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Healthy Competition for Places on Indian XI
by Gulu Ezekiel
Oct 20, 2007
The current debate over seniors v. juniors that is engulfing Indian cricket has seen its first fallout with the axing of former captain Rahul Dravid for the seventh and final ODI against Australia at Mumbai on Wednesday.

Dravid dropped a bombshell when he announced he was quitting the captaincy last month after a largely successful tour of England, ostensibly to concentrate on his batting.

It must have come as a rude shock to him then that no sooner had he given up the top post, he was removed from the playing XI after a string of five successive failures in the just-concluded series.

If he is honest with himself, Dravid would be the first to admit that he had been clinging onto his place in the ODI side due to the fact that he was captain till the tour of England.

This was largely the situation in the last 18 months of Sourav Ganguly’s tenure as skipper as well which ended two years ago when Dravid succeeded him.

Just look at the figures—in 21 innings since the World Cup in March, Dravid has just four half-centuries.

Ganguly’s batting has improved by leaps and bounds since he made his latest comeback in South Africa late last year. He has publicly admitted the cares of captaincy had affected his form and he feels much freer now to concentrate solely on his batting. Unfortunately for Dravid, his last five innings against Australia since he stepped down have been dismal—31, 0, 13, 0 and 7.

On the face of it then there was little justification for his continuing in the side. And unlike with Ganguly, Dravid will find it much tougher to force his way back.

When Greg Chappell took over as coach two years back his youth policy backfired for the simple reason that Suresh Raina failed to live up to his undoubted promise and Yuvraj Singh got injured at a crucial time during last year’s Champions Trophy.

Had the two continued in the side, it is doubtful if Ganguly could have forced his way back despite all the political backing he managed to muster in his support.

The circumstances surrounding team selection though have altered drastically since the triumph in the T-20 World Cup. The success of a team in which all the playing members were below 30 of age has increased the pressure on the ‘holy trinity’ of Indian cricket—Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid.

Tendulkar has put all speculation over his place in the team at rest by emerging as top scorer both against England last month and in the home series against Australia.

Ganguly, by the admission of a top Board official was dropped for the third ODI at Hyderabad despite declaring himself fit. This after he missed the second game with an injury.

But once again a twist of fate saw him back in the side from the fourth match onwards after opener Gautam Gambhir injured himself during ‘nets’. His scores since then have been 41, 0, 86, 0. So he too must be looking over his shoulder with the young guns hungry to force their way back into the team.

Such fierce competition for places in the playing XI can only be good for Indian cricket.

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