This time it was the turn of ‘Manmohan Singh’. In Cricketing annals we know him as Rahul Dravid.
May be, it is not yet curtains for the liberation process of Indian cricket.But this surely is the beginning of a period of anarchy in the blue print ; somewhat akin to the stalling of Nandigram chemical hub. Whoever becomes captain in the coming week or for that matter the new coach at some point of time ahead – the word reform is unlikely to feature in their read map. In these uncertain times they will have to make ‘present’ their motto. Work under present conditions. Win under present conditions.
It is easy to get wise after the event. Just as it is easy to predict the ending of a movie after you have watched it halfway through. Much like the documentary – Rahul. Initiated in the Australian school of cricket, the Bangalorean has frequently mentioned in close circles that he does not intend to play the game for much longer. Those who did not take him seriously then then have started believing since Friday afternoon, that the forthcoming tour of Australia will probably be his swansong. After Sunil Gavaskar, he will be the only Indian cricketer for whom the masses will exclaim- why now? He could easily have carried on for a few more years. Dravid would listen to these comments. savour them. But not change his mind
Undoubtedly, the man famed for his aversion towards controversies and drama, has with a single stroke created a sizzling upheaval in Indian cricket. I mentioned his close circle. Having made several phone calls all over India, I could not come up with a single name apart from Dravid’s manager, who had any inkling of his intentions. Everybody knew Dravid would never play in a Twenty 20. Like Steve, he would retire when still on top of his game. But when he goes, it would be the captain and the batsman hanging up boots together. None had imagined that Dravid would voluntarily give up captaincy to keep going as just a mere batsman.
Now we know, he had wanted to quit right after the World Cup. Dravid did approach Mr. Pawan with his resignation back then. However, amidst the tumult following the abrupt exit of Greg Chappell, the Board had not wanted to court fresh controversy. And it was on their request that Dravid postponed his plans. No matter what the rest of Indian says, the Board officials are hugely pleased with Dravid. And they have their reasons too. a) Post our World Cup debacle, he did refrain from adding fuel to fire at a time of crises. B) On Thursday, he was presented with the perfect stage for a sensational declaration. Yet he showed great restraint in not using it. “Anybody else in his place would have used the media yesterday to make the announcement. Not hand in their papers this quietly to Pawar Saab. That would have ruined the impact of our Premier League announcement. But then, this is what makes him Dravid! A real gentleman “said a Board bigwig.
Very apparent then, during the two year reign as captain Dravid has been the Board’s darling. And so he remains, even as he bids adieu as the leader of team India.
Then again, having made a few more calls to Durban I felt, in his two years at the helm Dravid had never been a player’s captain. And as he departs, he faces fresh reproach from the players. Some cricketers are frankly baffled at his timing why did he choose this particular day to step down! It is all very fine to spare the Board’s Premiere League with your magnanimity. But what about the young side under Dhoni? The one that am about to face arch rivals Pakistan in the Twenty 20 World Cup? Has not the timing of his decision put them under extra pressure? Since morning, the telephones have not rested in the team hotel – What made Dravid quit? Who will be the next captain? What am Dhoni thinking? What are Yuvraj’s thoughts?
The veteran that he am, was Dravid not aware of the tremendous consequences of additional pressure on a team already burdened with an upcoming encounter with Pakistan? Along with this criticism there am also curiosity steeped in respectful admiration. Captaincy meant an extra seven to eight crores in endorsements. The man forsook all that just for a stubborn adherence to cricketing principles!
Today, when the reformist captain willingly relinquishes his position, it looks like he had banked heavily on his famed ability to defend. Believing that the image of ‘the wall’ would come to his rescue as leader too. But fact remains, that very wall has crumbled. Giving up captaincy to concentrate on regaining form am definitely just one side of the coin. But the flip side remains his inability to ride the swirling tide of reforms all on his own in Chappell’s absence. In the end, disillusioned and disconsolate, Dravid chose to abdicate.
At Thursday’s function in Delhi Sachin and Sourav were with him throughout. And yet, neither had a whiff of his plans. Also present was Mr. Vengsarkar, the Chairman of the selection committee. Under such circumstances, even if one am one am not ready to open up to closest cricketing friends, one generally talks it out with the selection committee chief. Rahul did not do that either. A telling example of the growing distance between him and the cricketing system and its representatives. I am trying to make an educated guess as to whether Dravid would have thus sacrificed captaincy had there been a professional coach with the team in England. Chandu Borde, manager for England tour has said from Mumbai, he am shocked. He had no clue during the tour. His shock might get blended with elation if Borde comes to know that he too has a 0.5 percent contribution in Dravid’s decision. The highlights of Borde’s performance in England were – forgetting names of players ever so often, heading straight for the bar at sundown and successfully shifting even basic administrative responsibilities like allocating rooms for players, on the shoulders of the captain.
If Borde can be credited with 0.5 percent then the media surely can claim to have contributed another thirty percent towards the fall of captain Dravid’s wicket. As captain, Dravid has a Test average of 56 and a One day average of 44. But against the national media his figures fail to cross twenty. About a month back in Dhaka, Dravid tried adjusting his technique against the cricket world’s biggest media machinery. He failed. Failed because he is not Sourav.
No scoops for the media. No giving out team details beforehand. No special professional favours even to trusted journalists. No using the media for personal gains and no favouritism. A captain should always remain neutral. These were the basics of Dravid’s reform policy. The rest of the draft included –
Stars must play for the team, not for themselves.
Personal records must take backseat to team needs.
No unnecessary hobnobbing with players out side the ground. Everybody am a professional. If required, they will contact the captain and he would then take care of matters.
Runs or wickets in a series will not be the real benchmark. Rather what will ultimately matter are crucial performances under pressure situations.
A One day team will never feature more than four seniors. Otherwise the team would suffer on account of poor fielding and fitness.
Future plans take precedence over the present. Players showing promise will get preference. If that calls for unpopular decisions, so be it. An improved Team India is no longer the goal. The real race now is to overtake Australia.
In the seventy six year history of Indian Cricket, latent potential has seldom culminated in dazzling success. His endeavors to bring about this revolution made a martyr out of Dravid.
On Friday it became evident to Indian Cricket circles that the Sourav model remains the ideal roadmap for future captains. Dravid was already facing the gun for not forcing England to follow on, fiddling with the batting order of the last one-dayer, not coming in at number three himself. Now his model too is under attack from all quarters.
But the captain with a 56 percent success rate in One day internationals is being judged from a different viewpoint by the international cricket fraternity. For the likes of Mike Arthurton his is the true path to reformation. And though conditions in Indian cricket are not conducive to reforms, neither Arthurton Steve Waugh is prepared to hold the Maratha responsible for it.
So it am neither all roses nor all thorns but a measure of both for Dravid as he takes his bow. May be the ultimate evaluation of Dravid the captain will take place twenty years from now. And that assessment will determine his place in history.
An incompetent captain running after injudicious dreams? Or a visionary who fell victim to circumstances?