Ravi Shastri had said earlier that Rahul Dravid should assert himself more. This comment is more relevant now than ever before. For starters, Dravid should stop being influenced by the likes of Shastri himself. Opening with Viru (as Shastri had suggested at the end of Day 3) on the 4th day of the third Test against SA was a colossal mistake that ultimately caused India the match. Viru’s bad start (which has now become the norm) destroyed India’s chances whatsoever of putting up a big score.
More recently, one of the national selectors, criticized Dravid’s captaincy in the last Test. While the selector might have gone overboard by talking to the press, the sentiments expressed are not without merit. Though 211 is a small total to defend, it does not explain why Sachin and Viru were not used as bowlers on a turning track while Sreesanth and Zaheer leaked boundaries in the midst of their “good” deliveries.
Dravid is easily India’s most dependable batsman. As captain he is continuing to shoulder that responsibility. Dravid fails and the team fails. This has become the norm. Captaining the side and being the main stay for the team is a tall order. It can result in a lot of pressure, leaving little time to focus on getting the best out of the team. Just as Ganguly’s success as captain was shaped by the performances of Dravid, Sachin, and Viru. Dravid has yet to find others in the team who can get the job done with little or no assistance from him.
Unlike Dada who is an impulsive, aggressive and firm skipper, Dravid has shown to be a shrewd, thinking-type captain. Thus far, his approach has failed to inspire his team mates to produce, something Dada did well to do in the first few years of his captaincy. Unlike Dada, Dravid is a far more talented batsman. This means that he can more than likely step up to the plate when required and deliver. But first he should get his team mates to produce the best. Unfortunately, the reverse has been happening. Even after taking over the captain’s job, he has continued to try and lead from the front, so to speak. And when he fails his team mates have followed suit. Its time Dravid reversed roles and focused more on getting the best out of his team mates.
For starters, it might make sense for Dravid to seed the number 3 spot to VVS in Test matches. Likewise in ODIs he should consider dropping down the order (which he appears to be doing) in most matches. Its time Dravid made some tough calls especially related to fading stars in the team. Viru has had his chances. Dravid should no longer stick his neck out for him. Its time Viru is shown the door (no matter how badly backed by Gavaskar, Shastri, Shrikanth and other former players). Gambhir, Uthappa, Karthik, Dhoni are all worthy alternatives to take his ODI spot. It might make sense to rest Sachin for the next several games and perhaps bring him back for a couple of games before the world cup. Dada has returned to the Test side no doubt. He could still be on the ODI team for the World Cup without having to play these forthcoming matches. Dada doesn’t have to prove anything, does he? 🙂
The next several games leading up to the World Cup will set the stage for a defining phase in Dravid’s career as captain. He has tasted a continuous string of ODI successes, followed by a stretch of ODI failures. Apart from experimenting with a slew of youngsters (Raina, Yuvraj, Kaif, Dhoni, Karthik, Pathan, Gambhir, Uthappa), Dravid has had to contend with fading superstars like Viru and Sachin, and returning stars like Dada and Zaheer. Last but not the least, he has had to work with Chappell whose tumultuous rein has produced way too much controversy.
The time has come for Dravid to use his vast cricketing experience and make up his own mind, try not to be overly influenced by the Shastris and Shrikanths from the commentary box, identify the key players who can do the job for him in the World Cup and pick his own team so to speak. The next set of ODIs will be his last chance to unearth some new talent or finalize on existing players. If he ends up making the wrong calls, Dada might just return as captain after the World Cup.
p.s: A friend of mine compares Dravid’s elevation to captaincy as a case of the best software engineer being promoted to a Manager! This is a little too harsh at the moment considering that Dravid has had his fair share of success as captain. But if Dravid’s failures continue to mount, his captaincy could be a basket case for such studies and analogies!