New Delhi:A quintet of ageing Indian superstars goes into the high-pressure Test series against world champions Australia this week hoping to prove their sun has not yet set.
Knives were out for skipper Anil Kumble, and batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Venkatsai Laxman after India's 2-1 defeat in the three-Test series in Sri Lanka in August.
The hint that the veterans were in the twilight of their illustrious careers came after none did justice to their stature, sparking debate whether the time had come to blood new youngsters.
Kumble took eight wickets, while Dravid made 148 in six innings and was followed by Ganguly (96) and Tendulkar (95). Laxman excelled in patches with 215 runs, but such a collective failure had rarely been seen in recent years.
India's new selectors retained the seniors for the first two Tests of the four-match series starting in Bangalore on Thursday, apparently believing it was not wise to begin a phasing-out process against a strong opposition.
But the sword still hangs over the experienced players, dubbed the 'Fab Five', and the Australian series is expected to provide the answer to how much cricket is still left in them.
Leg-spinner Kumble is the world's third-highest wicket-taker with 616 scalps in 130 Tests, while Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman have a combined tally of 35,011 runs from 480 matches.
But age is fast catching up with the veterans, who have made the nucleus of the team for more than a decade. Kumble turns 38 this month and Laxman 34 in November. Ganguly is 36, while Tendulkar and Dravid are 35.
Their rich contribution to Indian cricket was promptly forgotten after one bad series, with the media even suggesting they had been given an opportunity to plan their "honourable exit" -- reports later rubbished by Kumble.
"We have never discussed that among ourselves. All the talk is only in the media. Age does not matter at all, otherwise I'd have retired long ago," said Kumble.
"In terms of the players' performance, we have performed exceptionally well, except for that one bad series in Sri Lanka. If you go by the record, I don't think the senior players have ever performed badly.
"As far as I am concerned I think we have the quality to go out there and get runs as batsmen and get wickets as bowlers. I think we have the quality to do well. This is the best possible chance we have of winning the series."
Despite Kumble's optimism, India cannot ignore the transition period which Australia have passed through after the retirement of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn.
Former Australian captain Allan Border said India did not want to take chances against a formidable side in the initial part of the series.
"The Indian selectors are just going with their tried and tested performers, particularly against Austrlaia," he recently told the Fox Sports.
"They want all the experienced guys there, and their hard heads and I'd say this will be the final fling for that group of players.
"India will need to move on with younger players shortly, but I get the feeling that this is the final frontier for these guys. They want to play Australia for the last time in their own country and go out with a bang."