The retirement of VVS Laxman from international cricket rings the curtain down on another on another illustrious cricketing career. His contribution to Indian cricket is immense. Yet, no one could have played forever, and surely Laxman was way past his best. It is somewhat unfortunate that only after a gentle nudge from the selectors did he realise that “this is the right time to give opportunities to the youngsters…”, and felt that it was the right time to move on. Pullela Gopichand put it very correctly (Prefer he goes out now, 19 August) when he said that, “At 37, I feel that he had had a long and illustrious career and I would prefer he goes out now with his head held high…”.
What surprised me was the concerted criticism directed at the chief selector for pointing out to Laxman the obvious, that his best days were indeed over. I wonder if those same people (former captain Sourav Ganguly included) were similarly critical of Cricket Australia for informing Steve Waugh, the then captain of the Australian cricket team, in no uncertain terms that the sooner he announced his retirement the better, or be dropped from the test team. Selection to represent any country ought to be made on the basis of current from, not on past achievements or sentiments.
Having initiated the process, I wonder if Mr. Srikkanth would do a great service to Indian cricket, to those youngsters waiting in the wings, and to Mr. Sachin Tendulkar by having a similar chat with him soon. Tendulkar too is well past his best. He is not fit enough to suffer the rigours of a long cricketing season. His reflexes have slowed down considerably. By not playing regularly he has become rusty – as was evident by his painstaking 19 runs scored yesterday (23 August 2012) against New Zealand during the first Test at Hyderabad. It's only in India that the official selectors wait for a player to make up his mind to announce his own selection according to his choice. India cannot afford the luxury of having him make himself available for selection as and when he pleases, cherry pick the matches to play, or to simply block the place of other promising youngsters (like Cheteswar Pujara – he scored an unbeaten century). Tendulkar has no more mountains to climb, anyway. It’s high time he too bid a formal farewell to international cricket.