And now there's only one.

When India start the first test against New Zealand in Hyderabad on Thursday night (NZT), Sachin Tendulkar will in one sense be a man alone.

The retirement of the graceful middle order veteran VVS Laxman on Sunday leaves the game's greatest runmaker as the sole survivor of India's celebrated batting quartet who plundered the world's best bowling attacks for over a decade.

The combative lefthander Sourav Ganguly was first to move on, at the end of 2008, after 113 tests, 16 hundreds and an average of 42.17.


Rahul Dravid walked away early this year, after amassing 13,288 runs, with 36 tons, at 52.31 over 164 tests, and his reputation as one of the finest cricket men of his generation firmly intact.

Which just leaves Tendulkar of the Four Musketeers. He started the test game seven years earlier than the other trio, and his 15,470 test runs are unmatched, as are his 51 hundreds from 188 tests.

All four have had their distinct qualities about their batting. Laxman's was grace and style.

He had a languid touch, all elegance, and if he didn't cash in as decisively against the Zimbabwes and Bangladeshes of the game as emphatically as his middle order mates, he was a master of the defiant second innings stand.

Laxman made tough runs, got India out of jams as often, if not more, than the others. In times of crisis he found an extra depth to his character.

His greatest innings, 281 in Kolkata, as part of a 376-run fifth wicket stand with Dravid, won a test - and ultimately a series - against Australia in 2001.

India's coach of the time, John Wright, used to recount, only half in jest, how he'd bow when Laxman walked past him in a corridor. It arguably saved Wright's job and helped set India up as one of the powers of the game through the decade.

Laxman walks away with an average of 45.97, 17 hundreds from 134 tests. Of the quartet, when on song he was the most watchable from an aesthetic perspective, but he's made the right call. At 37, it's time to move on.

Laxman talked of listening to his "inner voice" in reaching his decision.

He also had his replacements in mind too when he spoke of the time being right on the eve of the New Zealand tests "to give an opportunity to youngsters, and no better than against an inexperienced New Zealand bowling attack".

The "youngster" chosen to replace Laxman in India's 15-strong squad is an odd choice, 31-year-old Subramaniam Badrinath, who has played just two tests early in 2010 against South Africa.

At some point in the coming days Tendulkar may look around the dressing room at the increasingly younger faces. The familiarity of the last few years is steadily disappearing.

His last test century was 23 innings ago in January last year. His mates, who have been part of the furniture in the Indian dressing room, are gone.

When Tendulkar departs a great era of Indian batsmanship will leave with him.