Indian cricket is on a high these days in test matches. They are ranked number one in the world with their nearest rivals South Africa nowhere near them. India have 130 points against 119 and in terms of rating points they are far ahead of them. Indians are almost 1200 points ahead of South Africa as Indians have 4433 rating points against South Africa's tally of 3463 rating points. What makes India's case stronger is the fact that their youngsters in the form of Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara have performed exceedingly well in the last match in the last four matches.
While everything looks good on paper with dominating world cricket and youngsters coming to the fore one needs to analyse the performances in detail in come to a proper conclusion. Suresh Raina got to a century on debut against Sri Lanka but then he was batting with the assurance that there was the worlds best batsman Sachin Tendulkar at the other end. Raina knew for a fact that even if he got out there was Sachin Tendulkar to take control of the proceedings. In the recently concluded Bangalore test Murali Vijay starred in a 308 run partnership with Sachin Tendulkar which helped India win the test but then Murali Vijay batted with the assurance that he had Sachin Tendulkar at the peak of his form at the other end with skipper M S Dhoni to follow.
Similarly in the second innings of the Bangalore test Cheteshwar Pujara almost got on to a century as he batted with the sort of freedom which is not associated with a debutant but again Cheteshwara Pujara knew that the target was small and if anything went wrong there were the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to follow.
While credit should still be given to Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara it is more important to groom them in a phased manner. Let us imagine a batting order with the likes of Ranina, Vijay and Pujara and without the likes of Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag and Dravid and while the youngsters can hold their own against minnows and teams with second string attacks it is impossible to visualize them holding their own against a quality opposition boasting of a quality attack.
It is therefore important for BCCI to call the seniors and find out their retirement plans. If all the seniors like Dravid, Sachin and Laxman have planned to retire at the same time they should be persuaded to plan their retirements in such a way that there is a gap of about eight test matches between their retirements. This would mean that one youngster to play with the luxury of seniors around him so that he is sufficiently experienced before another youngster gets a chance. Let us look at the example below of the proposed grooming pattern under the assumption that Rahul Dravid the senior most player decides to call it quits in January 2011.
Once Rahul Dravid decides to retire in January 2011, Cheteshwar Pujara should be drafted in his place and selectors should persuade Sachin and Laxman to continue playing for another 8 tests. Once Sachin or Laxman decides to call it quits, then another younger say for example Rahane should be drafted in and the advantage here is that while one senior has left the team, Cheteshwar Pujara who would have played eight tests by then would be sufficiently experienced to guide Rahane if an when such a situation arises.
The selectors should also bring back Yuvraj Singh as Yuvraj who is still just 28 has the right mix of youthful exuberance and experience. He averaged 35.63 in the 34 tests he got to play and that is not a bad average for somebody who has been the eternal in and out player inspite of giving some strong performances against strong bowling attacks. The fact that he has got 84 wickets in the shorter version of the game should help his cause as the team can use him in the dual role of a break through bowler or one who could roll out few overs to give the back up bowlers some rest.
Australian Cricket Board has always set the highest examples but they erred in allowing the likes of Shane Warne, Mc Grath, Adam Gilchrist and a host of others to retire at the same time and the result is there for everyone to see. One hopes that Indian selectors learn from the mistakes committed form Australian board.