Dravid 'now has a chance to bloom'
On 23 March, India's World Cup challenge ended. In July, India opens its tour of England. Ample time existed to find a new coach.
The BCCI's inability to do so is further confirmation that no one in the Indian board knows, or seems to care, how to build a world-class team. As a group they remain unfamiliar with excellence.
John Buchanan told this writer after the World Cup that Indian cricket had the potential to be the "new Australia", that "India would just dominate world cricket for so long". Of course, only if it organised itself. But it is unlikely a team can turn itself into the best in the world if it constantly has to settle for second best in its preparation.
Travelling to England without a coach is not the best option. But the team may be relieved because it is not the worst option. Which would have been selecting a coach in a hurry when Graham Ford refused the job. "No coach" is thus a makeshift solution, a bearable compromise. This is not a known route to greatness.
Indian cricket has been good for its followers in one way. It has taught them to master the art of looking on the bright side. Thus, the England tour must be seen somehow as opportunity. In this case it is a chance for the captain to bloom. Unhindered by a coach, Rahul Dravid must show that this is his team.
Among the errors in Rahul Dravid's first instalment as captain was allowing for the perception that Greg Chappell directed the team to flourish. In such matters, the truth is irrelevant. The coach was not absent of virtues, but if his major fault was talking too much, then the captain's was in failing to control him.
Dravid's intelligence, thoroughness and respect within the team led many to view him as a potentially excellent captain. He has not met those expectations yet.
Not that he has been a failure, for dissections of his leadership reveal strong positives. He has worn troubled times as captain and yet his batting has stayed mostly firm ( 56.61 as Test captain, 57.46 career; 45.12 as one-day captain, 40.11 career).
He has earned a Test series win in West Indies, managed a Test win in South Africa, showed he has his own mind in using five bowlers and opening with Kartik, and fought mightily for Sehwag.
But Dravid also knows captains, like athletes, are only as good as their last games, and a flailing World Cup, the final two unappetising Test performances in South Africa, and the slow leak of spirit from the team, all left an unappealing taste.
No doubt this team is not high on discipline and short on consistency, and some might argue Dravid has not had sturdy shoulders to lean on. The public does not care. It wants to see progress.
Ganguly - was once the right man at the right time
Part of Dravid's growth as leader will necessitate a tinkering with his personality, a shift away from his comfort zone. He will never quite be a man comfortable with confrontation but he should have been firmer with Chappell. A subtle fellow needs to be seen as more commanding.
The captain is a steadfast fellow, who has inspired with his deeds and has not sought attention. He works hard and is invariably on time and simply expects men who play for India to do the same. How else do you become a great team, he must wonder. But some men must be pushed, others pulled, for not all are equally driven or as gifted. Installing the right attitude is part of his job description.
Indian cricket is alive, constantly, with a dozen mutinies and a captain must deftly quell them. Some insurrections are quelled by a quiet word at dinner or a friendly pat to an uneasy bowler. Dravid's toughness has reportedly made him intimidating to men who are not on his wave length. Of course he must not pander to indolent fellows, yet must convince men to a common cause. A fellow at ease with words must communicate more ably.
No doubt there are players in the team who complain about the imperfections of Indian cricket (selection, too much cricket, etc), yet never strive for their own personal perfection. There are fading elders around, too, of varying utility. Yet for better or worse these are Dravid's men, this is his team. A great leader finds a way to unite the most rag-tag bunch, rousing them to play harder for him and each other.
It would have been no disgrace if Dravid had relinquished the captaincy after the World Cup, for not all men are adept at leading others. Sometimes they are the wrong men at the wrong time, just as Sourav Ganguly was once the right man at the right time.
But Dravid has chosen to avail himself of a second chance. A self-examining cricketer has noted his flaws and accepted there is need for change. The absence of a coach in England will be a burden, yet an opportunity to strongly demonstrate his leadership skills.
Most fans will acknowledge this team will not be the best in the world in Dravid's time (i.e. the next two years). They know that with Sehwag faltering, Pathan stuttering and Harbhajan out of form, match winners are few. They know a wobbly system comes in the way of greatness.
But all they want, to start with, is an Indian team with some direction, a little purpose, a bit of hunger and pride, and absent of conflict. And for that they will look to Dravid.
Dravid the player has been admired because he has the humility of the great athlete to know he must keep improving (like in one-day cricket). Now as captain he must progress. He cannot alone make India the best team, but he can make it a better team.
This debate is closed. Here is a selection of comments you sent.
England will win the test series because they are definitely the better test side and have the clear advantage of playing in familiar, seaming conditions. But the one day series could be a lot closer, especially if the much-touted Indian batting line-up fires. Thus far, Dravid has at best proved to be a mediocre captain dictated to by a coach with a strong (perhaps even overpowering) personality. In the absence of a coach, he will get all the credit should the team perform creditably in both forms of the game. This is his great chance to prove himself as a captain and as a leader of men !
Rajesh Ray, India
Whether one likes to admit it or not, there are some players in the Indian team under-performing, with big egos, who cannot field to save their lives and are past their "sell by" date.
Tendulkar is a legend, but all good things come to an end. Like Lara, he should have called it a day after the world cup. Sehwag was given far too many chances, he should have been dropped long ago. Some players like Pathan, Raina and Kaif have never been given the same opportunities. Ganguly may be a strong leader, but has an ego problem. Dravid is still a class player, since 2004 he has scored over 2000 runs at an average of over 55 in tests. He may not be captain material, but he deserves to be in the team. We need to bring in young players, who have drive, hunger and motivation to succeed. Talking about "match winners", was it not two "rookies" who took India to victory in that great Natwest Series Final of 2002?
Elaborate article, but the bottom-line is there is no alternative to Dravid to take over the captaincy at the moment, we have a relatively small pool of players to choose from compared to the number of cricketers available in the domestic circuit. The BCCI just isn't doing its job, and India will not be able to dominate international cricket until we have a better selection pool.
Kumar Karkudi, UK
While it is simplistic to reduce teams to individuals, there is no doubt that Tendulkar has been the catalyst to India's omnipotence in domestic and world cricket. Bangalore won the battle to woo Ganguly but has lost on the field ever since. Dravid was great for marketing purposes, but it is Ganguly who has impressed when and where it counts. India won titles, plus a world cup final spot under him. India has achieved nothing since the change of captain took place. India should make the guru Ganguly become the new coach and captain .
BJP Charles Karl , India
Rahul Dravid has always been a role model to me. I think he has something very special which others lack or fail to understand. I believe he is always doing the best and right to improve Indian cricket up. I am positive about Indian cricket's future in Dravid's hands. He is doing all he can, and more shouldn't be expected from him.
Stephen Mathew, UK
If India is to make any headway in international cricket, we have to think in terms of all rounders. In the Australian team, with the exception of Hayden, Ponting and Gilchrist everyone can bowl. India won the world cup in 1983 with an average team - no superstars but all all-rounders. With the exception of Kapil, they were all bits and pieces players. But they had HEART. Today, however we have so many superstars, but no- one to deliver the goods. When India won the world cup in 1983, everyone called it a fluke. But we went to Australia in 1985 for the Benson And Hedges Trophy - with all the major cricketing nations playing - and we won that too. There were no superstars there either - Ravi Shastri was adjudged the man of the tournament! Again a bits and pieces player! I don't think India needs a coach. A physical trainer, yes. Just look at the combined experience of Sachin, Rahul, Saurav and Kumble - just leave it to the four of them to decide everything from selection to coaching. We can still become world class!
Another excellent article as I always expect from the BBC.
Kabir Virdee, Pakistan
I totally agree with the statements you have put forward. Surely the board has its flaws, but nobody is perfect. If Team India are to push forward, they have to strive for higher fitness levels and stronger self belief. A strong team needs a strong foundation... The seniors in team are the ones to lay the strong foundation. Team India is a group of players with bubbling talent and skill, the only thing left for them to achieve is, I guess, turning their talent into positive and successful results.
I think it is not the captain alone who is responsible for the team. Look at Australia, all the 11 players contribute to the team. India needs to build the team first and then find the right captain. This country has the potential and the will to win. Let us cheer Dravid to lead the team win for us.
I cannot believe that people still vilify Dravid. He has been the one consistent beacon for India in the last few years. What he has not had is any support from any quarter - whether it's the coach, certain prima-donnas in the team or that incompetence to end all incompetencies, the BCCI. The team selection for the England tour is again ridiculous and obviously against what Dravid wanted. Sehwag, Harbhajan have been dropped due to their form - but what about the God legend Tendulkar? He has not done anything to enhance a result for the team for half a decade yet he remains the darling! I hope for Dravid`s sake I am wrong (and for my sake as I have tickets to attend the games) but I cannot see anything other than a close fought one day series as England have seen as bad as us in this form of the game, however in the Tests get your money on a 3-0 whitewash in England's favour. I pray I am wrong and pray that Tendulkar for once proves me wrong.
Pardeep Dhami, Uk
Dravid may not be the best captain buts he's one of the best batsmen on the team. As for Ganguly, he has got a little better but the team would be much better off without him. Tendulkar too should think of retiring but as of late he seems to be gaining some form. If he continues to perform well, I see no reason to throw him off the team.
As a fan I admired Rahul's tenacity at the crease. As a journalist however, I found his press conferences, at best, tedious and at worst, uninspiring. His predecessor had the ability to control - some would say manipulate - both his players and the media. But one was never in doubt that Saurav was mentally tough. I wish Rahul would show the same resilience in his captaincy.
Razia Ruknudin, UK
I guess Ganguly should be the next coach for Indian cricket like Roy Kean for Sunderland football team... Ganguly is aggressive and confident player - he can change the dressing room
Dravid, is the most incompetent captain India ever had. He loses the match in his mind, before the match begins itself.
Amar Misra, India
I think he is right - Ganguly should take over the captain and Dravid should be chucked out.
Ali, united kingdom
I am sorry but any one who says he should retire now is wrong, I personally believe that yes Tendulkar has been struggling of late with the bat, but which batsman of his calibre has not? There are none who have not struggled. All I can say is that he has been through these bad spells before and I admit I do not like it to see one so great at the game struggling but I believe he now has thought to himself that he must fight as he has shown in his most recent Test performances. I think that Tendulkar must be acknowledged as the best Test and ODI batsman ever just by seeing his stats, and although that may not be the case in the rankings today, he still was over all. The closest an other living batsman has come to reaching Tendulkar's amazing feat of 40 OD hundreds was Jaiasuria and he has only around 23.
Harry Landa, England
Dravid may not be an ideal captain, in that there is scope for improvement from the standpoint of his leadership skills, however there is no one better than Rahul to lead by example, something which most other senior players (and potential captains) can boast about.
That said, it would do good for the senior player (and the ex-heroes as well) to back him (Dravid) 100% and follow Dravid's lead so as to supplement the team effort.
Mohit Gala, USA
Dravid is a man with an unenviable task. He has to lead a team within a cricket organization where everyone wants power and no one wants responsibility. The BCCI is run by politicians who are so afraid of making unpopular choices that will cost them their cushy jobs, India still doesn't have a coach. Instead of burning effigies of the players and coaches, people ought to hold cricket administrators to the fire once in a while.
Ashwin Sethi, USA
A very good article but how much can Dravid possibly do? I'm not sure how much of a say he had in the omission of Sehwag, Harbajan and Pathan, but we all know he is a fan of Sehwag and so would have probably wanted him in the squad. Therefore it maybe a squad which he does not necessarily agree with which he has to lead. Also with the type of team India are going to have for tests how can he really direct the team? The team will contain legends such as Tendulkar, Kumble and Ganguly, and although this may help in regards to not having a coach, how can Dravid really direct a cricketing legend such as Tendulkar, or a character like Ganguly? These big name players will all have there own ideas and without anyone on a higher leading level such as coach they will all believe that they are above being directed by a fellow team member due to their status and also have their own ideas which they believe should be used even more so now without a coach. Therefore the question will remain!
Ricky , England
Nice article. In summary -
1) Mr Dravid is a good batsman but a very poor leader or captain.
2) Guru Greg has destroyed the Indian team (and morale) and succeeded in his (or their) mission.
3) Less you mention about BCCI, better it is.
Tarun Ghosh, Uk
I totally agree with the statements you have put forward. Surely the board has its flaws, but nobody is perfect. If Team India are to push forward, they have to strive for higher fitness levels and stronger self belief. A strong team needs a strong foundation... The seniors in team are the ones to lay the strong foundation. Team India is a group of players with bubbling talent and skill, the only left for them to achieve is, I guess, turning their talent into positive and successful results.
Thank you Sir and the BBC network for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts and insights. God bless.
Robin Ananda, India (Mangalore)
Make Dhoni or somebody young the captain, and let all these ageing superstars go. Team might go thought a tough phase initially but will come out better for it in the long run. We must start preparing for World cup 2011 today, not after 2 years. The rest of the world has already started.
Neeraj Batra, India
On what basis did John Buchanan say that "India would just dominate world cricket for so long"? Is it Rohit Brijnath displaying that annoying Indian elite characteristic of seeking foreign approval and praise and reading between the lines to derive some satisfaction? How can a team that cannot boast of a single quality fast bowler dream of dominating world cricket? Also, as Rohit says, I am one of those fans who will acknowledge that this team will not be the best in the world in Dravid's time. He goes on to say Sehwag is faltering, Pathan stuttering and Harbhajan out of form, and match winners are few. True, but does he not add to that list, Tendulkar, who has not done much by way of winning matches for India except piling up runs and meaningless records.
A soul less article. What should have been said in a paragraph is redundantly written all over the place. We expect better from BBC!.