India's new Test and one-day captain Rahul Dravid wants his players to take personal responsibility and is thrilled that they are.
Rahul Dravid is a driven, passionate, ruthless man
Dravid's baby son's name, Samit, so he says, means "collected", but it also translates as "composed". Maybe it's kismet, maybe it's just some strange coincidence that India's newest captain picked that particular name, but it is a definition that fits him tidily. They are qualities he holds dearly.
Rahul Dravid loves victory but wears it with a contained pride, and his press conferences are populated with cautious phrases like "it's early days" and "it's a long way to go"; defeat wounds him but he holds this hurt stoically, a believer that progress is not just runs scored but harmony in a dressing room.
There is something about him as batsman, and man, that reminds you of still water, but it is deceptive for he is churning within; he is driven, passionate, ruthless, but he is also a man of nuances, not given to reveal himself to anyone but his team and for him that's all that matters.
Only when a wicket falls will his emotions dance temporarily in front of the world, before the mask is affixed again. He has things to do, bowlers to rotate, fielders to set, a country to lead, redemption to find, and he needs his brain to be working clearly, intellect undisturbed by excessive emotion. Composure, remember?
Look at the matches played so far and try and find a hero. You can't. Every match another man stepped forth, another hand shot up willing to take responsibility
He doesn't want to tell you what he said when he walked into the dressing room as captain for the first time against Sri Lanka recently, but offers only a general impression. Indian cricket is always enveloped in some distracting drama and somehow he has to get his players to tune out of this world and tune in to each other.
What he asks them is to focus on personal responsibility. To stand up and be counted. To look at themselves. To put in everything. To enjoy each other's success. What he's saying is not some wildly original idea, it's simple, but then so is sport, and it is only when these straightforward virtues become a personal hymn, when they are lived purely and constantly, that greatness arrives. Indian teams after all are famous for seemingly getting bored with playing well.
Dravid's appointment did not please everyone
"Personal responsibility" litters any conversation him, it's like an anthem he's always hummed. So his team beat Sri Lanka 6-1, and when we spoke they're 1-1 with the South Africans, but he's looking further, beyond numbers, achievement for him now is his players "raising their standards, evolving, going on to become great players". Do that and runs come, wickets fall. But, do that. Sitting still he cannot abide.
It's why he's delighted because India's men are hauling themselves up. Not one. So many. Look at the matches played so far and try and find a hero. You can't. Say Dhoni, then what about Pathan? Say Yuvi, then about Tendulkar? Every match another man stepped forth, another hand shot up willing to take responsibility. It's a start, but only that.
It's vital, for as Dravid says: "You can't do it with two or three people." What he's saying is you can't rely on only two to three people to make consistent contributions. You can't win without a bevy of match winners. To use his painful cliche, he's asking for "honest effort", he's challenging his players, or as he says: "If you don't ask for the best [of them], you don't get it."
He is thrilled by his team's spirit, by their zest, and for him right now it means more than winning, more than losing. If anything, he speaks of the first match, which India lost to South Africa, for his team responded from 3-5 to 249, and it lifts him, for he says "they kept fighting".
His philosophy is matter of fact. Wasters, complainers, the lethargic, those who say why did "X" get the new ball and not me, builders of cliques, players who don't smile at another man's success, these fellows need not apply, will not pass muster. Thanks, but no.
"It's very important to have the right people on board," he says. "We get caught up in visions and goals but it's first about getting the right people on the bus and wrong people off. If you have the right people, right attitude, right behaviour, you find a way."
Dravid's team had a number of match winners against Sri Lanka
He's a decent man, but he's here not to win friends but matches. He'll guide you, support you, but not indulge you. He won't say it, but you hope he won't buy this insecurity line, this "how do you expect us to play if we're worried about being dropped", a nasal whine that uniquely accompanies Indian cricket.
Sure selectors can be whimsical and make players nervous, but sport makes no promise of continued employment, it's not some protected babu's job till you're 65; the rewards are greater and thus the demands, and performance or least sincere endeavour brings its own security. Dravid is looking for players who understand that, who look beyond self to the greater good of the group, who relish performing, and he's finding some.
Sporting prophets are found only in story books and Dravid isn't one. He cannot make fast bowlers, for instance, and India will not succeed abroad without quick men of quality, and while he is enthused about the present, determined crop, "all young and learning and developing" he knows that if "two or three develop into great performers it will make a big difference".
As India rolls on we're caught in that awkward position of exhilaration as a floundering team struggles to its feet, yet aware that sloppy habits don't die in a single month. Some say the matches are at home and over-excitement deserves to be handcuffed; some say considering our dismal, recent one-day past it is fine work. Both are right.
The team is learning, so is the captain. Mistakes have been made and more will be, enterprise has been seen in changed batting positions, aggression noted in attacking fields and bowlers trusted to bowl their lines. The sweet smell of promise is in the air but in India the wind changes swiftly.
We don't know Dravid the captain yet and neither does he, it will be months before we can decide if his philosophies have been embraced, determine his progress. But one thing we do know. Good teams are painstaking constructions, they require patience, commitment, dedication, self-belief, time to flower and this captain, at least he's familiar with the journey, he's lived it, as a batsman at least he knows it can work.
Please send your comments on this column using the form below this selection of views.
Dear Ravi Darira, Rahul Dravid has made 11 centuries and India have won 7 times in that 11 matches. Only those who know nothing about cricket can make such a statement. Think of a RSA team without kallis ,SL team without Atapattu and AUS team without Damien martyn. Every team that needs to be successful in ODI should have someone playing sheet anchor role.These guys dont launch after someone has laid platform. rather these are the guys who lay platform for the hitters.
Dravid seems to be taking India towards the right direction. The real test will be Pakistan away and England at home. The series against Sri Lanka was superb showing by India but India always show their best when their jobs are on the line. That success should have continued against South Africa where the team seems to have lost some momentum. The real success for Dravid will be to lead India to a World Cup Victory and become a great like Kapil Dev. That would be truly doing better than Ganguly...
Arjun Markanda, Michigan, USA
An affable personality doesn't necessarily make a better captain. The "killer instinct" that India lacked was instilled by the former captain, Ganguly. What's surprising is that Dravid, a textbook cricketer is bringing about different experiments.
Rohan , USA
You can't forget Ganguly's contribution to the team India..but then you can't live in past..the game has to go on..and no one better than Dravid could have done this job..he is one of the best batsman of the world today.. if India needed some one it was Dravid and no one else...
Kamlesh Chauhan, India
Rohit is spot on- spelindid analysis laced with peotic prose. Please keep it up.
The termites have already started chomping away at the scaffolding just put up by Chappel, Dravid and other well-wishers of Indian cricket for a team of the future. How I wish India wins the World Cup through a mix of good preparation and proper strategy. I sincerely wish Dravid good luck (he lives up the street from me).
T. Varadaraj, Bangalore, India
Dravid has to lead the country in humble and sporty way. Win and loss are part of game. He and Greg can build team India without bullying players and politics.
Kaaml, Stuttgart, Germany
Dear Rahul Dravid - O Captain My Captain
The truth to strategies and tacticss is to win when it counts most - when its needed most. In Calcutta-Rahul and the Indian team lost because they did not think and do what is rational. Why would a captain follow a chappelian edict of experimentation when a WIN was needed at Kolkata ?
Why would a captain with 3 40+ avg specialist openers send a novice to face the like of Shaun Pollock - a acknowledged world class bowler who has made Tendy his bunny. The simple reason is they have yet to learn from experiments when not to become the fool but to use the head and experince to Indias win.
Rahul is a savvy person and I hope that he learns not to sacrifice INDIA for a chappelian edict.
Please note that although India won nicely against Sri Lanka, Dravid did not lead with the bat in any of the games to cause an Indian victory...in fact if looked closely enough he never has in one dayers..out of the ten centuries he hasn't won any man of the match awards for them except against UAE....this shows he can never bail india out of trouble to win when they are really down...he can play knocks..only when some1 else has already laid the platform...but then anyone can do so...
ravi darira, united states
I have read so many of your pieces in Sportstar and I cannot remember if I have seen a better writer.
Thank you so much.
Harish K, India
A very well written article highlighting the trials n adulations awaiting Dravid as a captain.
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