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Here today, gone tomorrow?
by Gulu Ezekiel
Oct 15, 2005
The appointment of Rahul Dravid as captain for the forthcoming one-day series against Sri Lanka and South Africa throws up more questions than answers. Is Dravid once again leading on a stop-gap basis, a sort of glorified cricket spare-tire?

What if Ganguly had played in the Challengers and failed with the bat? Has the door been left open for Ganguly to come back as Test captain for the series against Lanka in December? Is next week’s otherwise rather inconsequential Duleep Trophy game between East Zone and North in Rajkot in effect a make-or-break for Ganguly? And finally, has coach Greg Chappell had the last laugh in their open spat?

First of all, BCCI Secretary S K Nair’s comment that Dravid was chosen on merit and not because Ganguly was yet to pass the fitness test (which is on Monday) is a positive statement, one intended to instill confidence in the new captain. However, if Ganguly is indeed passed fit and does well in the Duleep Trophy, there is a strong possibility that he will be back for the third game onwards against Lanka. The selectors choose the squad for the first two matches on Friday.

In that sense, Ganguly missing the Challenger Trophy — where every young fast bowler would have been gunning for his scalp — was perhaps a smart move, whether or not it was necessitated by "mild tennis elbow". I am no medical expert but this is a diagnosis I am hearing for the first time!

Stop-gap or not, the pressure on Dravid will be three-fold. First he must ensure that his own form does not suffer during the 12 ODIs. In fact his scores do drip dramatically on the numerous occasions he has had to fill in for Ganguly. If that trend continues, the team will be back at Square One. Secondly, even though playing at home may provide him with a cushion, Lanka and South Africa are among the toughest of one-day sides. The Asian champions are not only unbeatable at home, they also have a fine record in the sub-continent. Winning will of course be imperative for Dravid. Thirdly, Dravid will have the added challenge — or burden — of having to patch together a team torn apart by the recent controversies. The various camps in the national side have never been so pronounced.

It will be a strange experience for Ganguly to have to prove his form in a domestic match. In that sense his career has come full circle. Remember, he toured Australia in 1991-92 but then had to battle it out on the domestic circuit before making a comeback in 1996. As for the coach, his private thoughts on the captaincy issue having been made public last month, he can now sit back and wait for Ganguly to fail with the bat. Which considering his current state of mind, is more than likely.

A week, according to a saying, is a long time in politics. In cricket too in this case. All said and done, the next seven days will be pretty intriguing for Indian cricket followers.

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