x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Time for India's selectors to bite the bullet like Packers did on Favre

With no tough overseas assignments for two years after Australia's tour, there's no better time for transition for Indian cricket.

The problem is the newcomers have big boots to fill once Tendulkar and Dravid exit the scene.
The problem is the newcomers have big boots to fill once Tendulkar and Dravid exit the scene.

Just how do you follow in the footsteps of a legend? You can't, or you don't. The only way is to chart your own course, as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have proved over the last four National Football League seasons.

The time has come for Indian cricket to take some huge decisions, to say goodbye to a golden age and to usher in a new one whose early days are likely to be difficult.

It is not a call that can be delayed. After six emphatic defeats in successive overseas Tests, the writing could not be any clearer on the wall.

There are some who say things would have been even worse but for the efforts of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. But what could be worse than three innings defeats, and three by a combined margin of 637 runs?

Virat Kohli has 43 runs from four innings in Australia. But dropping him would not make a lot of sense. At 23, he is one of the future. So is Rohit Sharma, who now has an excellent chance of playing in Perth.

Laxman, the youngest of the famed trio, is 37. Dravid, the oldest, turns 39 two days before the third Test.

By investing in them, Indian cricket will once again be guilty of choosing the short-term fix over a long-term succession plan.

The Packers bit the bullet in 2008. By then, Brett Favre, a quarterback so tough he made 297 consecutive starts, had spent 16 seasons at Lambeau Field, winning the Super Bowl once.

Only three times in those 16 years did the Packers not win at least nine [of 16] regular season games.

In his final year, Favre led them to a 13-3 record, losing the National Football Conference Championship game to the New York Giants in overtime.

A couple of months later, at a press conference, he said: "I know I can play, but I don't think I want to. It's been a great career for me, but it's over. As they say, all good things must come to an end."

Within months, he had a change of heart, but with some in the Packers organisation having made their plans for the future, it only led to a messy and acrimonious divorce.

Favre would go on to play a season for the New York Jets and two for the Minnesota Vikings, but his name will forever be linked with Green Bay.

Rodgers was 24 when he assumed the mantle. In his first season, the Packers finished 6-10.

Since then, they have gone 11-5, 10-6 and 15-1, winning a Super Bowl along the way. They remain favourites to repeat the feat next month.

Rodgers himself has the highest passer rating of any quarterback with at least 1,500 passing attempts. The unproven talent who replaced a legend is well on the way to becoming one himself.

India's batting stalwarts are still good enough to command a place in the side.

Dravid scored three centuries on the forgettable tour of England. Tendulkar has looked in sparkling form despite the relative lack of runs, and Laxman scored a big hundred in Kolkata just three Tests ago.

But with no tough overseas assignments for two years after this tour, there's no better time for transition.

Dilip Vengsarkar, who played his final Test in Perth 20 years ago - the same game in which an 18-year-old Tendulkar made one of his most famous hundreds - told Cricinfo: "The bitter truth is that we don't have new champion players who can take up the mantle. We might have left the best behind.

"We've been spoilt by success in the past 10-12 years. The big batting guns have long covered up other shortcomings but they are nearing the end. The increased dependence on Tendulkar after more than two decades is a sign of poverty."

Better times await, but only if India have the courage to break with the past and embrace the future.