Rahul Dravid, former Indian captain and statistically one of the greatest batsmen of all time, has announced his retirement from international cricket.
In 164 Tests, the 39-year-old amassed 13,288 runs, second only to his teammate Sachin Tendulkar in the sport's history. Dravid also reached five figures in ODIs, scoring 10,889 runs in 344 matches. His 12-hour, 270-run epic against Pakistan in 2004 was the longest-ever inning by an Indian batsman.
Dravid and Tendulkar were the figureheads of one of the most successful periods of Indian cricket, and which was still going strong until very recently. Last year, India won the ICC World Cup on their way to becoming the world's No. 1 side in both ODI and Test cricket. Since then, however, things have started to go downhill for the team.
They have slipped to No. 3 in both rankings and their last two Test series were absolute disasters.
A 4-0 whitewash in England in summer was followed by another 4-0 whitewash at the hands of Australia in December and January. At one point, they went 16 consecutive matches without a win. A poor performance in the Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia last month saw them come last in the tournament, and barring an heroic innings from Virat Kohli, it wouldn't have been at all close.
Tendulkar must surely be close to retirement himself. The most successful batsman of all time is still productive, but even he has seen a dip in form recently.
The Indian team is still loaded with brilliantly talented players. But Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman are by no means young. Experience counts for a lot but there will come a point where the legendary triumvirate of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman is gone.
With Dravid's retirement, the process has started, and India need to look to the future.
Virat Kohli, recently named as the nation's vice-captain, is perhaps the most promising batsman on the horizon. Since making his ODI debut in August 2008, he has played well, with nine centuries. It was two weeks ago, that he firmly staked his claim as India's next big hitter.
With his country facing elimination from the Tri-Series against Sri Lanka, Kohli produced a sparkling, unbeaten 133 to keep them in the tournament. It was a clutch inning of which Dravid himself would have been proud. Kohli made his Test debut last year and hit his first ton in January.
There are other youngsters like Rohit Sharma or even Suresh Raina, despite his immense struggles in the England tour last year, who will provide options for the selectors down the road. But this is a team in transition and it may take a long time before India can again reach the glories of their golden era.
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