From 1996-2012, the trinity of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman formed the backbone of the Indian batting. Together the trio notched up many records. Together they won us many many Test victories.
From 2004-12, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir emerged as statistically the greatest Test opening pair for India.
So for many years these five batsmen were permanent members of the Indian team and the sixth batsman (excluding the wicket-keeper) became the only slot that was open. Many batsmen were tried for this spot and none could stamp their permanency, a further argument that we couldn’t do away with anyone of the fab five.
But India’s fab five had been in decline for many years before Dravid and Laxman hung up their boots opening the way for more newcomers to come. And they did come. Virat Kohli emerged as the leading run scorer in the tough Australian tour and Cheteshwar Pujara has already scored 711 runs at an average of 71 with a double century to boot.
Still people ask: Where is the new batting talent?
Well one doesn’t have to look further than the list of highest averages of First Class cricket of the world. This list includes players from the nineteenth century onwards. At the very top is Donald Bradman with an average of 95.1.
Sachin Tendulkar is at 16th place, with an average of 58.2.
It is interesting to note that there are three young Indian Ranji players between the Don and Sachin who are yet to be given one measly Test debut.
At the all-time seventh place is Ajinkya Rahane, averaging 63.7 after scoring more than 5000 runs with 19 centuries. He was tried in a few matches in ODIs and T20s, where he did not fare very well, but it is in the Test arena that he looks all the most promising.
At tenth place is Rohit Sharma, averaging 59.7 after scoring more than 4000 runs with 13 centuries. One can definitely agree that he has been given more than enough matches (117, including ODIs and international T20s), but with a low strike rate of 78 in ODIs, he seems more cut out for the longest format of the game.
At 13th place is Manish Tiwary, averaging 59 after scoring more than 4000 runs with 17 centuries. Tiwary has been very unlucky indeed being in and out of the India squad and once missing a debut due to a shoulder injury.
Another person who can be definitely worth a try is Ravindra Jadeja, who recently recorded his third triple century in the domestic circuit including two in one season. He becomes the first Indian to record this feat and is in the company of Bradman, WG Grace, Brian Lara, Michael Hussey as the people who have scored three or more triple centuries.
Since he is also a spinner, he could actually turn into a genuine Test all-rounder, something that India has lacked for many years now.
Now critics may point out that the above list is filled with Ranji players from all ages due to the simple fact that Indian tracks have mostly been flat, favouring high scores and is probably the highest scoring country in the world.
But that is beside the point. These people have done enough to merit at least a Test debut. In fact when all these players have played at least 5-6 matches, one will get a rough idea of whether they are Test material or not.
But in India, it’s either a drought or a flood. Players are either given too many chances or none at all. One example is Suresh Raina, who has been given a very long run of 17 Tests for his below-30 average.
Even Yuvraj Singh has been given 39 Tests over a 9-year period without him ever cementing his place in the Test team.
Out of the above-mentioned names, both Rahane and Sharma were part of the Test squad for the disastrous Australia tour. When we were 0-3 down, the seniors could easily have been rested. We could have found out what these two youngsters were made of. But we missed the bus.
Only if we make 7-8 Test debuts may we end up with 2-3 permanent players. We had many Tests to experiment. The fourth England Test in England. The fourth Australia Test in Australia. The two Tests on Indian soil against the weak New Zealand side.
It’s all very well to say that there is no batting talent on the horizon, but till you start handing out those Test debuts, you will never know!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/