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Sourav boil puts Dravid in hot seat
- Mr Reliable becomes India’s 28th Test captain

Chandigarh: Cricket in India has seen much off-the-field drama in the past three weeks. It began with chief selector Brijesh Patel undergoing a bypass and being replaced by Syed Kirmani; it has ended with Sourav Ganguly handing the captaincy to Rahul Dravid.

Clearly, the last 24 hours (beginning Tuesday) have been particularly remarkable: Sourav’s “minor surgery” in the upper left hip region and, then, Dravid’s elevation to the proverbial hot seat when the regular Team India captain pulled out of the second and final Test against New Zealand, in neighbouring Mohali, from Thursday.

Dravid, therefore, has become the country’s 28th Test captain.

Till late on Tuesday, Sourav was determined on getting his 69th cap in Mohali. Yet, his own keenness evaporated when he returned to the Fortis Heart Institute and Multi Speciality Hospital for the first change of dressing, on Wednesday morning.

“Blood came out like water as soon as the gauze was removed... Moreover, the incision is over an inch deep... I saw that area and it didn’t make for nice viewing... In any case, with my mobility restricted, there’s no way I could play a five-dayer,” Sourav told The Telegraph, explaining why he didn’t wait till shortly before the toss to opt out.

What started as a painful boil, on the eve of the Motera match, has not only made Sourav miss a Test after 56 appearances on the trot, but forced a question mark over his availability for the opening tri-series game — versus New Zealand, in Chennai on October 23. After all, the incision-created wound may take a week to heal.

“This is life... Looking back, I should have exercised the surgery-option during or immediately after the first Test (October 8-12) but, then, I’ve had such boils in the past and a week of antibiotics would take care of the problem... This time, the medicines didn’t work,” Sourav maintained, finding it hard to keep his disappointment all to himself.

As of now, he will be leaving for Calcutta on Friday morning.

Incidentally, it’s Sourav who informed Dravid of his promotion: “I’m not feeling good... You will have to lead.” Accordingly, India’s newest captain addressed the Media during the customary pre-match briefing. Correct almost to a fault (as always), Dravid insisted he was simply standing-in and, that, there had been no time for the development to sink in.

But, yes, he acknowledged being happy. “Once you play for your country, you do aspire to lead... However, the captaincy isn’t something I’ve been putting my hand out for... As vice-captain, I always said it would be nice if that did come along...Today, circumstances are such... It’s an exciting feeling, though...”

Asked if he would now be under more pressure, Dravid responded as a Mr Reliable would — “It’s difficult answering, unless I’ve experienced what goes with the Test captaincy.”

Dravid, of course, has already captained Team India in four ODIs: Rajkot (December 2000, against Zimbabwe), Colombo (July 2001, versus Sri Lanka), Jodhpur (November 2002, against the West Indies) and Vijayawada (November 2002, versus the West Indies). The solitary loss was in Vijayawada.

While Sourav had to miss the Rajkot and Colombo games on account of being disciplined, he wasn’t fit for the matches against the West Indies.

Later, talking exclusively, Dravid pointed out he admired Mark Taylor more than any other captain seen from close quarters in over seven years of international cricket. “Actually, there’s lots to do for me... Finalise strategy, think of options... I need to have a clear head,” he quipped, excusing himself.

For Dravid, being clear about what needs to be done surely can’t be a tall order.

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