Friday, September 7, 2007

Good times, bad times…

We, Indians are a philosophical bunch. We believe in Karma. If something goes wrong with our lives, health or jobs we check our horoscopes to see if our time is bad. I think Rahul Dravid’s time is good,[ though I have no access to his horoscope, assuming I had the capability to read it], simply because India won an astonishing game at the Oval on Wednesday which, if our past record is any indication, we should have normally lost. Where does the good time come in? In my opinion Rahul Dravid did quite a few things that defied logic{ though Rahul makes the most bizarre of captaincy decisions sound so logical and well thought out in his post match media conferences] and if his time had not been okay India would have lost by a mile and he could quite easily have taken all the flak. Yesterday’s match and this entire one-day series make me wonder if he is the best choice to be India’s one day captain. Before I get lynched let me explain. To my mind Rahul Dravid is India’s best-equipped batsman, who excels in different conditions and against the best of bowling attacks. He is a wonderful person, a great advertisement for a game that is getting increasingly unruly; wonderful with the media and a great role model for youth, but with great reluctance I must say that as a one day captain I find him increasingly wanting.

Batsman or captain?

A lot of Dravid’s ills stem from his basic, nice nature. An element of selfishness is not necessarily a bad quality in international cricket at least. Let me explain. Rahul Dravid has been the person most used {or is the right word abused} by Indian cricket and not often fairly. He has been asked to keep wicket, open the batting and also captain the test team half an hour before an important match with Australia simply because Sourav Ganguly opted out, whatever the official version for his not playing the game. But I think Rahul Dravid has realized that it is his lot to serve Indian cricket even if it works against his own and the team’s interests as well. But Indian cricket would be better served by him batting at the position he should be batting and where he can make a difference to the team as a top-flight batsman. He cannot be either performing as a batsman or as a captain. Floating up or down the order can work for Robin Uthappa but not for Rahul. Indian cricket still seems to suffer from the legacy of Greg Chappell and his penchant for experimentation and seems to be forever experimenting without ever settling on a course of action. This to my mind leads me to believe that Rahul Dravid is better off being told what to do. He is a wonderful follower and the ideal guy to have in the team. The wall that you can fall back on.

Back to the good times

But to return to the match … India won the match, admirably. Despite Rahul Dravid tossing the ball to Yuvaraj for the fiftieth over, despite persisting with Agarkar who has no business to be anywhere near the Indian team, despite batting poorly and losing his wicket at a crucial point in the chase and despite handing the advantage earlier to England by letting them bat first on two earlier occasions Dravid and the Indian cricket team has been handed a lease of life. It is Rahul’s good fortune that Sachin has batted like a dream over the last couple of games, Robin Uthappa played an outstanding innings that belied his youth, India actually fielded passably and Robin actually hit the stumps directly, Sourav again demonstrated his increasing value to the team.
Different captains for different versions of the team
Australia first demonstrated that there could be two different captains for the test and one day and Steve Waugh, unthinkable as it seemed, was shown the door in the one-day version of the game. England is realizing that Collingwood can actually make the normally ragged English one-day outfit competitive. Of course his job has been made easier by India’s own incompetence and Rahul Dravid’s uninspiring captaincy {Rahul forgive me}. Thankfully we will have a chance to see how Dhoni shapes up in the “hit and giggle” version of the game in South Africa soon. India should seriously consider an alternate one day captain. Let me make one thing clear. Rahul Dravid should be an integral and important part of the Indian cricket team. He should continue to captain the Indian test team as the Indian test team has done significantly well under his leadership. He has demonstrated tremendous capabilities as a one day batsman too and should be there to guide the team and be its most important batsman as long as he wishes to.
For too long Indian cricket has suffered from its inability to take hard decisions. We don’t drop players; even if they are out of form we “rest” them! It will not be easy to take this decision I am sure. But that to my mind will be one more step to help build the future of Indian cricket and see that its senior most, trusted cricketers are used in their right capacities. Rahul Dravid, the wonderful man he is, will be disappointed but I am sure he will take it on his chin and continue to serve Indian cricket with the same determination and distinction that has marked his long and illustrious career so far.

(Ramanujam Sridhar is CEO, brand-comm, and the author of One Land, One Billion Minds.)

6 comments:

N.S. said...

Don Bradman once famously remarked that it was not important to be a good captain or a bad captain but one had to be a lucky captain(or words to that effect)! Rahul's luck has turned. We won a match which should have been lost! Earlier, we dropped a match we should have won.

What can any coach or a captain do, when young players floor sitters and tail-enders do not value their wickets and play ugly agricultural heaves?

In Oval, Tendulkar played awesome shots, which he had eschewed for some time, the airborne pull over mid wicket from balls pitched on off and middle and the booming cover drive! Great stuff, but it took a toll on his body. He could barely walk up the stairs when he was out. Similar thing happened to Rafael Nadal, who ran round in hard courts as if they were clay and paid for it suffering from cramps all over.
This is where people like Sourav who rely on timing and Rahul who are totally in the classic mode. tax their bodies less.
The real mistake Rahul made, was to drop RP Singh and play Agarkar who has lost his pace and zing. Rahul may be holding himeself at No. 5 to cover up, in the case of a mini collapse and for faster batsmen to cash in from good starts. There is some merit in this approach.
To sum up, there is no more profound wisdom than wisdom after the event! May be Ramanjuam Sridhar is wise in this mode!
Mohan Mama

Anonymous said...

Cant agree with you more on Rahul. In a one day match where you have no place to hide his inadequacies as a captain revel. Actually he is a refined version of Azharuddin . Nice dependable bloke dependent on his own convictions about his players !! Some statements he made at the end of the match which gave me a peek into his head.



Uthappa by the sheer weight of his dedication and performance is begging to be picked ! Who is stopping you and why did you waste your time with Karthik
Our seamers were going at 14-15 an over and Yuvi had bowled a great 48th over ! – Powar bowled 1 over less and he has by far been the best bowler !
I kept telling Yuvi to have patience till the second 6 was hit and I then gave it up to his judgment – Of what value were your first 2 suggestions – You had given up even before Yuvi marked his run up !!


He is a brainy but not tactical . Captains need a good combination of the two qualities. Rahul has more of the first while folks like Ganguly, Shastri and Pataudi had a lot of the second quality . In that list you can also add Stephen Fleming, Ricky Ponting etc.



In the recent past one captain had both these qualities in right proportion – Tubby Taylor.



Back to India we have had players who had none of these qualities and yet became captains of India – Sachin (Talent only), Vengsarkar (Experience) !! – These to my mind were the worst captains we have had

Hariwardhan said...

Dear Sir,
I, really,admire your writings and clarity of thought. It is like Lays ad, you can not eat just one! No one can drop it midway like many a column. Humantendency is to err however, best they are. You did this time?
Rahul may be a scapegoat but the question is wasn't he,ever, party to petty Indian cricket politics? Could anybody dare drop Laxman against a team like Bangladesh? He did. why? It doesn't make a sense to explain to a seasoned writer like you(after all Rahul is also a human being!). My argument is nobody's slate is clean. Except very few like Anil Kumble and V V S Laxman, these are the cricketers who bore the brunt.

Hariwardhan Reddy. J

Dilip said...

Sridhar,

Very high quality observations.A rest for some days does wonders to a person. The capatincy of the Indian Team is a terribly high pressure job and a rest will provide a good opportunity for contemplation. The burden of responsibilty at the top position is excruciating . A rest will bring out the best in him, I am sure. Havent we seen a transformed Ganguly ?

Regards
Dilip

Dilip said...

Sridhar,

Very high quality observations.A rest for some days does wonders to a person. The capatincy of the Indian Team is a terribly high pressure job and a rest will provide a good opportunity for contemplation. The burden of responsibilty at the top position is excruciating . A rest will bring out the best in him, I am sure. Havent we seen a transformed Ganguly ?

Regards
Dilip

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

"I" agree with you up to a point.I still maintain that Rahul Dravid has captained the side enough without demonstrating major changes in ability or approach.Time will tell!"