Monday, October 29, 2007

Dropping Dravid Unfair:

Rahul Dravid's surprise exclusion from the team for the first two one-dayers of the upcoming series against Pakistan on Saturday generated sharp reactions from former international cricketers, who termed the decision as "unfair".
Dravid, who has played 333 ODIs and scored 10,585 runs at an average of 39.49, has been out of form for quite some time but his omission appears to be too harsh considering his track record.
It was all the more baffling since Virender Sehwag was given a prolonged run to regain his form when he was going through a lean period under Dravid's captaincy.
Former India coach Madan Lal declared that it was "not a right decision" by the selectors. "This is Indian cricket. How can you drop a player who has played for last 10 years for you. When you play for such long period you get bad phases and it was just a few bad innings for Dravid," he told PTI.
"Moreover, Dravid has not played at number three, which is his slot, in the last 10 innings. He is playing at five or six. How do you expect him to get runs after coming so late in the order," he said.
"To get back into form you don't need rest, you need matches," he added.
Former wicketkeeper Sayed Kirmani also blasted the selectors for the decision. "It is unfair. If this is the benchmark to drop the player of Rahul Dravid's calibre, then it should happen to Sachin (Tendulkar), (Sourav) Ganguly and rest of the guys also if they fail in three-four innings. The same rule should apply to all of them," he said on a television channel.
Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq also expressed surprise at the decision and said it would benefit Shoaib Malik's team in the series. "Pakistan will get an advantage as Dravid is out of the team. If a famous and experienced player like Dravid is in the team, juniors can learn a lot from him," he said.
G.R. Viswanath: I feel really bad for Dravid, not because he’s from Karnataka but because he’s truly one of India’s greatest cricketers.
I have been reading the papers and I think it is very unfortunate for Dravid. But such things have happened in Indian cricket from time immemorial and continue to happen.
The selectors seem to have forgotten Dravid’s contribution to Indian cricket. He has a tremendous aggregate with over 10,000 runs under his belt. You can’t treat a cricketer with such statistics like that. This only shows there is something wrong somewhere in Indian cricket.
I have never commented on this episode and I feel very sad for him. I can only imagine how Dravid is feeling at the moment.
His chances of a comeback depend entirely whether he was ‘rested’ or ‘dropped.’
Brijesh Patel: I think it is shocking! He’s the most dependable Indian player and he’s an ideal team man.
If he was selfish he would have stuck to batting at his strongest position which is number three.
But he served the cause of the team and batted at different positions. The shuffling around has certainly affected his form.
Just look at his record against Pakistan and you will see what he’s capable of. He would have been an ideal foil against Pakistan.
So, it's begun. Rahul Dravid has apparently become the first of the start of a process of change. Speaking to the Hindustan Times on Saturday night, a national selector categorically stated: "We (the selectors) felt that the time to ease the seniors out has started." He reiterated that they while they had started a process of change with Dravid, it was one that would not stop with him. "We will not stop here, we will also go to Sourav (Ganguly) and Sachin (Tendulkar) after this," he said. Another stated that while Dravid was "undoubtedly a great player who still had lots of Test cricket left in him", there was a time when some "strong decisions have to be taken". These views, of course, are somewhat different from what Dilip Vengsarkar stated at the press conference in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Vengsarkar, when asked if Dravid could make a comeback, clearly indicated that he could. "Anyone who plays well will get a chance," he said. He added that Dravid was a "great player" who he thought would "come back soon". What this basically means is that this being Indian cricket, where selection processes are rarely systematic and problems are systemic, anything can happen when the selectors choose the team for the next three one-dayers against Pakistan! What will be interesting then — if the selectors are actually following a planned path of change — is to see whether they will have the gumption to "rest" or "give a break" to Ganguly or Tendulkar irrespective of performances. Tendulkar, it might be recalled, has been India's leading run-getter in the last three one-day series, while Ganguly has averaged 40+ in ODIs since his return to international cricket.Three things about Dravid's omission. First, one lean patch is not a reason to unceremoniously drop a player of Dravid's class or stature or question his form or fitness. Two, if you're dropping someone, then say that. Clearly state that there is a path being followed. Don't play games with someone's head and confuse him further. And finally, someone in the selection committee should have had the courtesy to call Dravid and inform him of his omission in advance and talked to him about the reasons for it. After all, he was India skipper even till last month. They did not extend that courtesy to Ganguly and now, they have treated Dravid with that same, utter lack of grace.

About Rahul Dravid's exclusion from Team:

Rahul Dravid must wonder if he didn't bring it upon himself. He did two things distinctly un-Indian. When he was captain, he didn't give himself a fixed position at the top of the order. As India's most consistent batsman he could have had the No. 3 position by right, but he chose to bat at five, sometimes even six - positions where consistent scores are least likely - because he wanted his stroke-makers to get more overs. He didn't see it as a sacrifice but a decision taken in the best interest of the team and with an eye towards the development of young players.
Two, he gave up the captaincy when he could have had it for another year at least. This was a decision he made more for his own sake. When he was re-appointed captain after the World Cup disaster, Dravid had laid out his expectations and given himself a time allowance. Despite the Test-series victory in England and the closeness of the one-day series, he perhaps didn't see Indian cricket moving in the direction he would have liked it to head in. There was little progress on the administrative front: the search for a coach had gone nowhere, the post of the administrative manager continued to be a dole, and there was no sign of a media manager being appointed. Dealing with what went on on the field was one thing, but Dravid had no stomach for what went on off it. It could be termed a weakness: captaining India requires a thick skin, a certain indifference to externals, which Dravid lacked and couldn't acquire.
However, these decisions merely confirmed what we have known about Dravid the cricketer and the man. They were born of earnestness, commitment to Indian cricket, and a clear idea about his priorities. Giving up the captaincy meant giving up certain privileges - and as it transpired, even his place in the side - but once his heart was not in it, he preferred not to hold on to it for the wrong reasons. That's the essence of the man. Sanjay Manjrekar described him as the most selfless Indian cricketer of the last decade with good reason.
Of all cricketers Dravid could be expected to go before being pushed. It's the toughest decision for a sportsperson, but it was assumed that Dravid, a player with a keen sense of the history of the game, and an awareness of life outside the bubble of cricket, would know when the time came. And it was also thought that he of all his contemporaries would last longest, for his game was least touched by time.
Yes, his Test form has dipped. It's rare for him to go two series without making a serious contribution. Between 2000 and 2006, he had a pivotal role in every major Indian Test win, but since his two masterpieces on a difficult pitch in Jamaica last year, he hasn't been the formidable batsman the world has known him to be. Perhaps the captaincy was beginning to weigh on him.
Dravid would be the first to agree that the selection process needs to be insulated from sentiments and the cult of individual. Instead it should be based on cold logic and should have an eye on the future. As captain he supported some of the tough decisions the previous selection committee took, and it included dropping Sourav Ganguly, his predecessor and an iconic figure in Indian cricket. Dravid, more than anyone else, understands and appreciates the significance of building for the future. But the question that must be asked is: what is the basis for not picking Dravid?
All we have got so far is a series of incoherent, and sometimes contradictory, statements from Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors. In fact, it has been a feature of his reign.
Is this the beginning of a rotation policy? No, there isn't a need to rotate players; we must pick the best team every time. Is this the end of the road for Dravid, then? No, he is a great player and he will surely make a comeback. Is this, then, a selection purely on current form? Yes, form and fitness are important in this form of the game. Dravid must prove both playing for his state. So, there we have it now. Dravid needs to prove both his fitness and form in a four-day Ranji Trophy match if he is to force his way back into the one-day team.
With the previous selection committee, we knew what the vision was - whether right or wrong was moot. Vengsarkar began his tenure by reversing the push towards youth - "Where is the bench strength?" was an early famous quote - but was last heard gushing about youth in the wake of India's Twenty20 success. Would the selectors have chosen a young team for the World Twenty20 if Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly hadn't withdrawn by themselves? The more we see of it, this looks like a committee that is happy to change its course with the tide.
Some of its decisions have been truly baffling, and none more than those to do with Virender Sehwag, who paid for a prolonged bad run in one-day cricket with his place in the team in Tests, a form in which his record has been outstanding. In fact, he wasn't even dropped from the one-day squad to start with, and then made his comeback via Twenty20 cricket.
Dravid now needs to prove both his fitness and form in a four-day Ranji Trophy match if he is to force his way back into the one-day team

The team for the first two one-dayers has five openers, none of them, apart from Tendulkar, capable of being a mid-innings builder. And it's been clear for a while that Tendulkar doesn't want to bat down the order. No successful one-day team in the history of cricket has been built around dashers: from Larry Gomes to Michael Bevan to Damien Martyn to Michael Hussey, every successful side has had an accomplished accumulator in the middle. If we look around today, Sri Lanka have Mahela Jayawardene; South Africa, Jacques Kallis; and Pakistan, Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf. And England are beginning to realise just how valuable Ian Bell is.
It's no one's case that India must plan their one-day future around Dravid. In fact, they must start looking beyond him and Tendulkar and Ganguly. But the transition must be planned with thought and care. When Dravid plays well, he lends balance to the team. When he goes, he must be replaced with someone who is suited to playing his role.
Selection is not about whims and convenience. And it is not always about the immediate. Strong decisions deserve support. But they have to be made with the right and clear intentions.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

But to be or not to be isn’t the question for Rahul Dravid. He has to be.

Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid. Not since the three Ws of the West Indies — Worrell, Weekes and Walcott — who ruled the game in the 1950s, has any cricket team seen a threesome of such talent, class and influence playing in tandem? And now their story’s coming to an end. It had to, at some point in time, but that cold logical axiom doesn’t make it any less sad. These three men have given more to Indian cricket than almost any others, and quite soon Indian cricket will have to live without them.
They are almost the same age, with Tendulkar the youngest. Dravid is 103 days older than him, and Ganguly is 187 days older than Dravid, which makes him 290 days older than Tendulkar. Tendulkar of course had been playing for India for seven years before Ganguly and Dravid made their Test debuts at Lord’s in 1996, but for the last decade the trio has been synonymous with the game in India (along with that old warhorse Anil Kumble). Conventional wisdom has always had it that Ganguly would be the first to go, since his game is more dependent on eyesight and reflex than the others’, so age would hit him earlier and harder. And that Dravid would be the last of the three to hang up his boots, since the rocksolid foundation of technique that his batting is built on would keep serving him even when the body becomes slower. No one ever placed any bets on Tendulkar’s departure. Tendulkar would decide when to retire.
Then Dravid gets dropped from the Indian one-day squad. Yes, he scored only 80 runs in his last 10 one-day innings, but one wonders if any cricket fan in India wanted him dropped, even though we understand the reasoning. In recent years, he was perhaps the most loved of the three, and certainly the most valuable player India had, at least in the longer — sorry, after T20, we now have to say ‘longest’ — version of the game. Of the three, he was the one who we could rely on the most, to stand alone on the burning deck, and quite often, manage to douse the fire. At Adelaide in 2003, after Dravid won the match for India, scoring 305 runs (233 in the first innings, 72 not out in the second), even a usually cautious Sunil Gavaskar was moved to say: “His strength of character shines through in every move he makes on the field. Whenever he goes out to bat, he has his bat in one hand, and in the other, you can almost see the Indian tricolour flying.” That is praise indeed.
Though, to be fair, the virtual Indian tricolour has flown every time any of the Trinity has gone out into the field: Tendulkar walking out, looking up at the sun, twirling his bat; Ganguly looking vaguely disgruntled and blinking rapidly; and Dravid quiet, serious, brooding even. For these men are very different from one another: Tendulkar preferring to do most of his talking through his bat (or ball) other than boyish celebrations at a catch well taken; Ganguly wearing his heart on his sleeve, prone to fits of passion; Dravid simply silent, expressionless, intent on the job at hand. Tendulkar and Ganguly can exhilarate or exasperate; Dravid’s quiet assurance keeps your blood pressure steady, your hopes steadfast.
Yet, something went wrong in the last few months. Captaincy did not suit Rahul Dravid. He is a thinking man, and has a life of the intellect. For such a man, the second most important job in the country may have turned out to be too heavy a burden. One saw the man standing there in the slips, gnawing his nails; one saw the haunted look in his eyes, and one knew he was not enjoying the role. Ganguly’s style of captaincy was a cross between King Leonidas leading his 300 Spartans against the Persian hordes at Thermopylae and a streetfight at the OK Corral. Dravid as captain looked increasingly like a Prince of Denmark with serious existential doubts. Perhaps leading a bunch of boys2men from a variety of backgrounds, many of them unruly, and most of them extremely ambitious, egotistical and insecure is not the job for a decent normal man who doesn’t want to go out carousing with the boys but prefers to spend his evening curled up with Lance Armstrong’s autobiography.
And being a perfectionist wouldn’t have helped. I remember asking Dravid why he never wrote (anyone speaking to him would instantly be struck by his intelligence, articulation and widely read mind), and he replied: “Yes, I’ve thought of it many times, but then I read a piece by Scyld Berry or Christopher Martin-Jenkins and I think I’ll never be able to write as well as these guys, so what’s the point?” The man has never lacked courage, and to give up the captaincy of the Indian cricket team on his own required a very large amount of that quality; Dravid exhibited it for the nth time when he resigned. But the batting masterclass that he thought he would be able to reach again now that the captaincy was off his back has not yet opened its doors to him.
But who knows, perhaps getting dropped for a few games will be the best thing that has happened to Dravid in a long time. It gives him time to relax, and get his mind back in order. For there is nothing wrong with Rahul Dravid except inside his mind. He needs a holiday and he’s got one. He has to now spend it without thinking too much. We have been lucky to see this marvellous batsman play some of the greatest innings ever played by an Indian, and we are not ready to see the back of him yet. Not by a long shot. For Rahul Dravid, to be or not to be is not the question. He has to be. And we know he will.

Friday, October 26, 2007

About Rahul Dravid:

Rahul Dravid, a cricketer who seamlessly blends an old-world classicism with a new-age professionalism, is the best No. 3 batsman to play for India - and might even be considered one of the best ever by the time his career is done. He already averages around 60 at that position, more than any regular No. 3 batsman in the game's history, barring Don Bradman. Unusually for an Indian batsman, he also averages more overseas - around 60, again - than at home. But impressive as his statistics are, they cannot represent the extent of his importance to India, or the beauty of his batsmanship.
When Dravid began playing Test cricket, he was quickly stereotyped as a technically correct player capable of stonewalling against the best attacks - his early nickname was 'The Wall' - but of little else. As the years went by, though, Dravid, a sincere batsman who brought humility and a deep intelligence to his study of the game, grew in stature, finally reaching full blossom under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. As a New India emerged, so did a new Dravid: first, he put on the wicketkeeping gloves in one-dayers, and transformed himself into an astute finisher in the middle-order; then, he strung together a series of awe-inspiring performances in Test matches, as India crept closer and closer to their quest of an overseas series win.
Dravid's golden phase began, arguably, in Kolkata 2001, with a supporting act, when he made 180 to supplement VVS Laxman's classic effort of 281 against Australia. But from then on, Dravid became India's most valuable player, saving them Tests at Port Elizabeth, Georgetown and Trent Bridge, winning them Tests at Headlingley, Adelaide, Kandy and Rawalpindi. At one point during this run, he carved up four centuries in successive innings, and hit four double-centuries in the space of 15 Tests, including in historic away-wins at Adelaide and Rawalpindi. As India finished off the 2004 Pakistan tour on a winning note, on the back of Dravid's epic 270, his average crept past Sachin Tendulkar's - and it seemed no aberration.
Dravid's amazing run was no triumph of substance over style, though, for he has plenty of both. A classical strokeplayer who plays every shot in the book, he often outscores team-mates like Tendulkar and Laxman in the course of partnerships with them, and while his pulling and cover-driving is especially breathtaking, he has every other shot in the book as well. He is both an artist and a craftsman, repeatedly constructing innings that stand out not merely for the beauty of their execution, but for the context in which they come. By the time he entered his 30s, Dravid was already in the pantheon of great Indian batsmen, alongside Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar.
In October 2005, he was appointed captain the one-day side, began with a thumping 6-1 hammering of Sri Lanka in a home series, and was soon given responsibility of the Test side as well, taking over from the controversy-shrouded Sourav Ganguly. While his captaincy stint started encouragingly with ODI victories against Pakistan and England, it soon nosedived with an embarrassing defeat against Bangladesh which led to an early exit from the 2007 World Cup. As a Test team, though, India had plenty to celebrate under Dravid, winning their first Test in South Africa and achieving two historic away series wins in the West Indies and England. Dravid stepped down from the captaincy after the 2007 England tour. A poor run in a one-day series at home against Australia saw Dravid dropped from the subsequent series against Pakistan. As he waited for the Tests to begin, Dravid notched up two centuries, one a double, in consecutive Ranji Trophy games for his state side, Karnataka.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Has the wall fallen?

Has the Wall fallen as far as One Day Internationals go? Two months ago he was the Indian Captain. Now, he doesn't even find a place in the selectors best 15. His average in the last 10 games was just 8.88. But then many have done worse and been treated better, including, many would argue, Virender sehwag who's back! So why was Dravid dropped from the first two one-dayers against Pakistan?Till a few weeks ago, he was a leader par excellence and Mr Dependable when it came to his batting. However, Rahul Dravid is facing perhaps the worst crisis of his cricketing career.On Saturday, he was left out of India's 15-member squad for the first two ODIs against Pakistan. But the manner of his axing has left many unhappy."We're not going in for a rotation policy. But if we feel any cricketer is jaded and needs rest, he will be dropped," said Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of selectors.This comment from the Vengsarkar two days before the team was picked for the first two one-day games against Pakistan was an indication of things to come. While questions on Dravid's one-day future had already been raised - when he sat out of the final game against Australia - it seemed unlikely that a man who has over 10,000 runs in one-day cricket would be dropped from a high-pressure series against Pakistan. However, sources say Dravid, who 45 days ago was captain of India is paying the price for an ego clash with Vengsarkar, a man with whom he has shared an increasingly troubled relationship. The final straw being Dravid's decision to inform BCCI President Sharad Pawar of his decision to resign from captaincy without keeping Vengsarkar in the loop. Sources say that at the selection committee meeting in Ahmedabad when a selector suggested making a courtesy call to Dravid, Vengsarkar's response was: "Why should we call him? Did he bother to inform the selection committee before he resigned as captain?"So Dravid's ouster did not take more than 5-10 minutes of the 45-minute meeting. And while another former captain Sourav Ganguly may well be next on the chopping block, Dravid's poor performance in six matches against Australia - where he averaged around 10 - provided Vengsarkar with more than enough ammunition for the unceremonious ouster. The official version, however, was that Dravid needed to regain form and fitness. "He needs to work on his form. He will play for the state and then we will see. We've chosen the best available team. We also have to think of people who can field well," said Vengsarkar. If cricketing logic were to be applied, the man who averaged 40 in the World Cup, 64 against Bangladesh and 37 recently against England seems to have been dropped for six ordinary outings. But as one national selector told NDTV shortly after the 45-minute meeting on Saturday, "there is no cricketing logic to this decision".

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dravid's Retirement From Captainship:

Team India cricketer Rahul Dravid has offered to step down as captain of the Indian cricket team. "I have nothing to say as of now," Dravid told the news channel Times Now . According to reports, Dravid met BCCI President Sharad Pawar on September13 and expressed his desire to step down as captain. Dravid also said that he needn't be captain for the upcoming Australia series. Meanwhile, sources close to the BCCI have revealed that Sachin Tendulkar is likely to be offered the reins of the both ODIs and Tests sides. BCCI’s Prof. Ratnakar Shetty confirmed Dravid’s offer to resign as skipper of Team India. Shetty told Times Now , “I can say that it did come as a surprise. He will play Australia Test and ODI series” “It’s for selectors to pick Dravid’s successors,” added Shetty. Nevertheless, Dravid told BCCI that he will always be available as batsman for Team India. Dravid’s resignation has come as a surprise to the cricket fraternity. Sourav Ganguly expressed shock on his resignation. Team India manager Chandu Borde also said that there was no prior indication of Dravid’s resignation. Former Indian cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi too expressed shock to Dravid’s resignation. Bedi said, “I hope this is not a desperate move to get out of responsibility.” “I hope Dravid has considered the pros and cons before resigning,” he added. The BCCI will make the big decision to decide on Dravid’s successor on September 18. Rajiv Shukla, BCCI vice-president, said there are quite a few options available. Shukla said the board respects Dravid’s decision. Although Dravid had offered to step down after the 2007 World Cup, his batting came under scrutiny during the recently concluded England tour.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Batsmen let Dravid down:Interview Of Gundappa Viswanath

If there is one cricketer who continues to be respected and revered long after his playing days, he is Gundappa Viswanath.
The original 'Little Master' of Indian cricket, whose artistic, aesthetic and elegant batsmanship bordered on the sublime, was the last gentleman cricketer, all factors considered.
It was said, and continues to be, that Vishy, as he is affectionately known the world over, is such a gentle, noble person that he wouldn't even hurt a fly, let alone speak ill about an individual. But India's shocking ouster from the World Cup has not only disappointed this cheerful, humble soul, but also made him criticise our players.
In a rare interview with Haresh Pandya, Viswanath discusses India's disastrous campaign in the Caribbean.
Your comments on the performance of Team India, which was billed as one of the semi-finalists in the ongoing World Cup...
I don't want to make any comment. If our players play like this, I really feel I shouldn't make any comment on them or their performance.
Your tone indicates that you are very upset by India's shocking exit from the World Cup, even before the Super Eight round.
As a former India player, humbly proud of having represented my country in an era when the game wasn't at all engulfed by the crass commercialism of today, I must admit I'm not just upset but extremely hurt by the way this team has brought humiliation to the nation. It's the most pathetic performance imaginable. Is this a way to play cricket at the international level? Even we had not played that badly in the first two World Cups, despite the fact that we had very little or no experience of one-day cricket. I'm sure many must have been disillusioned about our present players.
What do you think could be the reasons behind India's shoddy performance and shocking defeats at the hands of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka?
What's the point discussing such things now? No point crying over spilled water. I think each and every member of the Indian team should indulge in some sort of introspection. So much media hype was built around our players long before the first ball was bowled in the World Cup. Did they become victims of the media hype? I don't know. When you play at the international level and compete in as prestigious an event as World Cup, you should be mentally strong to handle any sort of hype and pressure.
Don't you think the BCCI may ask Rahul Dravid to step down or directly dismiss him from the captaincy in the wake of what his team has done in the Caribbean?
Dravid's captaincy has nothing to do with India's ouster from the World Cup in the preliminary round itself. It's not his fault. We lost to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka not due to his captaincy. It's his batsmen who let him down. What can a captain, howsoever astute, do in such a situation?
Agreed, sir, but don't you think the reins of Team India should now be given to a younger captain?
Where's the right candidate? You've to groom a captain, you've to give him time to be mentally prepared for the most difficult job in Indian cricket. You can't pitchfork someone into the cauldron of captaincy and begin to expect positive results. But first of all, let him, whoever he may be, prove to have what it takes to lead the Indian team.
Don't you think India has had enough of foreign coaches?
If you're talking about Greg Chappell, well, the BCCI has already hinted at his replacement. And even if his contract is renewed, I don't think the Aussie will like to coach this team. I'm told Sandeep Patil's name is being tossed about as a likely replacement.
Who do you think should coach the national team, a foreigner or an Indian?
What difference does it make? What can a coach do, whether he is from India or abroad, if our players continue to perform the way they did in the World Cup? Cricket is a team sport and each and every player has to contribute for the success of his team. Your coach can only guide you, advise you; he can't go out and even play for you.
Do you think there should be drastic changes in Team India in the aftermath of its World Cup debacle?
I think there should be at least some changes. In fact, the BCCI has already hinted at what you call drastic changes. But you can't drop all the players together. You've to be careful about the exclusion as well as inclusion of some particular players.
What have you to say about Sachin Tendulkar's performance in the World Cup? He has already announced that he is keen to play in the 2011 World Cup as well...
Let's not blame Tendulkar or any other individual player. It's a collective failure of the entire Indian team, particularly its batsmen, to deliver when the moment came. If Tendulkar is still enthusiastic, fit and in form, who can stop him from playing in the next World Cup? But he has to show the kind of form and consistency he is famous for.
What is your reaction to the treatment meted out to a senior player like Anil Kumble?
This hasn't happened with him the first time. In the last World Cup, too, he had been relegated to a mere passenger. Is this a way to treat a great player who has rendered long and loyal services to the country? How can you afford to leave him out in a crucial match? I'm not surprised that he has already announced his retirement from one-day cricket.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is Ganguly the new Dravid or Dravid the new Ganguly?

Rahul Dravid reaches 200 against England on Day Four, a single-handed contribution to help India save the match and series after Michael Vaughan’s 195 helps his side score a mammoth 515.August 10, 2007 at The Oval: India are tottering at 3/11, Rahul Dravid at the crease takes 60 balls to score three runs when Sourav Ganguly walks out to play an astonishingly beautiful knock of 57. India begin to score and eventually set a target of 500 for England. Game drawn, series won.
BACK in 2002, Dravid’s dream run triggered India’s most remarkable streak with Ganguly at the helm. Riding on the away high, Ganguly’s men drew the series in Australia and defeated Pakistan. Post England, Dravid too faces the same rivals in Tests — Pakistan at home and Australia away, and that brings up the question: Can he match up to Ganguly’s record? Or like in England, will he break new grounds?Despite all the expected — though unsubstantiated — tales of intrigue that inevitably crop up when past and present captains are in the same team, scoreboards suggest the two share a symbiotic relationship. If Dravid was the Fab-est of the Four during the England tour in 2002, Ganguly gets the same honour in 2007. And the irony is hard to miss as one realises that the present captain’s vital navigator on the tough journey ahead has to be the former captain.While the depleted Pakistan team at home under a new coach would provide a preliminary test for Dravid & Co, it is the end of the year tour to Australia that happens to be on top of Dravid’s mind. “Australia provides a platform where every international cricketer wants to stamp his impression. We did well the last time around and I am looking forward to it once again,” says Dravid.Barring the age factor, now that the seniors are five years older, the 2002 tour party to Australia is quite similar to 2007 (Then and Now, right). The last time India toured Australia; Ganguly, along with Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman formed the core of Indian batting. For Dravid, the likes of Tendulkar and Laxman are still around, though they average 41 and 33, respectively, in Tests as compared to the enormous figures of 53 and 42 they could boast of five years back. Ganguly’s return to the Indian team after a one-year struggle puts him in the bracket of being India’s most confident performer at the moment. And he happens to be the mightiest performer in the middle-order during the England Test series — second after opener Dinesh Kaarthick for the England tour.But most importantly, it is his serene mental state that makes the post-comeback Ganguly different. The disarming smile on being given out lbw after edging the ball at The Oval after yet another 50-plus score showed that it was time Prince Snooty needed a name change. Among the new names being proposed are Mr Cool and Mr Consistent. Times have certainly changed.Ask Ganguly about the turnaround and he tries his hand at modesty — another new-found trait. “Nothing special, I was getting to time the ball well, so it was kind of enjoyable. Yes, it’s nice that it came at a time when the side needed it,” he says. But press more and he opens up. “I have always liked England, the sense of comfort it provides. To add to that, travelling is easy. You feel nice here and it’s easier to concentrate just on your game. As far as scoring runs are concerned, I’m happy the way it’s gone,” he adds.But it is the mention of Australia that excites him. “Australia would definitely be a good place to go and give your best. It challenges you and this victory will also boost the team’s morale,” he says.Though there happen to be quite a few similarities between the Dravid and Ganguly eras, the big difference has been the performance at the World Cup. But with the 1-0 series win after 21 years in England — Ganguly drew 1-1 — Dravid has made amends and is now on the road to recovery. “I’m sure we’ve given something (the England win) to people back home, especially after a poor stint at the World Cup. There was a lot of expectation from this team and we’re happy to have delivered,” says Dravid.Given the victory over England, the Indian captain doesn’t just need to rely on words. Performances have been equally good — India totalling close to 2000 runs in six innings, breaking several records at The Oval and out of form players finding their lost touch.With Ganguly among those on second wind, Dravid is just getting back what he gave to his former skipper. In case Ganguly matches up to Dravid’s batting heroics in Australia, they might even start calling him The Wall.
After drawing the 2002 series in England, India followed it up by holding Australia and beating Pakistan. Post-England, Rahul Dravid too faces the same rivals. Comparing the present bunch to the Class of 2003-04In 2003-04Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly scored a mammoth 2244 between themselves. Dravid remained the top run-getter with 619 runs, more than 125 runs ahead of the second best Laxman who totalled 494 runs. It was an in-form Sehwag opening the innings that also helped, his ability to score at a strike rate of 80 and at the other end, a gritty Aakash Chopra refusing to give his wicket to the frustrated Aussies.Ganguly set the trend with 144 in the first Test at Gabba, that caught the Australians off guard. In the last Test, Tendulkar came up with an unbeaten mammoth 241 in Sydney, a match that India should have won but eventually drew.Among the bowlers, Anil Kumble collected 24 wickets from four Tests. Among medium-pacers, it was Ajit Agarkar who snared 16. It was a time when Ganguly got to know more about the other bowlers who would serve him in the next couple of years — Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra. The two collected four wickets each while Zaheer claimed five.
In 2007Opener Dinesh Kaarthick was the highest scorer in the series against England with 263 runs, followed by Ganguly and Tendulkar. Kaarthick and Jaffer have done exceptionally well since the tour of South Africa and Dravid should be looking forward to the two helping him do what Chopra and Sehwag achieved in Australia.While Sehwag’s return isn’t certain yet, India can draw immense hope from the way Mahendra Singh Dhoni provided solidity to the middle-order. The unbeaten 76 at Lord’s and the swashbuckling 92 at Trent Bridge showed both facets of Dhoni — that he could bat sensibly and let himself loose.Anil Kumble is in fine form, the way he’d been during the Australia tour. Kumble scalped 14 wickets against England while Zaheer Khan turned out to be the bowler of the series with 18 wickets. What Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra did for Ganguly in Australia, RP Singh (12 wickets) and S Sreesanth (9) can do for Dravid now.

A Dravid decade:

It's been a career filled with so many landmarks, that Rahul Dravid nearly forgot about the significance of June 20, 2006. Not until someone in the press reminded him, did he realise that he'd just completed ten years as a Test cricketer. It's been an unforgettable journey since that glorious day at Lord's in 1996, the likes of which Indian cricket might not see in a long time.
Dravid looked back at the phase with satisfaction, talking about how fortunate he was to have got this far. "I've been able to do what I love for ten years at such a high level, at a level that's given me great satisfaction" he told Cricinfo while tending to Samit, his baby boy. "I've played with and against some of the great players in the world, for ten years. What more can you ask for? To be able to make my hobby into a career for ten years is fantastic."
The moment it all started was fresh in Dravid's memory. "It was very special to make my Test debut at Lord's, walking out there and representing your country for the first time. Playing Test cricket was something I wanted to do all my life and it's been great to fulfill so many of my dreams."
It's been a rise like few others, from a young boy whose first instinct was to leave the ball to a most complete batsman who can hit, and hit well. Even more, it's been a transformation of the person: "I've changed as a person and as a cricketer. Just the experiences I have gained over ten years - played in different conditions, travelled the world, met different people. I have experienced so many things in these ten years; I have experienced success, I have experienced failure - all that has obviously had an impact on me as a person and as a cricketer. I hope it has been in a positive way but more importantly for me, it has been an enjoyable ten years."
Dravid's achievements hardly need chronicling, but one of his most significant might be that of scoring runs in all conditions, all countries, against all attacks. Greg Chappell, India's coach, highlighted that point. "It is an indication of his ability, of his physical strength, his skills, his mental strength. From a mental point of view, he's one of the toughest cricketers I've met."
It's a point of view that many of Dravid's team-mates endorse. "I have seen many cricketers but no-one with as much concentration," said Harbhajan Singh. "Apart from that, it's amazing how he's lifted his game in the last four years. He went from a good player to a great player. You learn a lot by watching him, realise why he is doing this or that. He's a very good thinker of the game, talks very well on the game. Thinks ahead always - if we do this now, that may happen in the evening session. It's a lot of fun discussing cricket with Dravid."
It would need several reams to fill Dravid's achievements but the last five years will occupy a special place for him. "The last five or six years have been the period when I have been the most involved and the most enjoyable part of it. The way the team rebuilt after the Test in Karachi [going on to win the one-day series earlier this year] is probably my best moment as a captain."
Dravid will undoubtedly go on to break several more barriers but nobody can forget the moment that set the whole process off. His 95 on debut confirmed that he belonged in this arena but his decision to walk when he feathered an edge off Chris Lewis to Jack Russell behind the stumps proved that he was there to stay. He'd side-stepped the first hurdle but no bowler, wicketkeeper or umpire was going to stop him from clearing several more.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Dravid the nice guy:

With Rahul Dravid appointed captain for the next two series it looks as though Sourav Ganguly, the so-called "Prince of Calcutta", has made way for one of the game's nice guys.
Ganguly helped turn India from under-achievers into a competitive outfit, but Dravid's appointment suggests a new style of leadership.
The haughty Ganguly appeared, from the outside at least, to be an autocratic leader, while former team-mates of Dravid expect his style to be markedly different.
"I expect he will make a very good captain and I'm not sure why it's taken so long (for him to become India captain)," David Fulton, who played alongside Dravid for Kent in 2000, told BBC Sport.
"People have their own opinions on Ganguly - I'm not Ganguly's biggest fan personally - but I think Rahul is much more of a team player.
Rahul has a real inner steel to him
Former team-mate David Fulton
"He's a gentleman. He's softly spoken, intelligent and very humble and he took a real interest in everybody in the Kent team. He's just a fantastic bloke."
Fulton's view on Dravid is echoed by current Scotland captain Craig Wright, who played Totesport League cricket with Dravid two years ago.
"He's one of the nicest people I've met in the game. He's a very loyal person and I wish him all the best. I think he'll do a great job," Wright told BBC Sport.
"I've never met Ganguly but Rahul is certainly a different character to how Ganguly comes across.
"Rahul is quite a relaxed character. I think he'll talk to people and perhaps be one of these captains who likes to lead by example.
"I think he'll be very much focused on the team approach."
But Dravid's easy-going nature can be deceptive - he is also resilient and brave.

Ganguly supporters are not impressed by the decision to axe him as captain
"I remember him playing Andy Caddick at Bath, when there was a bit of a ridge," said Fulton.
"Caddick was hitting all of us on the gloves and he batted and I think got 90.
"He was there for what seemed like hours, fending it off and battling, and he has that side to his game as well - it's not all wristy shots and effortless grace, he has a real inner steel to him as well."
You need more than just a winning smile to play a remarkable 91 Tests in a row, as Dravid has.
The 32-year-old has already led them as a stand-in captain with mixed results in five Tests and 17 ODIs, but he will be under enormous pressure as India's full-time captain.
The Times of India wrote: "Only two jobs are of any consequence in India. The prime minister's and the cricket captain's."
And in a country of a billion cricket crazy people there have already been signs of unrest, with angry fans in Ganguly's hometown of Calcutta burning an effigy of chief selector Kiran More.
What is not in doubt is Dravid's ability as a cricketer and his standing among his fellow players.
The cliche may have it that nice guys finish last, but don't bet against Dravid succeeding in probably the toughest job in the game.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dravid's Best ODI Innings:

1.India vs Pakistan in Pakistan.
In 5 match series,Indians were lagging behind 1-2.It was a do-or-die situation for Indians.Pakistan managed to score big total of 293 runs in 50 overs.In response,Indians were struggling at 94/4 in 13.0 overs.Dravid's 76* with Kaif(71) won the match for India.
In the end,Indians won the series 3-2.

2.India vs NewZealand in 1998-99.
It was 1st ODI in the 5 match series.Indians chose to bat first and it was bad start with Sachin gone for duck.Dravid played a superb knock of 123 runs adding 113 runs with Ganguly.After Ganguly's dismissal,he took Indians to a safe total of 257 in 50 overs.It was really a good knock from Dravid considering the bounce and swing in the wicket.
Though India lost the match,that innings is still counted as one of his best innings.

Dravid's Best Test Innings:

1.India vs Australia at Adelaide,AustraliaAustralians managed to score 556 runs in 1st innings because of splendid performances by Ricky Ponting(242 runs),Simon Katich(75 runs) and Justin Langer(58 runs).It was a tough task in front of Indians.Indians started confidently but Bichel reduced them struggling at 85/4.This was a true test for Dravid and Laxman.They changed the game with a great partnership of 303 runs.In the end Indians managed to score 523 runs,Dravid scoring 233.In 2nd innings,Agarkar took 6 wickets to restrict Australians at 196 runs.Indians managed to chase the target successfully because of Dravid's 72* runs not out.Indians won their 1st match ever in Australia against the home team.

2.India vs West Indies at Kingston,Jamaica.The Sabina Park pitch was totally helpful for bowlers.Dravid took Indians to a respectable total of 200 after the score of 91/6.Dravid scored 81 runs.Indian bowlers bowled superbly to reduce West Indies at 103/10.In 2nd innings,it was Dravid again to take Indians to safe score of 171,Dravid scoring 68.Chasing the target of 268,West Indies just managed to score 219 runs.Indians won the series 1-0.

3.India vs Pakistan at Rawalpindi1st innings:Pakistan 224 all out.(Balaji 19-4-63-4)India 600 all out.(Dravid 270)2nd innings:Pakistan 245 all out.Indians won the series 2-1.

Achievements As Captain:

~Rahul Dravid led India to a historic Test series win, against the West Indies in their home soil in 2006. Since 1971, India had never won a Test series in the West Indies. This is also their first prominent series win outside the Indian subcontinent (barring the win against Zimbabwe in 2005) since 1986.
~Under Dravid's captaincy the Indian team tied the previous record of most consecutive One-Day International wins for an Indian team thus equalling the record run that the Indian team had achieved under Sourav Ganguly in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
~During his captaincy the Indian team broke the 14 match West Indies record for most consecutive won matches in One-Day Internationals while chasing a total. For this 17 match run, Dravid was the captain for 15 matches and Sourav Ganguly was the captain for the other two. This streak was broken on 5/20/06, when India lost to the West Indies by one run, at Sabina Park, Jamaica.
~Rahul Dravid is the first captain to lead India to a Test match victory against South Africa on South African soil.
~He became only the third captain from India to win a Test series in England. This feat was achieved after 21 years. The other two captains being Kapil Dev (1986) and Ajit Wadekar (1971).


1999 - Ceat Cricketer of the 1999 World Cup
2000 - Wisden Cricketer of the Year 2000
2004 - Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy
2004 - Padma Shri
2004 - ICC Player of The Year
2004 - ICC Test Player of The Year

Dravid Criticism:

~One of Dravid's most debated decisions was taken in March 2004, when he was standing in as captain for an injured Sourav Ganguly. The Indian first innings was declared at a point when Sachin Tendulkar was at 194 with 16 overs remaining on Day 2.
~Rahul Dravid has had a mixed record when leading India in Tests. India lost the Karachi Test in 2006, giving Pakistan the series 1-0. In March 2006, India lost the Mumbai Test, giving England its first Test victory in India since 1985, enabling Flintoff's men to draw the series 1-1. While the loss in Karachi could be put down to several Indian batsmen playing badly, the defeat in Mumbai was arguably the result of Dravid's decision to bowl first on a flat dry pitch which later deteriorated and ended with an Indian collapse in the run chase.
~After India failed to qualify for the Finals of the DLF Cup, Indian skipper Rahul Dravid was criticised by former all-rounder Ravi Shastri who said that he was not assertive enough and let Greg Chappell make too many decisions. When asked for a response, Dravid said that Shastri, while a 'fair critic', was 'not privy' to the internal decision-making process of the team.
~Under his captaincy, India exited from the World Cup in the first round itself.

Backbone Of Team India:

With a strong technique, he has been the backbone for the Indian cricket team. Beginning with the reputation of being a defensive batsman who should be confined to Test cricket, he was dropped from ODIs as he was slow in making runs. Of late, however, Rahul Dravid has defied early perceptions to become the mainstay of the Indian batting line-up in ODIs as well as in Tests. His nickname of 'The Wall' in Reebok advertisements has now become a tribute to his consistency. Dravid has scored 23 centuries in Test cricket at an average of 58.75, including 5 double centuries. In one-dayers though he has an average of 40.05, and a strike rate of 70.70. He is one of the few Indians who average more at away matches than at home, averaging over 10 more runs a match abroad than on Indian pitches. As of 9 August, 2006, Dravid's average in overseas Tests stood at 65.28 as against his overall Test average of 58.75, and his average for away ODI stands at 42.03 as against overall ODI average of 40.05. In matches that India has won, Dravid averages 78.72 in Tests and 53.40 in ODIs.

International Career:

Dravid had a disappointing start to his career making his debut in one-dayers against Sri Lankan cricket team in the Singer Cup in Singapore immediately after World Cup in March 1996, replacing Vinod Kambli. Subsequently he was dropped from the team until he was picked again for the tour of England when Sanjay Manjrekar was injured.With Manjrekar sidelined, he then made his debut in the Second Test against England along with Sourav Ganguly, scoring 95 . He held his position on Manjrekar's return for the Third Test, scoring 84 . After moderate home series against Australia and South Africa, Dravid broke through on the 1996-97 tour of South Africa. He batted at No. 3 in the third Test in Johannesburg, scoring his maiden century with 148 and 81, the top score in each innings to claim his first man of the match award . He also finally made his first half-century against Pakistan in the Sahara Cup in 1996, scoring 90 in his 10th ODI.In the 18 months ending in mid-1998, he played in an away series against the West Indies, home and away series against Sri Lanka and a home series against Australia, he scored consistently, with 964 runs at an average of 56.7. He scored eleven half-centuries but was unable to convert them to triple figures. He scored his second century in late 1998 against Zimbabwe in a one-off Test match, top-scoring in both innings with 148 and 44, but was unable to prevent an Indian defeat. He then became the third Indian batsman after Vijay Hazare and Sunil Gavaskar to score centuries in both innings of a match during the 1999 New Year's Test match against New Zealand with 190 and 103* to force a draw, batting for a total of 653 minutes. He had a moderate subcontinental season in early 1999, scoring 269 runs at 38.42 with one century before scoring 239 at 39.8 including a century against New Zealand in late 1999. This was followed by a poor away series against Australia and another poor home series against South Africa, accumulating just 187 runs at an average of 18.7. He then scored 200*, his first double century, against Zimbabwe in Delhi which along with 70* in the second innings helped India to victory. It was the first time he had passed 50 in 12 months and he followed this with a 162 in the following Test, giving him 432 runs in the two match series at an average of 432.

Early Days of Dravid'sCareer:

Having started to play cricket at the age of 12, Rahul played at the state level at the under-15, under-17 and under-19 level. Rahul first came to prominence whilst attending a summer coaching camp at the Chinnaswamy Stadium where his talents were spotted by former cricketer Keki Tarapore who was coaching at the clinic. He went on to score a century on debut for his school team. Along with the batting, he was keeping wickets. However, he later stopped keeping wickets on advice from former Test players Gundappa Vishwanath, Roger Binny, Brijesh Patel and Tarapore.He was selected to make his Ranji Trophy debut in February 1991 against Maharashtra in Pune (while still attending college at St. Joseph's College of Commerce in Bangalore), alongside future Indian teammates Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, scoring 82 in a drawn match after batting in the No. 7 position. His first full season was in 1991-92, when he scored two centuries to finish with 380 runs at an average of 63.3 , and was selected for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy, for whom he has been subsequently chosen annually.

Dravid's ODI Records:

  • Rahul Dravid is the 3rd Indian (6th in World) to score more than 10,000 ODI runs.

Partnership Records

  • The only batsman to have been involved in two ODI partnerships exceeding 300 runs.
  • First batsman to be involved in a 300 run partnership in a Cricket World Cup along with Sourav Ganguly in the 1999 World Cup match against Sri Lanka at Taunton.
  • Involved in all three highest 4th wicket partnerships against South Africa, two with Yuvraj Singh.
  • Involved in the highest partnership in the history of ODI cricket with a 331 run partnership along with Sachin Tendulkar vs New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1999-2000.

World Cup Records

  • He was the leading run scorer in the 1999 World Cup with 461 runs.
  • Has the 2nd highest score (145) by a wicketkeeper in a World Cup behind AC Gilchrist(149).
  • He was only the second wicketkeeper-batsman after Zimbabwean Dave Houghton to score an ODI hundred in the World Cup.
  • He was the second batsman after Mark Waugh to score back-to-back hundreds in the World Cup

Captaincy Records

  • He is tied with Sachin Tendulkar in fourth place for having captained India in the most victorious matches

Other Records

  • Has the record of not being dismissed on duck for 120 consecutive ODI matches
  • 3rd Highest number of fifties, after Sachin Tendulkar (93) and Inzamam Ul Haq (83).he is Indian wall

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dravid with Shekhar Gupta (Interview):Part 1:

• Before we talk about other things, let me tell you one factoid. In nearly 200 episodes of Walk the Talk, you are only the second guest to be repeated. You know who the first one was? Mr Advani.
So that makes me in very good company. I am honoured.

• But it also tells us that cricket is something we take seriously, second only to politics.
Sometimes I think too seriously.

• Politics or cricket?
Cricket! Politics, we must take seriously. We probably don’t take it seriously enough.

• Why do you say we take cricket too seriously?
I mean there is so much emotion and passion involved in the game that I think we tend to forget sometimes that it’s just a game and that winning and losing are part of the game, so long as your team, your country’s team, tries its best. It is a sport, and people should enjoy it for the sport that it is. There are good performances on both sides — both teams come there to play cricket and they play good cricket. Sometimes I think people take it too personally. Sometimes I think people feel that it’s almost a personal insult if the team loses. And it’s the same way when we win — they can get so excited and so happy that sometimes it can get a bit too much.

• I like what your coach Greg Chappell said the other day; he was talking to an Australian paper, I think, and he said working with these guys is like escorting the Beatles. You go to the airport and you have 50,000 people lining the streets. It’s wonderful.
It is. I must say it’s a privilege to play for India, it’s an honour. Sometimes I look around and I see how lucky I am to be able to play this game and to play it well enough to be able to represent my country for the time I have. The Indian fans are the best fans in the world. The kind of reception we get, they are demanding, there’s no doubt about it.

• And they are unforgiving.
They are unforgiving but you must realise that the Indian fan today is running world cricket; make no mistake about that.

• And that is why this is the richest part of the cricketing world right now, isn’t it?
It is. I think it’s where the financing of world cricket is. I wouldn’t say completely, but definitely a major part of world cricket today is being run by Indian companies. Part of that is also the result of our economy and the growth we have seen over the last ten or fifteen years. Just the success that is India is being reflected in the cricketing world as well.

• But Rahul, something else. You said Indian crowds are tough, they are demanding. But being booed by your own people, a stadium full of your own people, the way you were in Calcutta... I remember speaking once with Sunil Gavaskar once many years ago, in 1983, the last time, I think, until now, that an Indian team played an international match in Srinagar. And the team was booed and the crowd supported the West Indies, and, in fact, Gavaskar mentioned that it was the fastest he’d seen anybody bowl, Malcolm Marshall in Srinagar. The combined effect, how does it work on your mind? I know that many players who went to Srinagar then came back scarred from that experience, having an Indian crowd take a position against you from the moment the first ball is bowled.
To be honest, Shekhar, I’m not the first Indian captain to be booed on an Indian ground, and I won’t be the last. I have played under four or five captains, and I have seen all of them at various times, at various grounds.

• But this was for non-cricketing reasons.
I was lucky not to be on the boundary. Some of the things the boys heard on the boundary line was not nice. But, you know, having said that, we didn’t play well on the day. People were upset; there was a variety of reasons for why they were upset, some of it was legitimate, some of it not. There is no point getting into that. I think as an international sportsman you have got to accept these things sometimes. People are upset, you haven’t played well as a team, people are emotional. Like I said, I am not going to be the last. People are demanding, but they are very loving as well.

• Let me give you Kapil Dev’s regional theory of Indian cricket. He says, if you look at the West, it’s all talent, very little hard work. If you look at the South, a lot of talent, a lot of hard work. If you look at the North, some talent, loads of hard work. Then, he says, if you somehow get it all together, go East, go to Calcutta and perform, because you get 100 per cent adulation. To get abused in Calcutta, then, must be particularly galling. You have had one of your great appearances for India there.
I have always done really well in Calcutta. I mean, the experience of playing with Laxman that day. And six months before I went there for the last game, I’d got a hundred in each innings to win a game against Pakistan. To win a Test for India against Pakistan and score a hundred in each innings is very special. I love playing in Eden Gardens, it’s a great venue. That will never change. I am going to love going back and playing at that venue.

• Talking about Pakistan, Rahul, what do you take to Pakistan? What have you learned, what memories of the last tour do you take to Pakistan now?
I take back some very fond memories, both on and off the field. On the field, we were the first team to win a series in Pakistan. Personally, it was a good series for me, both the one-days and Tests. Just meeting people, making friends... I have some very good memories of that trip. It was a very different time when we went last time, we hadn’t been there for 13-14 years and there was a bit of apprehension. But we really had a lovely time.

• Were you surprised by the way the team did?
I wasn’t very surprised because, to be honest, we’d just come back from a very good tour of Australia.

Monday, October 1, 2007

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Dravid with Shekhar Gupta (Interview):Part 2:

• But we had heard the same talk as we hear now: Shoaib Akhtar, Sami, Kaneria, home pitches, home advantage.
You will hear these things all the time, Shekhar. The talk before a series has not changed in the nine years that I have been playing this game and probably never will.

• But there’s this feeling that it’s Pakistani bowling versus Indian batting. Our batting, as we’ve seen lately, has shown some change. We were nearly exposed by South Africa, we were exposed in at least one match by Sri Lanka.
We have a good batting line-up and that’s been our strength, there’s no doubt about it. Over the last four-five years, we’ve had a group of players who have come together and played probably some of their best cricket as batsmen. Whether you look at what Sachin’s done or Sehwag, Laxman, Sourav... I mean, all four or five of us have got together and played probably some of our best cricket at this point of time.

• But right now there’s a patchiness.
There is a certain amount of patchiness to it, but there’s some quality to it as well. And that will be a key part of the series. Our batting coped really well with their bowling the last time. Veeru got about three hundred, Sachin nearly got a double hundred, I got a double hundred. We can repeat that.

• But you have got a much better tail now, a much shorter and better tail.
I think one of the challenges for me as a captain and for us as the team management is how do we get the best out of our players, how do we make them improve not only as players but also as individuals, how do they grow. I think that by giving them different challenges, different opportunities, we are seeing that not only are they relishing it, they are also growing and becoming better cricketers. That’s the goal.

• Rahul, talking about that last series, you talked about your double hundred, Sehwag’s triple hundred and Sachin’s near-double hundred. A question about that. I mean, questions have been raised about when you declared and why. Have you thought about it? Or did you think at that point that an individual’s double hundred wasn’t that important?
Well, I was never sure that the Test was going to finish on the fifth morning like it did. I mean, it finished 80 overs before the end of the day and if I had known that we were going to have that much time, I would not have declared at that point of time. But, I was not privy to that knowledge and I wanted to have a crack at the Pakistani batsmen that evening. That’s what I felt would give us the best chance to win that match and we were in a position to. It was Sachin’s knock and Veeru’s knock that had actually got us into that position. I think there again a lot was made out of it. Sachin and I have respected and known each other for so long and we get along really well. Between us, the issue was sorted out as quickly as possible; we spoke about it and what we said is obviously something that will remain personal. I really admire and respect him and appreciate the way he handled not only that episode but a lot of things in his life.

• I remember in that very innings when he was bowling and he (got) Moin Khan... the joy on his face and you suddenly realised that there was no pain of having missed the double hundred.
Like I said, I have been very privileged and lucky in my career and one of the joys has been being able to play with cricketers like Tendulkar and Kumble and Srinath, Sourav Ganguly and now Sehwag and Harbhajan. These are players who are and will be great players.

• Rahul, let’s talk about captaincy. It is often believed that a player’s own attitude to the game reflects in his captaincy. How do you define your own approach? I know your answer will be that you have had the job for too short a time.
That will be my answer, thank you! But I don’t think that the way you bat is necessarily the way you will captain. I think that’s a cliche. People say, oh, he’s an attacking player, so he’ll captain attackingly. Or, he’s a defensive player, so he’ll captain defensively. I think they are two different things. You bat according to your skill level, according to the way you know how to bat, the way you have grown up batting; and you captain according to the way you think about the game, according to the resources you have. I don’t think the two are related at all.

• But your own batting has evolved.
It has, over the last four or five years. I have played some of my best cricket in these years and I have grown up as a player and as a person.

• In fact, John Wright said you are fitter in your 30s than you were in your 20s.
That is probably true. I think the awareness of fitness has always been there, but it’s probably been more professional since 1999-2000. The game’s also become professional; the rewards for playing at this level are also huge.

• And how has the business of captaincy changed? How do you motivate players? Because this is a team of stars.
I don’t think I need to motivate people to play for India. I think people should be motivated to play for India, and they are. If you look around and see who are the great players that you’ve played with, you realise you have never needed to motivate them to play for India. Those are the kind of people you are looking for in a team. You are looking for people who not only motivate themselves but also inspire other people. I think the mistake you can make in teams is to club people who are not that keen, not that motivated, who don’t have the hunger to improve. And if you get them in an organisation or a team, with a group of motivated people who want to do something, you can end up demotivating the people who want to do something. You run a newspaper, and I think you’ll agree with me that in any team or any organisation, a few people, if they are not motivated and if they are not keen for the organisation to do well, they can demotivate the actually keen people. It is important to get those people out of the way.

• The difference is when we find people like that, if we wish to we can tell them to go. It doesn’t become a public story. It is not something on which one billion people have a say.
Well, the coach and I don’t have a say in everything. There is a chairman and five selectors who watch more domestic cricket than we do. A lot of the time I have not even seen some of the players the selectors are talking about.

• But tell me, Rahul, as a leader, if you saw a negative influence developing around somebody, now that you are captain, how would you deal with it?
I think there are two ways to deal with it. You either talk to the people involved and try and get them on track; and if you feel that people are demotivating other people in the team, and are not playing for the team, then you have got to take some hard decisions sometimes.

• Have you seen that happen?

• But people who bring in a brooding presence...
That’s not good in any team. What I’m saying is not rocket science. Anyone who brings a brooding presence, or anyone who doesn’t want to improve — I am not just saying that people need to be nice, but what I am saying is that people need to constantly improve. Because if they improve as individuals, the team grows with them. But if they stagnate, and if they don’t want to improve, then they bring down the whole team with them. So with people like that, obviously tough decisions have to be taken. But that’s international sport. And there are no tough decisions. What you are actually doing is you are making a decision that helps the majority.

Dravid with Shekhar Gupta (Interview):Part 3:

• Rahul, one of the problems many people see is that this is a team full of senior people and senior influences. In fact we saw in the Kotla match in Delhi, it looked as if Pathan was getting instructions from three different people, from you, Sourav, Sachin. I am sure even the wicketkeeper will start doing it soon.
I think you want to get as many people involved as possible. I take the final decision.

• You can’t captain by committee.
But you can take advice by committee. Finally the captain is at the end, and whatever decisions have to be taken, I have to take those. I don’t have all the knowledge in the world, I don’t have all the ideas about cricket, and I’m not fool enough to believe I have all that knowledge. I know that to be successful as a captain and as a team, I’ll have to get help from other people, whether it’s the coach, senior players, people outside the team as well. It is not a job you can do on your own. But in the end, the responsibility lies with me and I have to take the tough decision.

• But when the buck stops with you, you better have the power to take that final call.
It does. That what’s the challenge of leadership is all about.

• The last time we spoke, you said what India needs most of all is a wicketkeeper/batsman. You think that wish has been answered a bit now?
Well, Dhoni’s had a great start to his career. He has done really well, he’s got a fair distance to go. He has got what it takes. And the good thing to see is that there’s not only Dhoni, there’s Dinesh Karthik who’s done quite well, there’s Parthiv Patel.

• We suddenly have talent.
Yeah, we’ve got talent and they’ll push each other throughout their careers, they are about the same age. So that’s going to be very exciting for Indian cricket.

• But one area where we don’t see that much talent coming up is spin bowling, unfortunately. I mean, out on the bench.
That is true, probably. I haven’t had a chance to see what the domestic talent is, but even there, some of the senior players I talk to in domestic cricket, or coaches, tend to tell me the same thing, that there isn’t much spin bowling around. But all that can change.

• Tell me your thoughts now on the eve of your visit to Pakistan.
It is a great opportunity, a great challenge and a great team; it’s a great chance for this young team, I think, to grow and to take this as one step in the journey that we want to accomplish. And to enjoy it. I think that’s more important. What I want this team to do is to go and play good cricket, irrespective of the results.

• And what will decide this series? Is it bowlers, batsmen, umpires, pitches?
Discipline will decide the series.

• Would you like to elaborate on that?
Well, the team that’s going to be more disciplined, the team that’s going to find courage and character in critical times, is the one that’s probably going to decide the series.

• Is that what we had the last time we won in Pakistan?
We had that. We had people who put their hands up when it mattered. There were critical points in the game, and it was one of our players who was a match winner. That decided the series.