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Dropping of Dravid and Saurav not logical
by Boria Majumdar
Jan 22, 2008
By Boria Majumdar - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

I have often asked myself what is it about Indian cricket that distinguishes it from cricketing cultures across the world? In my quest to find a complex answer steeped in reason and logic, I have always managed to overlook the obvious-unpredictability. Indian cricket is a byzantine version of a fickle girlfriend, always likely to infuriate and amaze at the same time.

When cricket is on a high in India and fans haven’t finished celebrating the Perth miracle, the five astute men of Indian cricket have dropped a bombshell—they have omitted Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly from the forthcoming one-day tri series against Sri Lanka and Australia. And for once they have also provided an explanation-the two seniors are liabilities on the field and it is time to inject young blood into the team.

One look through the list of selected players helps demolish the explanation provided. While it is great to see Ishant Sharma get the nod, especially after his incisive spell against Ponting, Ishant is certainly not one to set the stadium on fire with his fielding. In fact, a recount of a lost opportunity at the WACA helps drive the point home. It was a rather critical moment in the game with Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist in the middle and trying to regroup after a top order collapse in the Australian first innings. With Symonds on the attack, the Indians, perhaps for the only time in the Test, looked rattled. Gilchrist, sensing an opportunity to stamp his authority on the match, attempted to hit one over midwicket a short while before tea. The shot was ill timed and the ball went high towards mid on. Ishant, instead of back peddling, misjudged the catch and did a slow U turn like an old Morris Minor. By then the chance had been lost and Ishant failed to reach the ball. This was one of many fielding glitches on the field by some of the players chosen for the tri series. Harbhajan and R P Singh for example aren’t much better than either Ganguly or Dravid. So too is Piyush Chawla. And there’s none in the team barring Sachin Tendulkar who is half as safe as Rahul Dravid in the slips, a key position in any cricket match in Australia.

Plain cricket logic, more than anything else, asks for the inclusion of Dravid and Saurav. In the October one day series against Australia, India only competed in games in which Sachin and Saurav got the team off to a good start, a fact hailed by cricketing experts world wide. Also, Saurav, as Australian legend Steve Waugh has recently mentioned, is perhaps in the form of his life. This was all too evident at the MCG and also in Sydney. Finally, his medium pace would certainly have been of use to Dhoni at critical moments in the tri series. On the other hand, with Lee at the height of his powers and Shaun Tait trying every bit to eradicate memories of Perth, it is more than probable that India might lose a couple of quick wickets against Australia. Whether Suresh Raina or Gautam Gambhir will have the mettle to withstand the Australian onslaught at such critical moments will perhaps be the deciding factor. Even the biggest supporter of the youth policy will find it hard to disagree that theirs is an onerous task.

I had the opportunity of speaking to both Saurav and Dravid after the news of their dropping had been known. Both men, blessed with grace and composure, never let their guard drop and were insistent that these things happen. For the record-none of them said a word on the omission. In fact, both refused to be drawn into a conversation on the tricky issue. During our half hour conversation at the Jungle Gym behind the Hyatt Hotel in Perth, where Dravid the doting father had taken his son and wife for an early evening stroll, he was forthright in saying that the team that had been chosen has some great talent and will surely do well. What I write here then is my attempt to read the mind of these two passionate servants of Indian cricket.

There’s no doubt that both are disappointed and hugely so. Dravid has just played a major hand in India’s victory at Perth with a superb 93, in which his strike rate was almost double than his strike rate at Sydney. Clearly, he was getting the touch back. And having led India to victory at Perth, there’s little doubt that Dravid and Saurav would have fancied one final chance of dethroning Australia in the one-day version in their den. Saurav’s is an even more surprising omission. One of the best one day players the game has seen, he would certainly have used the big Australian grounds to India’s advantage at the start of an innings.

Also, the logic that players successful in the shortest version of the game will have similar success in the fifty over version is flawed. Fifty over contests allow an opportunity to teams like Australia to make amends for a bad start and requires a far higher degree of skill and tenacity. The failed Yuvraj experiment in the Tests in Australia is an indicator of the kind of difference between the shorter and longer formats of the game. While fifty over contests are fundamentally different from Tests, they do require a different degree of skill compared to the T-20 format.

Finally, it is important to note that dropping of seniors is hardly new to cricket. Take the West Indian case for example. Richardson was instrumental in denying Richards the chance of playing in the 1992 world cup. His actions came back to haunt him when Lara accorded him similar treatment. Walsh and Hooper too had a fall out with Lara and Hooper’s retirement was surely a product of his fall out with Lara. In all these cases, the loser has been West Indian cricket. Hopefully Mahendra Dhoni will ensure that Indian cricket does not lose out in the coming months.

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