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Time catching up with Magnificent Seven

Posted in World Cricket

Sachin Tendulkar & Rahul Dravid

Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid each form part of a truly great generation of Asian middle-order batsmen

For more than a decade, the middle orders of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have featured players of rare quality, men destined to be remembered as greats for years to come.

The septet of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Mohammad Yousuf, Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakkara, Younus Khan and Mahela Jayawardene certainly represent a golden era of sub-continental batting.

While Tendulkar is widely considered the pick of the bunch, for obvious reasons, each of the aforementioned run-gatherers have excelled over prolonged periods, providing countless highlights along the way.

All good things must come to an end, however.

Dravid and Laxman - so long the bedrocks of India’s batting order - are now retired, the elegant Yousuf has not represented Pakistan for more than two years and Tendulkar’s glittering international career, which began in 1989, finally appears to be nearing a conclusion.

And while Sangakkara, Younus and Jayawardene may not be entertaining thoughts of walking away just yet, there can be no doubt that the trio of 35-year-olds are entering the final chapters of their respective playing days.

It is the nature of any sport that high-level performers come and go; Australia are currently facing up to the challenge of filling the void left by Ricky Ponting, the second-highest run-scorer in Test history behind Tendulkar.

Yet each of Asia’s three premier Test-playing nations have, or are soon to have, an even greater problem.

India are already making do without two players boasting over 22,000 Test runs between them. While the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli boast immense talent and have taken little time in stamping their own mark on the world stage, you can bet Mahendra Singh Dhoni would love to have one of Dravid or Laxman on hand in Nagpur this week.

Tendulkar, the other member of India’s celebrated modern-day triumvirate, remains for now, but the calls for his retirement have grown as the series with England has progressed. At 39, the most prolific batsman in the game surely cannot go on for much longer?

Sri Lanka’s two batting mainstays are likely to prove just as difficult to replace. The contribution of Sangakkara and Jayawardene is almost immeasurable and it is hard to imagine how a nation still struggling to prosper without Muttiah Muralitharan will cope when they depart.

In comparison to their neighbours, Pakistan appear to have the least to worry about when it comes to replacing their legendary stars. After all, more than two years have passed since the 38-year-old Yousuf last featured in a Test match.

However, in Yousuf’s absence, Younus has taken on even more responsibility and there will surely be a period of transition after the latter, who boasts a Test average of 52, decides to call it a day.

Nobody can say with certainty what the future will bring and it may be that India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan quickly discover a new breed of batting superstars able to emulate the feats of their predecessors.

Yet for cricket-lovers of my age (a mere 26 despite visual evidence to the contrary), it will seem awfully strange when the last of Asia’s Magnificent Seven moves on.

Enjoy Tendulkar, Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Younus while you still can.