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Who's who in India's Fab Four

Last updated on: October 23, 2008 18:40 IST

Indian cricket is going through the purplest of patches we've seen in a long time, what with nearly every player on the roster contributing and the headlines succumbing to much hyperbole. It's a great phase to read the sports pages, chock-full of tributes and world record statistics, and eulogies for the kind of cricket we're never going to see again.

The flavour of the season, in terms of overused phrases, is Fab Four. Used conveniently to bracket what is undisputably one of the finest batting quartets in cricketing history, the term has become ubiquitous during the ongoing India-Australia test series: it's the last time we're ever going to see these four on song together, and a farewell tour is best when so devastatingly beautiful, even in heartbreak.

So before our Beatles -- or is it Bat-tles? -- break up, I thought I'll take a look at which of them matches up alongside which of the Liverpool lads' clearly different character-types. How Fab our Four, and all that jazz. Indulge me, and read on.


Sachin Tendulkar, of course, immediately poses a problem. Being fabber than the other three -- and the reason their now-popular nickname has capital letter status in the first place -- it's hard to pigeonhole him as any one of the moptops. As a personality type, he's closest to Paul McCartney -- perenially loved, the most consistent of songwriters, the cute one, the one whose songs end up being the most talked about, the finest singer in the band, the one making audiences scream the most -- but Tendulkar can't just be one of the boys. Thus we make him an uber-Paul: Imagine Paul and his terrific bass guitar skills doubled up with Jimi Hendrix's flying fingers of fury. Greatest axeman ever? Of course, in either form of the guitar. And boy, does he weild a heavy one.

Saurav Ganguly slots himself -- rather debatably, as always -- in as John Lennon. Clearly the narcissist of the bunch, he's responsible for tremendously offside lyrics and the uncanny ability to constantly surprise everyone involved. It's easy to see Ganguly court Lennon-like controversy by calling the Four 'bigger than Jesus,' (or Waugh) and just as easy to see him argue with any of the other boys. Yet it is his partnership with Sachin's Paul that has taken the band to hitherto unscaled heights, and thanks to his fieriness and his fervency -- not to mention his temper and his tantrums -- a large part of the paying audience loves him most of all. Greg Chappell might have done a Mark David Chapman on his career, but an overwhelming comeback sees him better than ever. And then there's the way he waltzes down the track to lift those psychedelic skiers. Oh yeah, he makes us clap our hands -- or rattle our jewellery -- real loud.

VVS Laxman is the band's George Harrison -- and not just because he's younger than the other three. The man is seeped in quiet modesty like the late George, a sober virtuoso genius capable of crafting something quite extraordinary in a way that made audiences and opposition felt like he'd sneaked something in. With wrists of silk, he handled all manner of blade -- from ukulele to sitar, besides his own 12-string specialty stalk -- with magical panache, and set new standards in both scorecards and pure artistry. Once asked why he doesn't smile much, Harrison had quipped, 'It'll hurt my lips.' Laxman too bares his teeth sparingly, more than making up for it by giving us enough to grin at.                                                     

Rahul Dravid is not Ringo Starr. Sure, the man is better than anybody else at holding a steady beat and one would likely trust him to drum for one's life more than either of the other three, but Rahul's definitely not the clown of the band, and rarely does he explode in a fit of lovely whimsy. He's also the only member of the quartet who can head to any other team and fit right in, no questions asked -- no nonsense, no frills, no fuss. And while he's consistent to a staggering extreme, there is a lack of beauty in the way he maintains the steady beat, him toiling and thudding -- and driving in the last nail -- akin to a master carpenter. Dravid sweats buckets to keep the rhythm just as steady as needed, but despite the showy drum solos, remains a largely unglorified hero: a flawless sessions musician who can play with anyone, anytime.


Of course, this is all puerile fanboy timepass, like picking fantasy all-time XIs or making wishlists of who should star in whose biopic.

The true fact of the matter is that we're fast approaching the end of an era, and it's hard not to get misty eyed and think back about the band's greatest hits. About the series wins abroad and the spinners tamed at home, about the staggering run to the world cup final and the arrogant speedsters whipped around the world. About the accolades and the constantly asinine behaviour meted down to them by our deity-flagellating media. About how we went from meek little boys to tough men who wouldn't stand for parochialism or condescension from white nations.

Most of all, when we think of hits, we think of shots. Of Rahul Dravid thudding in an immaculate straight drive back past the bowler. Of VVS Laxman using those marvellous wrists to flick an off-side delivery far into the on-side boundary. Of Saurav Ganguly playing a cover drive that would make God -- and WG Grace --green with envy. Or one of those mad sixes. And then there's the subtle savagery of Sachin Tendulkar, cheekily creating brand new shots after having already bettered every stroke in the book.

Three will remain, one leaves. The current series is one where two of the bandmembers have clicked before the other two invariably will, altogether contributing to a series that could potentially be their most glorious. This is turning out to be a beautifully poetic end to a stellar era, but there's no denying it hurts that the band is breaking up. Unfairly, justifiably, we expected them to play forever.

And just like with the Liverpudlians, John's leaving first. We'll miss you, dada. You are the walrus.

Want to take the classic rock analogies further? Think Ishaan Sharma is a Jimmy Page because of his hair, or say that Anil Kumble is a sober superstar, a la Eric Clapton? Bring it on, and mail me with Beatles songs or favourite cricketing moments at Cheers, and enjoy the rest of the cricket.

Raja Sen