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The Nice Guy That Got Dropped First
by Suresh Menon
Oct 30, 2007
Rahul Dravid is probably more surprised at the public reaction to his ouster than at the act itself. He is an intelligent man, and must have known that chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar was sharpening the knives for him. Yet even he could not have guessed how huge the national reaction would be.

Characteristically, he has kept quiet except to say in passing to a microphone thrust into his face, “We have a long season ahead”. That’s all. No chest-beating. No ‘exclusive’ interviews, no self-justification. This is a man of rare dignity. Even Sanjay Manjrekar - not his best friend - says Dravid has been India’s most unselfish player in the past decade.

India play Pakistan at home, and then travel to Australia where, alone among Indian batsmen Dravid averages nearly 65. Dravid will surely return to the one-day squad. His place in the Test squad is secure, but cricket is played so much in the head that any attempt to mess with that part of the anatomy will have its repercussions overall. Vengsarkar should know all about that. In 1990, he was flown out to New Zealand as a replacement for Navjyot Sidhu and had his head messed about.

Vengsarkar had already played over a hundred Tests, yet dropped himself further and further down the order in a practice match before the Test as the fear of failure grabbed him.

Vengsarkar was often the victim of intrigues in the Indian establishment. One would have thought, therefore, that he would be more sympathetic to players, especially those who have served the country so long and so unselfishly.

Dropping Dravid can be justified if it is part of an overall plan (the player should then be made to understand this), and if it is in the larger interests of the team. These conditions don’t apply here. There is no overall plan, for the selector has been contradicting himself shamelessly ever since the storm broke. Dravid has been rested he has said, he needs to be fitter, he will come back, he is a great player…the excuses have been coming thick and fast. Dravid was not informed - unlike, in England, say, where Andrew Srauss was dropped only after things were explained to him.

And it certainly is not in the larger interests of Indian cricket for Dravid continues to be India’s best batsman abroad. If form was the problem, he could have been picked to play the Challenger series. Sadly, it looks like a determined effort to ruin a player’s confidence ahead of major tests to come.

There might have been a cynical view that of the three seniors - Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav being the others - Dravid would be the least troublesome if dropped. No effigies were burned in Bangalore unlike in Kolkata when Ganguly was dropped some months ago. Yet decent folk and non-burners of effigies have reacted with force across the country. For Dravid, that has been the consolation. This least demonstrative of great players has inspired even those who tick the ‘can’t say’ columns in public surveys to take a stand.

 
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