Rahul Dravid, known as “The Wall” for the solidity and imperviousness of his defensive technique, has just scored his thirty-second century for India in his 152nd Test match. He is thirty-eight years old. This summer, Sachin Tendulkar, also thirty-eight, will attempt to get his hundredth international hundred, when he joins the Indian tour of England (following the tour in the West Indies, which Tendulkar’s sitting out, to give others a chance). Joining Dravid and Tendulkar on the tour will be thirty-six-year-old V. V. S. Laxman. Together, they constitute a very powerful (and box office-friendly) batting line-up that will surely test the English bowlers, and pack in the crowds.
The longevity of India’s batting greats is causing concern to some pundits. It would be one thing if Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman were failing in their powers of concentration, their skills were diminished, or their appetite for the game was waning: then they could be persuaded to retire, assured of their place in the cricketing firmament, and the young tyros who are currently restricted to the Indian Premier League (IPL) and other follies could step up to the big leagues of playing international Test cricket (still considered the ultimate by players and fans alike). The trouble is that, far from fading away, Tendulkar and Dravid continue to be very, very good. Tendulkar is simply without equal in gathering runs and records, while Dravid almost single-handedly held up the West Indian attack in the recent first Test match in Kingston, Jamaica. Laxman continues to be a stylish batsman, who packs the panache admired by Test cricket, if not the punch that wows Twenty20 and one-day cricket fans. What’s more they want to play, even though the big bucks and less physically demanding pleasures of the IPL await.
Australia—similarly loaded with aging greats like Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, and Simon Katich, all thirty-six years old (or thereabouts)—has (in the form of Cricket Australia, the authority managing, er, Australian cricket) just decided to dump Katich, arguing that the Test team, thrashed by the English earlier this year, needs to rebuild. Unfortunately for Cricket Australia, Katich has been the most successful opening batsman the Australians have had in the last few years. Katich was furious, holding a press conference to ask just what it was he’d done wrong that caused him to be dropped. His teammates came to his defense and now nobody’s happy.
I’m sure baseball fans will recognize some commonalities, but we’ll leave that to another post.