BANGALORE // India's four senior batsmen are under increasing pressure ahead of the four-Test series against top-ranked Australia starting in Bangalore on Oct 9. A debate on their advancing ages began after last month's Test series defeat in Sri Lanka where the "fab four" Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Vangipurappu Laxman, each fared poorly.
Ganguly's place is under maximum threat when the selectors meet today to pick the team for the first two Tests after the 36-year-old former captain was left out of last week's premier domestic game, the Irani Trophy, regarded as a selection match. It has also been believed that the Indian board have asked the senior players to let them know of their future plans. Though the call is not binding on them, the board clearly want to see an end to the debate and carry forward their youth policy.
While the retirement of these players is inevitable, every time one of the big four fails rumours fly around on a purported rift between the senior and junior players. Anil Kumble might have extend his twilight zone a bit further when it was indicated that he and coach Gary Kirsten will attend the selection meeting in Mumbai today with the new panel of selectors. Kumble, 37, was appointed captain till the last series against Sri Lanka.
But Tendulkar, India's most prolific batsman, has asked the cricket-crazy country not to stir up the issue of age ahead of the high-profile series. "It's India versus Australia. It's not certain individuals versus certain individuals in their team," Tendulkar, 35, said after the opening day of the preparatory camp at the National Cricket Academy. "It's about performing, and that is what the whole team should concentrate on doing. We would just like to focus on our performance," added Tendulkar, who is 77 runs short of retired West Indian Brian Lara's world record 11,953 Test runs.
"I would leave that [matters of selection] to the captain, the coach, and the selectors. They have certain ideas in their minds and we have to abide by that." Tendulkar also cautioned India not to underestimate Australia, who are rebuilding after a series of high-profile retirements. Australia won a four-test series 2-1 four years ago to record their first series victory on Indian soil in 35 years, but only captain Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and Simon Katich from the current squad have Test experience in India.
"They still have players who have played a lot of first-class cricket back home," Tendulkar said. "If they haven't played international cricket, it doesn't mean that they cannot challenge us. "They have played a lot of cricket, and we will like to respect that fact. And we are on our toes." Meanwhile, an ageing Darren Gough, 38, could become the second English player to sign up for the Indian Premier League.
The former Yorkshire captain, who retired last week, has been contacted by an IPL official, he revealed. He could follow Dimitri Mascarenhas, the lone English representative in the first season. * Agencies