Circa – 1989 India Vs Pakistan.
The little boy wonder, all of 16 at the crease in Sialkot – final test – India looking to seek a draw. Knocked out by a bouncer, shirt full of blood, refused medical assistance and hit a solid 57. In the process along with Sidhu, helped India draw a series and not lose to Pakistan in Pakistan – that was as good as victory. When millions of Indians saw him take field on 15Nov1989 – he gave them hope that he would be the spine of Indian Batting in the years to come.
Circa 1996 – India Vs England – 2nd Test
Two men all of 23 took centre stage after Sidhu walked out of the tour and Manjrekar suffered an injury. One got a century on debut treating us to the best offside display we would ever see and the other almost got a century; but his knock of 95 gave us the assurance that Indian middle order would be well taken care of by this technically sound and compact player. These 2 gave us hope that the little boy wonder would be ably supported.
Circa 1996 – India Vs South Africa Ahmedabad
On what was possibly the worst test wicket , a young man of 22 held fort in the 2nd innings to make 51 on debut in a team score of 190. All silken grace , making you wonder if Azhar had come out to bat wearing a mask. Later in the years, he would refuse to be changed to a make-shift opener, would go back to domestic cricket and score only double and triple hundreds to force the selectors to consider him for his middle-order spot. He would earn it and then in Kolkata 2001 ensure that his name would always be carved in Indian Cricket’s Hall of Fame. He gave us hope that in him we would have a man for crisis even after the above 3 had given way.
India’s fabulous and almost legendary middle order took birth in the late 90s. These men made their mark in their debut tests and have served the team for well over 10 years together. Together they were our hope for a better future of Indian cricket.
Their legacy will be tough to follow but Vijay ( 87 on debut Vs SL in 2009), Raina (120 on debut Vs SL in 2010) and Pujara ( 72 on debut Vs Aus in 2010) have given me hope that the famous Indian Middle Order may well be passed into good hands.
Too early to judge you may say, but what I’ve noticed is the positive attitude, and attitude is what counts most in this game. Pujara could’ve well been down and out after a nasty delivery in the first innings but I loved the way the bloke sized his opportunity and came out looking positive in the 2nd innings. Aware of the fact that he may well be sitting out against NZ when Laxman recovers, he still made most of what came his way and did justice to his captain’s faith. Apparently he is touted as the lad to take the baton from Dravid, and today as he took the Wall’s famous 1-down spot, he showed he would be ready when it finally comes his way.
They all are young blokes under 25 and the best part is that they get to grow under the shadow of the Fab 3. What better way to learn than from the masters themselves. Vijay, Raina and Pujara have all got partnerships with GOD himself and that itself would’ve been a huge learning for them . Waiting in the wings is Virat Kohli who has impressed me with his run in the ODIs. Rohit Sharma is another talented bloke.
Yes they need to be tested on foreign waters and they will have their failures. The Fab 4 went through tough tests too and came out fine. We stuck by them, we believed in them. The generation I grew up watching will soon fade away in a couple of years and it’s a thought that scares me no end. Until a year ago I kept wondering who would carry their legacy forward but the last one year is giving me hope – hope that with a few hiccups these young blokes should be able to manage fine.
Hope is what the world survives on and hope is what drives us. It is a different era and different generation, the cast is changing but somewhere the heart and mind seem to agree that the results we will get will still be the same. Time to sit back and enjoy the journey of the next generation of Fab 4.