It was a disappointing day for all fans of Indian cricket, as the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai turned into a watershed, quite literally. But, some off the field action, would surely have brought smiles to many an Indian fan, with Rahul Dravid being appointed the captain for the Test Series against Sri Lanka starting early next month. Having won the confidence of many including the selectors after successfully leading India to a near-whitewash in the one-dayers, Dravid now has the responsibility to accept the baton from Sourav Ganguly and push India into an even better Test-playing nation.
A question that arises from this rather forward looking move is – “What new will Dravid bring into this team ?“. The answer is quite simple. While the approach of the side could be the same, as it was under Ganguly – aggressive, mentally tough and professional, the dimension Dravid-Chappell combine will add could be ruthlessness mixed with control. Having been there, seen it and done it for a few matches, Dravid, being an astute student of the game would have realized that with captaincy comes a great deal of expectations, internally, within the team and externally, goes without saying – the cricket frenzy public of the country. He announced himself with a tough decision that virtually shocked the nation – declaring the innings when Tendulkar was approaching his double-ton at Multan in 2004. But reading into the positives of it, it just goes to show that for Dravid, an individual is just a mere part of the eleven, and has to bind within the framework of the team-strategies. Such tough decisions could be match-winning ones, for all we know. It was time, Indian cricket stopped getting emotional with their decision making and looked at the bigger picture i.e. the team’s interest.
At this very moment, it is important to pay rich tribute to Sourav Ganguly’s stint as the national skipper, where India looked like a side that meant business. Although it may not be the end of Ganguly as a player, one perhaps felt that he was past his prime as a captain. Steve Waugh’s idealist view of “a captain should be given a shelf-life for not more than four years” showed on Ganguly. The team’s potential and results clearly overshadowed his own individual performances and reached to a degree of frustration both with the selectors and the public. His legacy as India’s most successful skipper might have some high growth points to say, like the home series win against Australia in 2001, the tour to Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04, the tour to England in 2002, but where the graph goes down is India lacked that killer instinct to finish games all at once. The Zimbabwean tour comes to mind, where they batted themselves out of the game in Harare and also the West Indies tour, where they surrendered rather meekly. The team seemed to have possessed a lot of character during his reign. Some ghosts that have continued to haunt Team India during Ganguly’s tenure were the controversies. Be it his own ‘cowardly’ attitude at Nagpur in 2004 or the outrageous tour of South Africa in 2001, his personality, many a time unintentionally ensured that the team was constantly at tryst with conflict, both internally and externally. For all one might feel, it was not that century against Zimbabwe, but the Chappell controversy that sealed his fate. I may be overly-critical of Ganguly – the player, but as a leader, he was outstanding. Even though he was a non-performing liability to the team as a player, he ensured that his leadership was a pure asset. As he finally gears up to return as a player, he has not only passed on the captain’s armband to his former deputy, Rahul Dravid, but also a rich legacy of success, of a team that stood up and made themselves a part of every contest.
Which school of captaincy will Dravid belong to ? Whatever little I have seen of him, Dravid will ensure that India don’t miss the Dadagiri. He might come across as someone, who seems friendly, as emotionless as a Roger Federer, but deep down within himself, lies a professional, a thorough one. Dravid will surely take the positives of his ex-boss and try to merge them with his own fresh ideas he has in store. Another aspect of Dravid that will be worth a notice will be that he would lead from the front. Captaincy would be just another responsibility for him over his already heavy shoulders, but knowing Dravid and having interacted with him, it shouldn’t ruffle him much. For now, life seems rosier than ever under Dravid and Chappell. It will be interesting to see if they can help India secure a good enough series win against the visitors. As of now, lets just learn to move on and usher the Dravidian era of Indian cricket.