Friday, October 12, 2007

What is wrong with “the colonel”?

Indians as a nation suffer from “foot in the mouth disease.” I am not sure if there is any formal research on this to suggest that we are world champions at this in addition to 20-20 cricket. The incidence of this disease however is more rampant amongst cricket administrators, selectors, managers, board secretaries et al. But I think leading the pack is our chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar. I used to be a great admirer of this batsman in the “70s. He started out a dasher and then became an amazingly correct batsman who played some wonderful strokes. His strokes off his pads were a delight to watch and rivaled those of Greg Chappell who was a superlative batsman and an ordinary coach. Now our former master batsman and present chairman of selectors is rivaling our erstwhile coach in shooting his mouth off to the media. My larger worry is whether Vengsarkar is being simply naïve and being baited by the media, or does he have a larger agenda and that is to get rid of Rahul Dravid?

Dravid leaves in a huff
Cricket (and if one may add life) has its fair share of people who despite tremendous achievements are largely unwept, unhonoured and unsung. Rahul Dravid despite his enormous achievements must be the person who has got the least credit for winning matches for India, keeping wickets, shouldering burden, putting up with pinpricks from the administrators and being largely unappreciated for India’s significant victory over England which was definitely superior to the victory of Ajit Wadekar’s team which was widely feted. England is a formidable opponent as a test playing country at home and have recently beaten every team at home including Australia. Because of the absolute bizarre scheduling of cricket at present the Indian team took off to South Africa and some of the seniors including Rahul Dravid who did not participate in the 20-20 returned home not to a tumultuous welcome as one would expect but to criticism by Vengsarkar about Dravid not batting at no.3. No one knows why Dravid quit the captaincy but I think the last straw must have been this unnecessary and unwarranted statement by our “colonel”. If he had a problem with Dravid was he not better off talking to him instead of talking to the media? Why does the chairman of selectors need the Times of India to talk to the captain of the Indian cricket team. I am sure he has his mobile number.

Seniors or Dravid?
Then when the Australian team started beating India as you would expect them to, the “colonel “got into the act again. He said seniors cannot take their place for granted. Not even the prime minister in this country can take his place for granted, just ask Sitaram yechury or Karunanidhi. Don’t the seniors know their place is not sure? How long have they been a part of this mess that is Indian cricket? I think all of this is to vent the colonel’s anger at Dravid resigning the captaincy, which he has taken personally. If he had his way Dravid would be out of the team at Nagpur and sadly Dravid has been at the receiving end of Brett Lee for a couple of games and has been out trying to accelerate in a couple of games. He also looks a shadow of his normal, imperial self at the crease ever since he resigned the captaincy. He needs support not criticism. All of us are quick to criticize the Australians but just see how they are persisting with Brad Hodge even though Brad Haddin is breaking down the door with his performances. Dravid is simply the best modern Indian batsman that I have seen, in all conditions, against all attacks particularly outside India. Adding to the confusion is a largely clueless television media who are questioning his role in the one day side and in the team as well, after all they belong to the 20-20 generation of cricket followers! I just wonder if they remember the recent English tour and Bristol and Dravid’s match winning innings .I am sure they don’t because this same media refers to James Hopes as an outstanding spinner! So there you go!

Think country
For too long the Mumbai faction has run the game the way it wants .I think the time is right to think about the game of cricket. It is not only about 20-20.We have important series coming up against Pakistan which will be followed by a long, arduous tour of Australia .If we do make the mistake of going to Australia without Dravid then we will surely come back with our tail between our legs and we would richly deserve that!

And finally a word of advice for the “colonel”.
This is an important job that you have been entrusted with. Try to rise above personal preferences and local considerations and don’t let your enormous ego get the better of you. The hopes of a billion people are riding on your decisions and try to give back to this game that has given you everything. Sadly the person giving more back to Indian cricket seems to be an Australian though it may be difficult for us to digest this-Denis Lillee! And if the Indian pace bowling is a strength for us today we have him to thank. I do realize that the colonel is doing a thankless job .But that does not mean he has to make a hash of it!
(Ramanujam Sridhar is CEO, brand-comm, and the author of One Land, One Billion Minds.)


Ram said...

It is clear from your article that you are an ardent fan of Dravid. I have my views on this issue which don’t quiet match with yours and I thought I should express the same. I am not trying to justify Vengsarkars comments on the seniors in the middle of the series.
But my first point is can anyone relinquish the Indian Captaincy and not give a valid reason for that. It shouldn’t matter how good a player you are. My feeling is dravids reputation came down significantly the moment he resigned as captain. Not just in the colonels eyes but all cricket followers in the country. You cant resign because the chairmen of selectors wanted you to come one drop and you didn’t. If he had to resign he should have don’t it the day we were knocked out of the World cup. Which he didn’t do.
The next question is whether Dravid is an outstanding one day player. He is the best test batsmen in the Indian team but the same cant be said of his oneday capabilities. Infact there was a stage under gangulys leadership when he actually held on to his place only because he also kept wickets. Purely as a oneday player he fails on many counts. Doesn’t have the capacity to hit big shots and invariably has always had a poor strike rate. He would really come in handy only if India were chasing a low score. Batting first he would be useful only when there is a batting collapse. Both are unlikely events given the nature of todays oneday wickets. There are very few match winning knocks he has played in oneday cricket whilst he has played more test matches innings that have won inida matches than the celebrated tendulkar. He truly is India Test star ahead of tendulkar by a long way in my opinion. But in One day cricket there is a big question mark. No one questioned his place because he was the captain.
Maybe vengsarkar has an agenda against dravid but that alone cant be the reason for the impending Damocles sword hanging over dravids neck. Post the 20 20 win it was obvious the first amongst the big 3 to run into poor form would get the axe first and on current form it could be dravid. But he could be just one inning away from coming into form and he is unlikely to be dropped for the nagpur one dayer. But for me the moral of the story is never take anything lightly just because you have got it all too easily.

gops said...

fab piece. completely agree. why col.V is acting like this is actually a huge surprise for me.I do enormously respect him and I suspect some internal politics bet him and More.... we don't need any more of that do we?

Mohan said...

Why not write about Vishy Anand? Why this obsession about an erratic outfit which wins narrowly one day and gets thrashed by nine wickets the next day?

Sunder said...

Good article - I agree that the colonel is shooting off his mouth, but that seems to be the case with all those who are elevated to that post.
I also think that we forget the contribution of the seniors over a period of time in the most important version of cricket - Test matches. While I will not take anything away from the 20-20 win, it is after all a lottery and the proof of this is the way the Aussies are running away from us in the ODIs.
Sachin has already answered his detractors - now it is time for Rahul to do the same - with the bat!

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes I think it is time for Rahul to respond.He has the ability and the capability to respond.I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

Venky said...

Good one sir. It seems like nice guys somehow get trampled over. Having said that, whatever the reasons are, Dravid seems like he is not in it....perhaps time for him to focus on test cricket and get a few more double hundreds......

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes I agree .He seems to be in a different world right now and nobody seems to be reaching out to him.

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

I agree up to a point.Dravid has transformed himself as a one day player and has played quite a few matchwinning innings, like the one in Bristol.Yes he did not take it on the chin and just quit.His batting will become critical in Australia even in one dayers.Our batting will collapse there without him.