bowlers who will test their skills. It is a series in which they will be defending their status as the No. 1 Test team. Add in the facts that it is the 2000th Test, and the 100th Test between India and England, and there is everything: occasion, context, the stage, the grand story, the prospect of a proper contest between bat and ball, and the opportunity for one of the game's most artful and versatile batting line-ups to make a final stand at the home of Test cricket. More knows what he is paying for.

It is staggering to think that More was in the dressing room when Tendulkar, just a few months past 17, scored his first Test hundred in 1990, a match-saving masterpiece in the final innings at Old Trafford. He has made three hundreds since on subsequent tours but memories of that innings linger. Of the six hundreds scored in that match, Tendulkar's was the most poignant, and not merely because he was so young. After his senior colleagues departed on a wearing pitch he batted with an assuredness that reminded many of Sunil Gavaskar, with whom Tendulkar shares his physical stature, but it was his back-foot driving that marked him out as special. Two decades later, he will start this tour in quest of his 100th international hundred, a statistical Everest.

For Dravid, the 148 at Headingley remains his defining innings. There have been equally significant match-winning innings - 180 in Kolkata against Australia in 2001, 233 in Adelaide in 2003, 270 against Pakistan in Rawalpindi - but none was made in tougher conditions, and none required more technical certitude and patience. It was also his second-most prolific series, bringing him three hundreds and more than 600 runs. The next England tour brought mixed results for Dravid: he won the series as captain, but his returns were abysmal with the bat.

Retirement couldn't have been far from his mind then, but he could have hardly resisted a final tilt at Test cricket in the country where he made his debut and where Test cricket remains the supreme game. Batting geniuses are freaks of nature and there is no telling when and where the next one will come from, but the way the game has gone in the last few years, it is hugely unlikely that India will produce another Dravid. Watching him plod away might seem excruciating to some but perhaps they will realise what they are missing after he is gone.

English fans might occasionally wonder what the fuss over VVS Laxman is all about, for they have never watched him at his best. A highest score of 74 in a losing cause at Lord's in 2002 was easily eclipsed by, of all people, Ajit Agarkar, who blazed a hundred - the only one by an India batsman at that ground in the past 15 years. It can be argued that the swinging and seaming conditions in England are anathema to Laxman's wristy ways, but more likely it is a mere aberration, for Mohammad Azharuddin scored some splendid hundreds here with a similar style. Laxman comes into this series with the reputation of India's iron man and with a determination to set the record straight.

There is another 100th hundred to be scored in the series, and it doesn't have to come off Tendulkar's bat. Between them, Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman carry a tally of 99 Test hundreds to the Lord's Test. Dravid and Laxman don't play one-day cricket anymore and Tendulkar turns out only occasionally in coloured clothing. They belong to Test cricket as much as Test cricket belongs to them.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | July 22, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    Yes, but we will miss the one Indian batting great who could actually call Lords his home

  • POSTED BY on | July 22, 2011, 1:47 GMT

    umm the last sentence as grand as it is, does not do the three justice. Lets drop the word Test from that statement and accept cricket for what it is. Any other form of cricket, as entertaining as it may be, is a slight to cricket

  • POSTED BY rmaheshr on | July 21, 2011, 16:41 GMT

    A very touching article indeed.. The last sentence says it all..

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 16:07 GMT

    Enough has been written about these 3 (quite a lot more than just "necessary and sufficient"). Time to see them in action.

  • POSTED BY ashlatchem on | July 21, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    Fantastic article! I would just like to say though I disagree that the best of test match batting is behind us. Ali Cook came to Oz with question marks over his head and scored a mountain of runs with Hussey 2nd & Trott 3rd. Now they weren't out there destroying attacks like Sehwag. They were out there grinding it out, Hussey while others consistently fell around him. Now this is no dig at Sehwag I think he is incredible and am sad I won't get to see him at Lords for this special occasion. I just think when you can look at a series like that and see that the batsmen who scored the most runs were the ones not willing to give their wickets away and were doing the hard yards out there it's makes me think test cricket is going to be just fine and if you ask me I wouldn't write off both Cook & Gambhir retiring as greats! As the old saying goes "Out with the old in with the new." But 1st as another old saying goes "Lets send them off in style!" Come on India!

  • POSTED BY prashanthbm88 on | July 21, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    my dear ckt lovers, i read in 1 of the comments tat DRAVID's centuries often end in a draw but think how valuable were they. off his 32 100's india have lost only 1 test in rest 31 100's i believe atlest 45% have come in indian wins n not to forget he always was slow coz he was ther @ the crease when ball was new till india found viru-gauti pair. so when he plyd slow n saw off those tricky session then other stroke makers wud rake up the runs. so DRAVID THE WALL srtans always TALL!!! i bet there may b a day when some batsman crosses 100 100's but can he face most num of balls in test ckt or stand @ the crease for same duration as WALL has done in his career ?????

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    Thank you Mr.Bal.Great article. Leaves you sort of sentimental. Must read for all the lovers of test cricket. Last sentence of the article stands out.Very well written article.

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    A well written article in deed. "They belong to Test cricket as much as Test cricket belongs to them." This line encapsulates the contribution they have made to Indian Cricket and Test Cricket. There is something which every one learn from the legends, is the commitment they have.

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 5:20 GMT

    Really this is a series for the whole cricketing world to savour. Hope 20 years from now everybody in India will be as enthusiastic about a Test series as they are today. It is the duty of everyone, the administrators, the media, the players and we people who love Real Cricket, to keep alive the flame of Test cricket. Really such a glorious form of a sport should be taken forward for the future generations to enjoy.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfo-Editorial on | July 21, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Thank you sri1ram, and anyone else who pointed out the Headingley url error. It has now been fixed. You should be able to open it

  • POSTED BY on | July 22, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    Yes, but we will miss the one Indian batting great who could actually call Lords his home

  • POSTED BY on | July 22, 2011, 1:47 GMT

    umm the last sentence as grand as it is, does not do the three justice. Lets drop the word Test from that statement and accept cricket for what it is. Any other form of cricket, as entertaining as it may be, is a slight to cricket

  • POSTED BY rmaheshr on | July 21, 2011, 16:41 GMT

    A very touching article indeed.. The last sentence says it all..

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 16:07 GMT

    Enough has been written about these 3 (quite a lot more than just "necessary and sufficient"). Time to see them in action.

  • POSTED BY ashlatchem on | July 21, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    Fantastic article! I would just like to say though I disagree that the best of test match batting is behind us. Ali Cook came to Oz with question marks over his head and scored a mountain of runs with Hussey 2nd & Trott 3rd. Now they weren't out there destroying attacks like Sehwag. They were out there grinding it out, Hussey while others consistently fell around him. Now this is no dig at Sehwag I think he is incredible and am sad I won't get to see him at Lords for this special occasion. I just think when you can look at a series like that and see that the batsmen who scored the most runs were the ones not willing to give their wickets away and were doing the hard yards out there it's makes me think test cricket is going to be just fine and if you ask me I wouldn't write off both Cook & Gambhir retiring as greats! As the old saying goes "Out with the old in with the new." But 1st as another old saying goes "Lets send them off in style!" Come on India!

  • POSTED BY prashanthbm88 on | July 21, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    my dear ckt lovers, i read in 1 of the comments tat DRAVID's centuries often end in a draw but think how valuable were they. off his 32 100's india have lost only 1 test in rest 31 100's i believe atlest 45% have come in indian wins n not to forget he always was slow coz he was ther @ the crease when ball was new till india found viru-gauti pair. so when he plyd slow n saw off those tricky session then other stroke makers wud rake up the runs. so DRAVID THE WALL srtans always TALL!!! i bet there may b a day when some batsman crosses 100 100's but can he face most num of balls in test ckt or stand @ the crease for same duration as WALL has done in his career ?????

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    Thank you Mr.Bal.Great article. Leaves you sort of sentimental. Must read for all the lovers of test cricket. Last sentence of the article stands out.Very well written article.

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    A well written article in deed. "They belong to Test cricket as much as Test cricket belongs to them." This line encapsulates the contribution they have made to Indian Cricket and Test Cricket. There is something which every one learn from the legends, is the commitment they have.

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 5:20 GMT

    Really this is a series for the whole cricketing world to savour. Hope 20 years from now everybody in India will be as enthusiastic about a Test series as they are today. It is the duty of everyone, the administrators, the media, the players and we people who love Real Cricket, to keep alive the flame of Test cricket. Really such a glorious form of a sport should be taken forward for the future generations to enjoy.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfo-Editorial on | July 21, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Thank you sri1ram, and anyone else who pointed out the Headingley url error. It has now been fixed. You should be able to open it

  • POSTED BY sri1ram on | July 21, 2011, 2:09 GMT

    "For Dravid, the 148 at Headingley remains his defining innings." The Headingley link here points to an administrator site that users do not have access credentials to. Replace that link, http://www.hq.cricinfo.org/ci/engine/match/63999.html with, http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/63999.html

  • POSTED BY Rahulbose on | July 21, 2011, 1:48 GMT

    Since last year I have had the same feeling every time I watch these three play. Is this the last time? Anyway, for this series I predict Trott will be the highest run scorer.

  • POSTED BY hari.pes100 on | July 21, 2011, 1:28 GMT

    It bugs me when esteemed writers such as Mr. Bal don't mention Gambhir alongside Devillers, Amla, etc., when writing about potential batting greats. Here is a guy who averaged above 60 in Tests for the last 3 years and played important knocks in all 3 formats of the game. Heck he even top scored for India in both T20 and 50 overs World cup finals, batted out 2 days to save a game for India in New Zealand and averaged around 60 in his first ever South Africa tour and all this as an Opening batsmen. Whats-more, he almost always never receives the Man of the Match award. According to me, he will be the bastion of Indian test batting for the next 10 years

  • POSTED BY on | July 21, 2011, 1:14 GMT

    I remember a photo from cricinfo in 2007 after the Lords test- a picture of Sachin walking back, with the caption "the last time at Lords".. 4 years later, I am seeing a similar picture :)

    Long live Sachin!

  • POSTED BY khiladisher on | July 20, 2011, 22:01 GMT

    well said sambit,india's batting wealth,flair and talent has been freakish and we will never see the likes and genius of that kind ever any were in the world-the golden generation of sachin-dravid-laxman-ganguly and sehwag were legends allover the world-beating any batting sides in cricket history hands down

    their records and stats -the amount of runs scored -almost 50000 runs and 138 scores of 100+,and 20 scores of 200+ and 2 triple hundreds in test matches and almost51000 odi runs along with 104 centuries-making it a grand total of 101000 runs and 242 centuries in international cricketwill make any indian proud and upbeat-its left to gambhir,raina,yuvraj,kohli,rohit and pujara to carry forward the great indian batting tradition.

  • POSTED BY arjun27 on | July 20, 2011, 21:00 GMT

    good article sambit .. very well written .. !

  • POSTED BY ssenthil on | July 20, 2011, 20:28 GMT

    Another mater piece from the Editor...... "Dravid and Laxman don't play one-day cricket anymore and Tendulkar turns out only occasionally in coloured clothing. They belong to Test cricket as much as Test cricket belongs to them." what a touching end. Great article :-)

  • POSTED BY ashrogue on | July 20, 2011, 20:19 GMT

    Behold kids ! the last of the giants.

  • POSTED BY Sam_Patel_US on | July 20, 2011, 19:54 GMT

    @those who are more interested in finding errors in this article....get the moral of the story...editor is talking abt how lucky india has been by having all three test cricket greats in our team...stop crying abt errors. read it properly and try to understand what the editor is trying to say thru this article....some people are funny...

  • POSTED BY AV_India on | July 20, 2011, 19:50 GMT

    Great article Sambit. Summed up the mood of the Test lovers around the world. I was surprised at the mistakes about Dravid's scores in the few games you mentioned, but still a very well written article.

  • POSTED BY bigdhonifan on | July 20, 2011, 19:47 GMT

    At Adelaide in 2003, when India won a Test in Australia for the first time in a generation, he batted 835 minutes over two innings. A few months later, he was at the crease more than 12 hours for the 270 that clinched India's first series win in Pakistan.RAHUL DRAVID

  • POSTED BY Vilander on | July 20, 2011, 19:45 GMT

    Now that sambit has finished his, Mrs Urga will wait till first test and then write about udrs controversy or bcci powerplay backtracking in first test etc, some controversy angle.

  • POSTED BY knowledge_eater on | July 20, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    @ Alexk400 what is more selfish .. trying to stay not-out despite team needs better SR to move the game but increase your average or to hit 100's ? I suggest you to stay away from Team India and worry about your own team. Your team has more problems than Ind has. Your more than 80% comments have Sachin in it. Sometimes I wonder you have serious feelings for Sachin more than any other cricketer in the world. And please don't give me 'I am Indian', which you have done it in your almost all comments. Saying I am Indian again and again doesn't make you either Indian or make you Indian supporter. Oh wait! you are jealous of Trinity .. oh please continue. :)

  • POSTED BY Vilander on | July 20, 2011, 19:41 GMT

    Sambit just because you have the excuse of singing a praise of the much loved trio, you happily insulted the mass of young and promising test batsmen. Ofcouse the trio is superb but of-course they will be surpassed, perhaps not by an indian trio.

  • POSTED BY mritunjai on | July 20, 2011, 19:35 GMT

    A beautiful article...the next generations will miss the class of the golden age of Indian batting....really liked that part on Dravid...so many people in India are just waiting to see him out of the team. Really, his classical, pure techical bating will be missed. I hope he gets the respect he truly deserves.

  • POSTED BY SachinIsTheGreatest on | July 20, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    Good article. These three with Sehwag and Ganguly have been the Golden Era of Indian test match batting. We will not see such a batting lineup for India for a long time and I hope we don't expect things from Gambhir, Raina, Pujara, Kolhi and other youngsters which we have taken for granted from this current line-up.

  • POSTED BY Flash007 on | July 20, 2011, 19:17 GMT

    What a beautiful article by Sambit Bal...It's not just Kiran More who is reveling in this golden age of Indian Test batting, but millions of fans of these batting greats and test cricket shall cheer every run scored. In fact, greats like these are the reason why we still follow, appreciate and adore the beauty of Test cricket. Adjectives are rare to find and describe the joy the application of their sublime skills have given. Shall cherish every innings of theirs as long as they continue to weave their magic. And when they are gone....Test cricket shall never mean the same again.

  • POSTED BY US_Indian on | July 20, 2011, 19:00 GMT

    beautiful. awesome, splendid, narvellous, exciting and nostalgic.

  • POSTED BY Alexk400 on | July 20, 2011, 18:32 GMT

    Dravid makes century to draw the game , sachin makes century to lose the game , VVS laxman makes centurty to win the game. it shows who have the nerves of steel. That said i am more dravid fan even with his slow strike rate because he is the team first man. sachin is selfish to core. VVS does whine often that he would have better stat if he played number 3. That is questionable. Because he is a dead duck to a fast inswinger. New ball does swing big. he won't last long. But he can talk all ifs.

  • POSTED BY Homer2007 on | July 20, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    176 and 203.. You have to doff your hat to the genius of the writer.. Now waiting for Ms Ugra to outrage!

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 18:14 GMT

    yeah these 3 r evergreen along with kumble ganguly, but yeah since the latter 2 retired it's them who've carried all the responsibilty and has done well whenever asked to, all 3 must be praised for their gr8 work to the progress of this indian side since the last decade, so i still feel ppl must stop comparing on who's best and who's not cos the thing is all r playing for our nation and tht's one of the best things anyone can ask :) so lets hope the trio does well in this tour and give india another series victory at england :) these 3 gentlemen certainly deserve to leave the competition with a win :)

  • POSTED BY bigdhonifan on | July 20, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    Best Test cricket Balling line up EVER... Better than the WI in 80's... Sehwag, Gambhi, Dravid, Sachin, VVS, Saurav, Dhoni, Harbhajan (can count him as a batter as well)...................

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:50 GMT

    AYour facts are marginally wrong. 233, not 203 at Adelaide in 2003, not 2005, 180, and not 176 in Kolkata

  • POSTED BY DilipPoduval on | July 20, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    176 in Kolkotta 2001, 203 in Adelaide in 05 ???? Really Sambit Bal..If your memory is fading you, the scores for Rahul Dravid in those matches were - 180 in Kolkotta 2001, and 233 in Adelaide 2003.

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:48 GMT

    Fantastic article. Really well summed up. Cannot wait for this test match to start. I was at the ground during the 7th one dayer between India and England at Lord's in 2007, the series was locked 3-3, and I remember my dad calling me from India and saying everyone was upset as the umpiring decisions to give Dravid and Tendulkar out did not do justice to the occassion, that is, the last time that we would see these players in England. Well then, here they are again, and I do hope this time, we see a different send-off. Go India!

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    one after the another cricinfo is rolling out gems on test cricket....well wrote sambit,equllay well writen articles by digeon haigh and peter robuck....test cricket lovers rejoice....

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    All the Best to India. play like champion

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:29 GMT

    nice article sambit.. but just that ur stats are wrong. I ll correct them as : Dravid made, 233 in adelaide and 180 against aus in kolkata. and azhar has only 1 century in england, not many as u said. rest, a fine fine article. liked it

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:19 GMT

    I am positive test cricket would survive in India after them. Some one would rise to the occasion. Having said that I still want them to show us a masterpiece before it all ends.

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:16 GMT

    Gambhir,,Pujara, Rahane ,RohitSharma,Kohli,Raina, Manoj Tiwari will be India generation next...Not as intimidating as VVS/Dravid/Tendulkar/Gnagluy but good enough to still send shivers in bowlers. Sehwag will be common factor in both era's.

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  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:16 GMT

    Gambhir,,Pujara, Rahane ,RohitSharma,Kohli,Raina, Manoj Tiwari will be India generation next...Not as intimidating as VVS/Dravid/Tendulkar/Gnagluy but good enough to still send shivers in bowlers. Sehwag will be common factor in both era's.

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:19 GMT

    I am positive test cricket would survive in India after them. Some one would rise to the occasion. Having said that I still want them to show us a masterpiece before it all ends.

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:29 GMT

    nice article sambit.. but just that ur stats are wrong. I ll correct them as : Dravid made, 233 in adelaide and 180 against aus in kolkata. and azhar has only 1 century in england, not many as u said. rest, a fine fine article. liked it

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    All the Best to India. play like champion

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    one after the another cricinfo is rolling out gems on test cricket....well wrote sambit,equllay well writen articles by digeon haigh and peter robuck....test cricket lovers rejoice....

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:48 GMT

    Fantastic article. Really well summed up. Cannot wait for this test match to start. I was at the ground during the 7th one dayer between India and England at Lord's in 2007, the series was locked 3-3, and I remember my dad calling me from India and saying everyone was upset as the umpiring decisions to give Dravid and Tendulkar out did not do justice to the occassion, that is, the last time that we would see these players in England. Well then, here they are again, and I do hope this time, we see a different send-off. Go India!

  • POSTED BY DilipPoduval on | July 20, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    176 in Kolkotta 2001, 203 in Adelaide in 05 ???? Really Sambit Bal..If your memory is fading you, the scores for Rahul Dravid in those matches were - 180 in Kolkotta 2001, and 233 in Adelaide 2003.

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 17:50 GMT

    AYour facts are marginally wrong. 233, not 203 at Adelaide in 2003, not 2005, 180, and not 176 in Kolkata

  • POSTED BY bigdhonifan on | July 20, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    Best Test cricket Balling line up EVER... Better than the WI in 80's... Sehwag, Gambhi, Dravid, Sachin, VVS, Saurav, Dhoni, Harbhajan (can count him as a batter as well)...................

  • POSTED BY on | July 20, 2011, 18:14 GMT

    yeah these 3 r evergreen along with kumble ganguly, but yeah since the latter 2 retired it's them who've carried all the responsibilty and has done well whenever asked to, all 3 must be praised for their gr8 work to the progress of this indian side since the last decade, so i still feel ppl must stop comparing on who's best and who's not cos the thing is all r playing for our nation and tht's one of the best things anyone can ask :) so lets hope the trio does well in this tour and give india another series victory at england :) these 3 gentlemen certainly deserve to leave the competition with a win :)