FROM THE STANDS: 'Gang of Seniors' all set for glory

FROM THE STANDS: ‘Gang of Seniors’ all set for glory


Published: 22:04 GMT, 7 November 2012 | Updated: 22:04 GMT, 7 November 2012

On the brink: Sachin Tendulkar (L) and his teammate Virendra Sehwag

The upcoming Test series against England and subsequent encounters this season are set to bring much delight to the senior members in the Indian team as they close in on some major personal milestones.

And if the team wins the four-match series, it would double the icing on the cake for a number of men in the autumn of their cricket careers.

By sheer coincidence, all members of the team’s ‘Gang of Seniors’ – Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, and Harbhajan Singh – are on the brink of personal achievements.

Barring Tendulkar, who commands respect from all, the three others were backed by Sourav Ganguly in the early 2000s and have been more or less carrying the team on their shoulders since then.

Tendulkar, fresh from receiving the Australian Order of Merit on Tuesday, is just 10 matches short of an unprecedented, mind-boggling 200 Tests – the first cricketer to reach that mountain.

It’s a feat that would have been almost unthinkable 10 years ago for Tendulkar too, and it is unlikely ever to be beaten.

India will play eight more Test matches at home this season, and if Tendulkar plays in all those encounters, his landmark Test will probably happen abroad, as no more home Tests are currently scheduled this year or next year.

Meanwhile, Tendulkar’s close friend and explosive batsman Virender Sehwag has played 98 and if all goes well he would appear in his 100th Test in Tendulkar’s home city Mumbai, beginning on November 23.

Sehwag removed all doubts about his form by hammering his 37th first-class century, against UP in a Ranji Trophy game in Ghaziabad on Monday.

Then there is Harbhajan Singh, another player who is extremely close friends with both Tendulkar and Sehwag. He has also been stranded on 98 Tests for some time, after he lost form and embraced injury last year. The twin blow led to his ouster from the team.

His recall to the national side for the first two Tests of the series would give him an opportunity to complete a grand ‘century.’

Zaheer Khan (left) has almost reached the epic 300 Test wicket milestone, while Harbhajan Singh is a whisker away from a century of Test matches.

Whether or not Harbhajan celebrates his 100th Test in Mumbai or soon after that would be almost completely determined by captain MS Dhoni, because R Ashiwn remains the preferred off-spinner and left-armer.

Pragyan Ojha also looks an automatic choice in the XI. If Dhoni decides to include a third spinner – currently an improbable scenario – only then does ‘Bhajji’ look like playing.

If pace spearhead Zaheer (who gave jitters to his fans when he walked off the Wankhede Stadium turf clutching his groin in a Ranji Trophy game a few days ago) grabs nine more wickets, he will get to 300 Test wickets, making him only the fourth Indian and the 25th bowler in the world to reach that height.

Among the junior players, Ashwin is just one short of 50 Test wickets. All in all, there’s much to look ahead to a jam-packed home international season that lasts till March.

The hat-trick that went unnoticed Jubilee man: Chetan Sharma

Former India speedster Chetan Sharma recently celebrated the silver jubilee of his hat-trick – India’s first in ODIs.

What still rankles him is that the BCCI never bothered to extend even a token of appreciation for his feat, achieved against New Zealand in Nagpur Escorts during the 1987 World Cup.

Chetan says that since the team had to catch a flight to Mumbai the same evening, it prevented any celebrations.

But that can’t be an excuse for the Board from writing an appreciation letter for his achievement, which was recognised by his employers, Escorts.

«After the World Cup, they presented me with a Yamaha RX100 motorcycle, which was a rage in those days, and gave me one promotion as their appreciation, despite my being quite new with the company,» Chetan, 46, told Mail Today.

Chetan’s achievement was all the more creditable as he had broken his left thumb bone into four pieces while taking a return catch against Pakistan in Delhi just before the World Cup started.

«The doctor had advised me 40-day rest, but captain Kapil Dev persisted with me,» he said.

The compelling question of retirement

The question of retirement is a dreadful one for many; athletes as well as sports administrators.

A handful of them get the right answer, though rarely.

One name that comes to mind instantly is that of Sunil Gavaskar, one of the few who seemed to know exactly when it was time to ‘declare’ himself from the game.

Experts also felt in 1987 that Gavaskar had a couple of years of international cricket left in him.

On the other end of the spectrum is Kapil Dev. Much before he announced his retirement at the Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi in late 1994, people had been seeking his retirement. Same goes for sports officials.

Some people, like VK Malhotra, Suresh Kalmadi, Randhir Singh, and Virendra Nanavati etc, just don’t seem to know when and where to draw the line.

While the likes of Malhotra are adamant about contesting for the top post of the Archery Association of India, despite having crossed the ‘sell-by’ date, the vastly experienced and articulate Randhir made an about-turn after announcing many months ago that he would contest no more elections.

Randhir even wrote a ‘thank you’ letter to senior sports journalists, saying that he would not be interested in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), of which he is secretary general, and got these hand-delivered to the scribes.

But, lo and behold, he is again running against Abhay Chautala for the IOA president’s post.

The Lahore-born Malhotra’s case seems to be the worst of the lot, as even at almost 82 years of age he remains strangely determined to carry on despite finally having a challenger in BVP Rao, another old hand.

A defeat for both Randhir and Malhotra would not be a graceful way to exit. Some people just don’t know where their off stump is, to borrow a term from cricket.