Being a cricket and Rahul Dravid fanatic, this blog will have a heavy dosage of posts on the same :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Indian Cricket's Unsung Hero

My take on the drama that unfolded leading to Rahul Dravid announcing his retirement from the limited overs format of the game. One of my personal favorites. Read On!

If there would ever be a literature, art or entertainment piece by this title, rest assured, Rahul Dravid for once will unanimously be India’s No.1. Mark this date on your calendar, probably for the first time there existed this day in Indian cricket when nothing could overshadow the subsequent developments surrounding the news of Rahul Dravid’s surprise inclusion in the ODI team for England series. For once, Dravid became a ‘trending’ topic on Twitter. For once the Facebook status updates were giving the man his due respect without expressing their disappointment at Sachin not getting his 100th international ton! Regrettably, it all happened on one of the saddest days for Indian cricket. The day Rahul Dravid, almost a synonym to the word commitment, just announced his retirement plans.

If you disapprove of me calling it as ‘one of the saddest days’, quickly check with the BCCI and the selectors who would agree that this news is indeed depressing, for they just got to know that their ‘punching bag’ has just punched back where it’d hit them the most. And befittingly so! For how long can a man take all the responsibility and the embarrassment of being snubbed by the administrators at the same time?

This has been Dravid’s day by far and quite a dramatic one, despite the fact that the man-in-form was out of action, on purpose and suitably so, as the rest of the team picked up some important match practice in Northampton. Back home in Chennai, the selection committee that sat to choose the Indian team for the one-off T20 match and the subsequent ODI series against England, sprang quite a surprise by naming the veteran right hander in the 16-man squad. For Indian cricket, its Déjà vu 2009!

Well, Rahul Dravid and surprises don’t fit in a single sentence, for if you know the man, you’d also know how he brings the sense of déjà vu with his ever-dependable batting display every time his team is in trouble. After his surprise makeshift inclusion today, as the speculations were rife in media about whether it’s ‘The End’ for the former skipper, the 38 year old Bangalorean himself put an end to the saga. What’s being touted as Dravid’s cold-shoulder to the BCCI, he expressed his surprise at the inclusion and his desire to retire for the limited overs format at the end of the England series in September.

Flashback to the September morning in 2007 when the Indian cricket fans woke up to the news of Rahul Dravid stepping down as the skipper of the national side to concentrate better on his batting which was calling for serious attention. With this came, the clarion call of building a youth based bench strength for the 2011 World Cup under the able leadership of the then youth icon MS Dhoni came. A couple of bad series, and in a manner similar to that of Sourav Ganguly’s, the Indian cricket’s Mr. Dependable was subsequently axed. And as they say, there was no looking back from there, for the selectors that is.

For sure, a man like Rahul Dravid would have been through a sea of emotions on being dropped in a rather unceremonious fashion. But for this humble man, actions speak louder than the words and appropriately so, with the prestigious World Cup spot in the hindsight, he got back to the basics of domestic cricket to reclaim the spot he so deserved. All the hard work and toil went unnoticed as the cricket administrators in the country went on to built the acclaimed ‘youth brigade’ for this format and continued to neglect the man with an experience of over 300 ODI appearances and more than ten thousand runs under his belt.

The ‘jugaad’ (English translation: stop-gap arrangement) policy that the team selection committee has followed right since the later part of 2007 saw Dravid coming back into the ODI side a couple of years later in 2009 for the Champions Trophy as the youth brigade was having a tough time dealing with the testing conditions in South Africa. This surprising move, although criticized, sparked the hopes of the coveted position in the World Cup 2011 squad, not only in Dravid’s mind but also for those who valued his experience, the flexibility and the dependability factor he offered.

India’s early exit from the tournament called for a deep introspection and as in the following series ODI cricket returned to the flat tracks of the subcontinent, Dravid was conveniently dropped without any clear explanations, to accommodate ‘young blood’.

Almost two years have passed again since his last ODI appearance in the India vs West Indies encounter at Johannesburg on Sep 30 2009. Dravid’s name did not feature in the list of 30 probables for Team India’s World Cup campaign. Knowing Dravid, he would have best tried to rubbish any thoughts of self-doubts before the inner voices compelled him to elude the pain, to move on and focus on the task at hand, Test cricket. Four months after a successful World Cup campaign, with the World Champion side failing to leave a mark outside the subcontinent, its back to The Wall, literally!

It is not really tough to understand why the selection committee came up with a ‘Back to Future’ plan for the ODI series. The 38 year old Rahul Dravid, with three centuries in the last five Test matches, has been India’s lone savior in tough and testing English and Caribbean pitches. While the youth brigade fails to counter short balls, the finest technician of modern era has consistently brought respectability to India’s overseas performance in the last couple of months which doesn’t recommend their World No. 1 status.

Rahul Dravid is the third Indian after Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly and stands at no. 7 position in the list of top run getters in the limited overs format of the game with 10765 runs from 313 innings of 339 matches at an average nearly touching the 40 mark. Add to it his recently claimed second spot in the all time list of highest run-scorers in the history of Test cricket now withstanding, the selection committee chairperson Krishnamchari Srikkanth claims to have selected the team on merit basis. For obvious reasons, amidst the countless injured and non–performing players, the selectors are back to their favorite scapegoat as Dravid best suits their myopic interests.

The news of Dravid’s recall was welcomed with mixed emotions as evident from the buzz at various social media platforms. While on one hand hardcore fans hailed the move as a comeback for their hero, others expressed their concern over the bankruptcy of the talent pool that the cricket administrators have claimed to nurtured over these years. However, the unanimous emotion all over has been critical of the disrespect shown to a man of Dravid’s stature.

A sense of disappointment prevailed as the followers of the game questioned that if Dravid is considered fit for ODI cricket now and if this selection has indeed been ‘merit based’ as Cheeka said, how do they justify not selecting this man for WC 2011? The so called youth brigade has so far failed to last a five day game or play the testing conditions in England and the Caribbean. We sure have built a pool of players, 30 best injury-prone non-performers in the name of bench-strength. It is high time that the BCCI and its selection committee realizes who they are insulting. Don’t be surprised if next the selection committee forces Ganguly and Anil Kumble out of retirement to save pride in England. It’s not ‘horses for courses’, it rather panic attack.

As cricketer Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) rightly summed it up on Twitter,

“While I think that Dravid’s absence from ODI was premature, going back to him as a stop-gap arrangement is adding insult to injury!”

Hours later, in another surprise development, Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from the shorter formats of the game at the end the series he’s just been selected for. Subtly letting out the frustration and openly expressing shock at learning about his inclusion in the ODI and T20 team after two years, Rahul Dravid read out the following note to the press:

“I’m honoured and privileged to be picked for the ODI side. Since I had not been picked for one-day cricket for the last two years, I was obviously a little surprised. And to be honest, because I had not been picked, I had not informed the selectors or the board of my desire to solely focus on Test cricket.

At the end of this one-day series, I would like to announce my retirement from one-day and Twenty20 cricket and concentrate only on Test cricket. I am committed, as always to give my best to India in this one-day series and obviously the Test series that follows. In the short term I am committed because now I have been picked for the series, but in the long term I think it is best for me and Indian cricket that I focus on Test cricket”

Inevitable as you’d like to suggest, I would term Dravid’s retirement as a loss for Team India, for he never got his due. The man carried the burden of Team India, played a phenomenal role in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, gave the team the much required balance by donning the wicket keeping gloves, offered flexibility in the batting order by filling is as an opener at times and as a middle order mainstay on other, and yet without any tantrums, carried on under the shadow of the likes of the flamboyant Tendulkar, Ganguly and Sehwag trio. What’s even more depressing is that fact even as the things settle down eventually, he’ll only be listed as a ‘forgotten hero’ of Indian cricket!

Irrespective of what the man has achieved in his glorious career spanning over 15 years, and how he has done that, I look up to him as a role model. A man who stood up for his team whenever the odds were against it and did whatever he was asked to do, be it batting, wicket-keeping, captaincy, opening or even being humble enough to stay back for the series he’s been surprisingly selected for, only a day after claiming to a leading English national daily that he doesn’t like spending much of time away from his young family. Every word from Dravid’s brief press statement today makes me numb. Bear with me, my heart is in the coffin there with Dravid. And I must pause till it comes back to me.

Originally posted at Sportskeeda.com by me!

1 comment:

Vignesh Dhakshinamoorthy said...

The post title says it all Purnima! Your TITLING SENSE is much appreciated. Loved this one: "When the going gets Tough, the Tough gets going!"