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The Rediff Special/Harish Kotian in London
Fab four set for history
August 08, 2007
It was in England [Images] that some of the top stars in the current Indian team - Sachin Tendulkar [Images], Sourav Ganguly [Images], Rahul Dravid [Images] and Anil Kumble - made their mark in world cricket.
While Tendulkar made his mark by scoring his maiden international century in England at a raw age of 17, the other three made their international debuts in this country and immediately showed a glimpse of their potential, which they have gone on to realise since.
And the four legends would not have asked for a better stage to make their final appearance on English soil than the historic Oval cricket ground, now referred to as the Brit Oval because of commercial deals. Also looming the fact is that India, leading the series 1-0, is on the verge of a historic Test series victory at the Old Blighty, something not achieved since 1986, the last time India has managed to win a series in England.
India's first Test series victory in England came in 1971 and even that was wrapped up at this very venue at the Oval. That match still holds a special place in hearts of every Indian cricketer. The spin trio of Bishen Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan were in their full glory, so was England's spin duo of Ray Illingworth and Derek Underwood.
India managed to squeeze home by six wickets, chasing 173 for victory to clinch the three-Test series 1-0.
India have a chance to repeat the heroics once again. Who would have imagined this when the team was battling to stave off a certain defeat in the first Test at Lord's till the weather came to their rescue. And then the dramatic turnaround at Trent Bridge, inspired by Zaheer Khan's [Images] match winning spell, as they crushed the hosts.
India's batting relies heavily on the big three - Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. While Dravid has been struggling to score runs in the series, the other two veterans made their mark in Trent Bridge to set up India's huge first innings score.
However, Dravid not in form and due for a big knock is something that must be foremost on the England team's mind. It must be a huge motivator for him to score runs and lead the team to a rare series victory abroad, which the team has been consistently striving to do in the last few years.
For Tendulkar, the last couple of years have been very difficult even though he still enjoys his place among the world's top batsmen. However, a spate of various injuries combined with a patchy form, have made him re-think his game. He may not be as fluent and attractive to watch as in his prime, but he still does pose a big threat to the English bowlers.
Ganguly is India's most successful captain but that didn't help him at all as he was dumped from the team last year. But Ganguly, the fighter that he is, fought against all odds and in eight months time he was back in the team. Not only is he back, but has been scoring runs in all conditions � be it South Africa, Bangladesh or England.
As he himself admitted that being out of the team has helped him improve as a player. He would no doubt be keen to script his final match in England just like the way he started, with a sparkling century.
These three batsmen when on fire can take the stuffing out of any bowling attack in the world. But they need the support of the bowlers too, especially veteran Anil Kumble, who is still to hit top gear.
Ever since starting out his international career in 1990, Kumble has been India's top bowler for almost two decades now and a testimony to his contribution can be gauged from the fact that no bowler in India's Test history has won more matches for the country.
He right now sits on 561 wickets in 117 Tests, needing another three to go past Glenn McGrath's haul and take the third spot on the all-time wicket-takers list in Test cricket. Shane Warne [Images] with 708 wickets and Muttiah Muralitharan on 700 are the only two bowlers ahead of him.
India have the dirty habit of losing the plot when leading 1-0 in away matches, but this time it seems the team is more determined and keen not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
As the fab four head into the twilight of their career, there cannot be a better opportunity than this for them to shine like a star.