Rahul Dravid has never been stressed as he is now in a distinguished career.
Cricket captaincy is likened to a poisoned chalice and Dravid is beginning to understand what it really means these past months.
To him it would it would akin to playing in a cursed dhoti.
So far his reign has been a bitter sweet experience. It started rather well, but in recent times the results have deteriorated to such an extent, India are already being deemed underdogs for the upcoming World Cup. This was the same World Cup, they placed second to Australia four years ago.
At the time Saurav Ganguly was captain. Dravid has since taken over and it would not be too surprising if another change is made by the time India take the field at Trinidad and Tobago’s Queens Park Oval for their opening Group B match.
In the interim Sachin Tendulkar was surprisingly pushed into the mix. He is now India’s new vice captain, which is a clear indication the Board for Cricket Control of India (BCCI) is weighing its options before the big event.
An official explained that Sachin is being called upon to help guide Dravid, which however, should hardly carry water with anyone, more so the current captain himself.
If anything, coach Greg Chappell should be the resource called on to lend any helping hand.
Sachin is a genius player as his batting has proven over the years. And if anyone follows his bowling closely, it will reveal that aspect of his game is very much part of the package that exemplifies his gift for the sport.
After 17 years in the sport Tendulkar has become an underrated, capable spin bowler who can turn the ball both ways.
If anything, Dravid can be faulted for not using him more often especially in the shorter form of the game.
Yet Sachin should not be the one burdened with any type of leadership role now. He was once the captain and relinquished it because it affected his individual game. Instead the great man should be allowed to concentrate fully on his batting the remainder of his career — ride out the sunset days without any undue pressure, like his great contemporary Brian Lara should be doing too.
Chappell enjoyed an exemplary career as a batsman and captain. He knows what it takes to win and could not have become the great run-scorer he was without being cerebrally proficient.
He is fully qualified to play a greater role in the team relative to captaincy issues.
That’s what a coach should be appointed for, but which is taboo in the world of cricket.
It is unfair to mount Dravid’s pressure with a big name vice captain being appointed on the eve of a mega competition.
Admittedly the team’s record in one-day competition has been horrendous in the recent past.
Since they blistered England 16 months ago, hammered Sri Lanka and humiliated Pakistan in their own backyard, India has been a shadow of itself.
Further humiliation was meted out in the Malaysia Cup when West Indies spoilt the party by reaching the final against Australia, instead of the host nation, carting off a $1 million bonus in the process.
It was the same West Indies which whacked India 4-1 a few months prior in the Caribbean.
Then the Champions Trophy became a bigger disaster when India was sent packing in a competition their board fought tooth and nail to host.
Was it the ultimate embarrassment? More of the same was imminent.
South Africa enflamed the wounds with a comprehensive 4-0 whipping a few weeks later.
And the India Board immediately felt they had to do something about it.
Yet the disastrous results had nothing much to do with Dravid’s captaincy, compared to Lara’s leadership of West Indies.
India’s one-day batting has been the pits of the world and the team paid the penalty as a result.
And some of the team selections hardly helped.
Where Dravid may have fell down is probably his lack of motivation to the batsmen.
But that should be the coach’s responsibility, like how John Wright got into the players’ faces to achieve results.
As a batsman Dravid has enough pressure on his head, than to hurt it to get the best performances from the players.
On the other hand, the more demanding Test match- game, relative to tactical skills has seen India in a different light under Dravid’s captaincy,
They have not done too badly at all.
India only just defeated West Indies in the Caribbean for the first time in 35 years a few months back.They almost defeated England which had to hold on for a draw just after the latter’s upset Ashes triumph over world champions Australia.
Sri Lanka were also dispatched 2-0 around the same time.
Dravid stood his ground throughout with the bat, as his exemplary standards have not dropped an iota in both forms of the game.
Those results however, are not valued as much as a World Cup title triumph in the eyes of the India Board suits.
One –day cricket has unfortunately become king in India and it is by those standards the country’s fraternity measure their success.
Even if India comes close to winning the World Cup it will erase all their bad memories of the last 12 months.
Dravid will become their new king, if he is still at the helm.
Throughout their existence India’s selectors have become notorious for knee jerk reactions to players whenever they endure rough patches.
Many have been lost to the cricket world because of unjustified axings.
Dravid happens to be one of the country’s most prolific batsmen ever.
With 9,174 Test runs, realizing a phenomenal 57.33 average and 9,762 at ODI level, Dravid does not need or deserve any hassles at this stage of his career.
The BCCI authorities need to get their priorities right and show some patience, or continue to rue their fortunes.
Herschelle Gibbs’ obscene act:
He is not the first to react to provocation from the stands and will not be the last.
But before Herschelle Gibbs’ response to derogatory taunts from fans at South Africa’s SuperSport Park, is taken out of proportion, the International Cricket Council ought to view the fans’ behavior in a different light.
The world is a different place today where politics and sport have become a much stronger mix compared to times of yore. And division on the religious front has never been deeper where the muslin faith is concerned. They have strong reasons to vent their feelings through sport following the Iraq invasion.
And because a great majority of Muslims are cricket fanatics, the sport will undoubtedly experience more cases of fan-player abuse.
Undoubtedly more incidents of the Gibbs type will happen as fans are becoming more belligerent in venting their feelings towards players.
For his part Gibbs copped a three-match ban, but the initiators of the incident, as much as the public knows, got off scotch free.
This is objectionable.
They should be the ones facing grave punishment, not only because they started the incident, but because this type of abuse is becoming a trend in cricket.
Not too long ago England player Monty Panesar was insulted by Australian fans and before him many others were subjected to crowd abuse including Mutthia Muralitharan.
Players will react in the heat of the competitive moment and will be duly punished.
Similarly, fans should reap the repercussion of their actions.
They must feel the full force of the law.
But any expectations, on the International Cricket Council’s part (ICC) to facilitate such measures, is akin to the Bob Marley ditty – waiting in vain.