Sept. 14: There’s a buzz that key officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), struggling in any case to appoint a coach, have sought Sachin Tendulkar’s availability for captaincy.
The most coveted chair after the Prime Minister’s is vacant as Rahul Dravid has, henceforth, decided to make himself available as an ordinary player only.
After 23 months as the Team India captain, Dravid has cited “personal reasons”, but there’s a whisper that he’d felt “slighted” by a few comments from teammates on the just-ended tour of England.
Apparently, the controversy over not enforcing the follow-on at the Brit Oval took its toll too.
Knowing Dravid, the complete story may never hit the stands. However, it’s clear that the Wall in him did crack under pressure.
“Two senior officials are understood to have met Sachin in New Delhi last night…. He has, it seems, sought time,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph.
There was no confirmation from the senior-most pro.
“He’s out now and, when he returns, won’t take calls,” wife Anjali said from their Mumbai residence this evening.
Sachin relinquished the captaincy in February 2000, after the Tests at home against South Africa. His first innings in cricket’s hottest seat ended with his removal in December 1997.
Eventually, of course, chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar and his colleagues could split the captaincy — Mahendra Singh Dhoni in ODIs and Sachin in Tests — and please every lobby.
The selectors also have the Sourav Ganguly option for the longer version.
The ODI captain will be known on Tuesday, when the squad for the first three ODIs versus Australia is picked. The first Test in the post-Dravid era, against Pakistan, is from November 22.
The Test captain, therefore, doesn’t have to be named immediately.
Dhoni, captaining India in the World Twenty20, had been the vice-captain during the seven ODIs in England. Sachin was the No. 2 in the three Tests.
Dravid had a one-on-one with BCCI president Sharad Pawar yesterday and made his request in writing.
According to Pawar, Dravid had first spoken to him about leaving the captaincy during the ODIs in England.
Be it at the crease or off the field, Dravid has never been part of a crowd. His decision has confirmed he’s one of a kind.
Usually, the captaincy is taken away unceremoniously and, in recent decades, Sunil Gavaskar alone gave it away at a time of his choice (1985).
“After almost two years, Dravid was convinced there’s no life outside cricket for an Indian captain… that there’s no time for the family (son Samit turns two next month) and the scrutiny from the media gets excessive… that too much goes around in Indian cricket,” explained a confidant.
It’s unclear whether the BCCI’s unprofessionalism got to him as well.
The confidant added: “Dravid wanted to step down after the World Cup debacle, but was persuaded to stay on as the coach (Greg Chappell) had announced he wouldn’t seek an extension…. Dravid’s mind was more or less made up even before he left for England….”
Dravid had been “absolutely fed up” after the World Cup — frustrated as much by a poor performance as the complete breakdown in communication between Chappell and some of the seniors.
Technically, Dravid’s appointment was till the end of the England tour, but he would have been retained, perhaps even till April.
Dravid’s cell remained switched off, but the BBC quoted him as saying, “I enjoyed the captaincy, I loved it, but it can get tough after a while and some of the enjoyment can go away. So, I thought it was the right time to step aside.”
The BCCI didn’t go public with Dravid’s decision yesterday as it would have made bigger news than the launch of the leagues.
Barring his immediate family and probably the closest friends, Dravid didn’t keep anybody in the loop.
“Bolt from the blue,” said former captain Chandu Borde. For the cricket manager on the England tour, it was his second such experience — the first being when he got appointed in mid-June!
According to the BCCI, one of the reasons Dravid put forward is that he wants to “concentrate on his game”.
Statistics reveal that like Sachin and Sourav, Dravid’s average came down in Tests when he was in the hottest seat. Unlike the other two, though, Dravid showed a slight improvement in the ODIs.