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Changes must start from top!
by Partab Ramchand
Mar 26, 2007
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 India’s 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.

Nice guys 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 team’s 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. Dravid’s 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 Dravid’s 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.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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