| Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting during the toss with match referee Ranjan Madugalle in Mohali. (AP)
Chandigarh, Oct. 29: Rahul Dravid believes the media “eavesdropped”, but it’s not a healthy sign when the coach chooses to tongue-lash his wards publicly. Greg Chappell did so in Motera last week, but couldn't avert two defeats in a row and an exit from the Champions Trophy.
Needing to beat Australia in Mohali today in order to make the semi-finals of the biggest tournament after the World Cup, the Indians found themselves outplayed. Requiring 250, the world champions won by six wickets with overs in hand.
The year began with Team India thrashing Pakistan 4-1 and whipping England 5-1. Subsequently, though, Dravid’s men have been stumbling: hammered 1-4 by the West Indies, failing to make the tri-series final in Kuala Lumpur and not making even the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy.
The hunger has gone and the plot lost big time.
Unusually, Asia will go unrepresented — it’s Australia versus New Zealand and South Africa against the West Indies — in the closing stages of a showpiece competition. However, that can’t be our biggest worry, which really is the slump less than five months before the mega event — the 2007 World Cup.
The buck stops with the captain, but Dravid has been appointed till next April. Chappell, too, is contracted till then. Not that a change in leadership may work wonders, but the present-day selectors and those of the future should learn from the unprecedented (captaincy-specific) step taken by the previous selection committee chairman, Kiran More.
It’s easy to call for an introspection, but nothing is going to come of it unless the lessons from a string of failures are learnt. While flexibility is important, the batting order can’t keep changing in a manner which encourages insecurity. Once that sets in, more trouble isn’t far away.
The captain and coach, for example, had little business repeatedly sending Irfan Pathan at No. 3 (till this afternoon, that is). Then, they ought to have had the courage to drop vice-captain Virender Sehwag. He’d been made to cool his heels earlier in the year and the time for a repeat dose had come.
Sehwag did get 65 today, but it was a struggle. Even he wouldn’t be proud of his effort. Not too long ago, Dravid had said Sehwag could help “win the World Cup”. The captain seemed to have given the tournament which runs till next Sunday a complete go-by.
As for the Suresh Rainas, success has come early and, probably, gone to the head.
“Our hands are tied... cricket is growing, but where’s the talent' We want the best out on the park, but nobody is really getting pushed,” one of the five senior selectors told The Telegraph as Ricky Ponting’s men neared victory.
That, perhaps, is the biggest tragedy.