Lahore, Jan. 6: Sourav Ganguly was hundreds of miles away when Team India captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell had their first media conference in Pakistan, this morning, but his shadow formed the backdrop at the Pearl Continental’s opulent Crystal Hall.
Pakistani journalists lobbed a series of Sourav-specific questions and one even pointedly asked Chappell whether he had a problem with the former captain.
“I don’t have differences with Sourav. He knows what’s expected of him and my own commitment to excellence remains,” Chappell replied.
Dravid said: “Sourav has played a lot of cricket. Over 15 years of first-class and all players have ups and downs. At times, you get dropped when you don’t perform and get recalled when you do.”
Asked whether Sourav’s presence would affect the dressing room, Dravid first took a dig at the media, saying “at times, everything that’s written isn’t the true picture”.
He added: “I don’t expect the selection (of the XI) to be an issue. I’ve been very happy with the spirit in the dressing room over the past couple of months and I expect it to remain that way.”
Neither indicated whether Sourav would be out at the Gaddafi in exactly a week, when the three-Test series gets under way.
“The best XI will play,” declared the captain, while the coach didn’t go beyond: “He (Sourav) is part of the squad. Only time is to tell whether (he’s going to be in the XI). I want to get the most efficient performance out of the group.”
Sourav arrives tomorrow with fifties in each innings of the Ranji match against Tamil Nadu.
Besides Sourav, the questions mostly revolved around the frequency of Indo-Pak engagements, home team captain Inzamam-ul Haq’s labelling of India as favourites and whether the Indians were preparing to exclusively neutralise Shoaib Akhtar.
Dravid rightly felt the boards needed to work out an Ashes-like arrangement whereby the face-offs weren’t annual.
The buzz of the 2003-04 tour is absent, but Dravid made the point that the “players’ perspective hadn’t changed” and “external issues” don’t really come into the picture. The process of “winning hearts”, though, is to continue.
Acknowledging Dravid’s role, Chappell highlighted he continues to learn “very quickly” and his USP as captain is that he hasn’t tried to be “anything more than being himself”.
Perhaps, nothing is more important than respect in the dressing room. Dravid doesn’t have to worry.