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The Twilight Warriors


We are a just about a week away from the start of the Test series in England. The speed with which a new series arrives can leave even the diehard Cricket fans fatigued. Too much happening, too much to catch up, and too much to remember all the time.
Imagine being Rory McIlroy and winning the U.S. Open and then being whisked away to play jack Nicklaus at a Putt-Putt tournament. Indian Cricketers might have felt the same way about touring the West Indies right after they had won the World Cup. What made the matters worse was the fact that West Indies is no more a force to reckon with, nor was Chris Gayle playing. With some of the big players opting to rest and others injured, India’s first ever series win in ODIs as well as Test series, remains more of a footnote than the significance it would have deserved otherwise.
 Not everything was lost though. They say that a man’s true colours are revealed when nobody is watching him. With empty stadiums and an opposition that can be best described as overcooked porridge, some of the Indian youngsters looked as out of place as a first timer may look on the streets of Amsterdam! All said and done, Test Cricket is a real man’s world and not withstanding their exploits (!) in shorter formats of the game, the likes of Virat, Badri, and Vijay came out looking a little sheepish when they came out of those ‘spicy’ lanes.
All was not lost though. What proved too spicy for the younger lot, has been a staple diet for the war veterans like Rahul and Laxman, the two seniors who were fit and fresh to tour the West Indies. Unlike Tendulkar, who is an automatic selection for any format of the game that he chooses to play, Rahul and Laxman have to make do with whatever Test Cricket that comes their way. With the experience and calibre that they have, even the best West Indian bowling would have been a “bit of a bore” for these guys, who have made grinding and winning a habit of sorts.
Rahul Dravid is a bit of an enigma for me. Every time he walks to the crease, he seems to be fighting two demons at once- the bowler who runs in and the critic who is too eager to write the epitaph of this great wall of Indian Cricket. He looks down, leaves a lot outside off, scampers for a single which looks like a well earned reward for his toil, then wipes the sweat dripping from his helmet, and perennially looks like struggling to win a battle in his mind than on the pitch. And yet he comes up with a sublime 112 in Kingston when the chips are down to give India a one leg up advantage. It is fascinating to see him winning the old way, where grit and gumption are virtues bigger than frills and flamboyance.
Laxman however is a study in contrast, though he also inherits the same “what’s the hurry” gene that typifies Rahul. With him at the crease, runs flow with the surety of tides that hit the shore on a calm day, creating patterns that leave the onlooker hooked. It is an experience that is spiritual, yet entertaining. With all the languid grace and style that he exudes, Laxman, like Dravid is a fighter who revels in the adversity. Looking at his saviour acts, it won’t be long before that someone comes up with a Laxman Chalisa! He scored three half centuries in the last two tests in West Indies and was a reason why India looked like getting close to winning those tests, despite the lacklustre performance from the rest, barring Raina and Mukund.
Come England and Sachin will join these two legends of the game. It will be fascinating to watch these three take on the English who look like a confident and well balanced unit. Historically, the troika has raised their game against stronger opposition. In the twilight of their careers, expect nothing but the best from these ageless wonders. There is some record or other that beckons every time they step on the green these days, Sachin’s 100th international century being one such. For an Indian fan, there is always something to watch out for whenever these three play.
Wagging tongues and false sense of bravado is an English trait that may play into the hands of the Indians. We will know come the 21st.

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