The players have not been entirely blameless but the buck finally has
to stop with the leadership. And if some of the team members are going
to pay the price for the World Cup debacle Rahul Dravid should be the
first in line. After all if Kapil Dev could be axed after Indias
unexpected defeat in the semifinal of the Reliance World Cup in 1987
why should Dravid not meet with a similar fate 20 years later?
To be fair to Dravid succeeding a successful captain was never going to
be an easy act to follow. Unfair comparisons are bound to be heard
thick and fast. He is too small for his predecessor's shoes'' is the
general refrain. Succeeding Sourav Ganguly was going to be difficult
even for someone as experienced as Dravid. It is true that he had been
the heir apparent for a long period and along the way he had had a few
nibbles at the captaincy. But there was nothing in the scenario at the
start of the 2005-06 season to suggest he would take over from India's
most successful captain sooner rather than later. As events unfolded
Ganguly was dropped following the public spat with Greg Chappell and
Dravid was appointed on a permanent basis.
There was never any doubt about Dravid being a popular choice to lead
the Indian team. His heroics as a batsman, his image as a role model
for today's youth and his vast experience all combined to make him a
thoroughly acceptable leader. Certainly he would lack the flamboyance
that had marked Ganguly's captaincy. His leadership would be more
sober, more thoughtful and more conventional rather than adventurous in
keeping with his batting. But could he strike a cordial working
relationship with Chappell and be a successful captain was the question
uppermost in the minds of Indian cricket fans all over the world.
The first steps are always gingerly taken and Dravid despite the fact
that he already the respect of his teammates still seemed to be feeling
his way around. The initial period was marked by both successes and
setbacks. Things however changed for the worse during the 2006-07
season. Very soon it became obvious that Chappell had emerged as the
dominant figure. The captain was no longer in charge, it was the coach
who was controlling the fortunes of Indian cricket. The less assertive
and mild-mannered Dravid was losing out in matters of thinking and
planning, strategy and tactics to the megalomaniac Chappell.
finish last is a well-known adage but in this case it would appear that
Indian cricket's nice guy was falling behind.
Hereabouts Dravid received a lot of timely advice. Former Indian
captain Ravi Shastri called upon Dravid to assert himself and tell
Chappell that he would call the shots in future. ``A coach must help
the captain but the final decision must rest with Dravid, said
Shastri. ``It would appear that Chappell is calling the shots on the
issue of experimentation. Dravid must draw a line, decide on his teams
batting slots and stick to it till the World Cup unfolds. Another
former captain Bishen Bedi also advised the Indian captain along
similar lines. ''For the team to be seen upbeat and competitive, Dravid
would have to be more assertive. The coach is not leading the team in
the battlefield, it is the captain who is the leader and he has to show
greater resolve. Dravids leadership cannot remain confined to a nice
guy in books and newspapers, it has to be seen on the field. His
assertiveness has to be believed by the public.
Dravid however continued to be his passive self and Chappell continued
with his policy of experimentation. The captain fiddled while the coach
was working havoc with the team. As the Indian team went from one
defeat to another Dravids captaincy received a lot of flak. Under
pressure the normally calm and composed Dravid was seen to be
increasingly losing his cool. His remarks against the Indian team
manager on the tour of South Africa were uncalled for as were his
comments at press conferences which tended to be naïve and repetitive.
Who is to blame more for the disastrous World Cup campaign Chappell or
Dravid is a moot point. At the moment when the mood is for a general
overhaul it appears that both will have to go.