| Dravid: Man for tomorrow'
Calcutta, Oct. 16: Indiaís cricket coach Greg Chappell has said heís building a team with the 2007 World Cup in mind ' in short, he has eyes on the future. It looks increasingly as if Sourav Ganguly doesnít have a place in that future.
Sourav, in Chappellís book, is yesterdayís news ' he may have 10,000 one-day runs under his belt, but has to prove in domestic cricket first he still has it in him.
By picking Rahul Dravid as captain for the two upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka and South Africa, the selectors, possibly speaking the coachís mind as well, have made clear who they see when they view the future-view mirror.
If Sourav canít make what will be a spectacular comeback, the chances are Dravid will pose at the 2007 captainsí photo-op.
Sourav is 33, Dravid is three months shy of 33. In 2007, Dravid will be 34+ ' it is hard to see how future can be comfortably placed in tired hands.
Chappell, for all his talk about 2007 and beyond, and the selectors are really looking at a stopgap leader who, until a few years back, was not even a regular in the one-day team. His wicket-keeping ability, combined with the captainís and the selectorsí lack of faith in Indiaís famed batting depth, often helped him get a look-in.
When planning for the future, there are two ways to go about it: the safe and the experimental. Chappell, who has not been averse to experimenting ' who can forget the dark chapter in cricket when he, as the Australian captain, asked brother Trevor Chappell to bowl the last ball underarm to prevent a New Zealand victory in a 1980-81 one-day final ' has opted for the safe.
Why blame him alone' Indian selectors have rarely shown the courage to experiment. The choice of Sourav after Sachin Tendulkar was seen to be unequal to the task of leading the side while at the same time maintaining his phenomenal batting talent came close to being one. Wisdom ' though Chappell had no part to play in it ' at that point obviously preferred Sourav over Dravid, which proved not such a bad thing, after all.
Wisdom now dictates otherwise ' Dravid over Sourav, and that too in one-day matches, or so it seems at this moment. As of today, Sourav is expected to lead the team in Tests and Dravid in one-dayers. That position may change, too, if Sourav doesnít get runs in the Duleep Trophy match starting October 20, which is looking a test by fire for the former India captain.
In that tale lies an absurdity which is difficult to fathom. Looking at record and the batting abilities of the two, some would suggest it should be exactly the opposite of what Chappell ' and it looks as if the selectors agree with him ' is chalking out while conjuring up the future through his looking glass.
There are two tragic flaws in Souravís technique, which have been gleefully exploited time and again by the better among the fast and swing bowlers. One is his corridor of uncertainty around the off-stump. In Souravís case the corridor is a little wider than it is for others. Everyone suffers from the uncertainty, only his is a little deeper.
Two, the short ' and quick ' ball to which he often shuts his eyes: not the best of techniques, as Sunil Gavaskar or Mohinder Amarnath will testify.
That is not to say Dravid has the perfect technique against the ball that is swinging away or the one that venomously springs from the pitch towards the batsmanís head. How many times has he dragged the ball outside off on to his stumps' There canít be any argument, however, that he handles these problems far better than Sourav does.
These problems arise mostly in Test cricket and infrequently in one-day matches for obvious reasons. One-dayers are heavily tilted against bowlers, particularly fast bowlers, because of various bowling and fielding restrictions. Which may also be why Sourav has a stupendous record in ODIs, over 10,000 runs scored at a rate of 73.79 runs per 100 balls. Dravid, on the other hand, has scored his 8,400 and odd one-day runs at 69.74 per 100 balls. That tells the story.
In Tests, however, the averages speak tellingly ' Souravís is 41.18 and Dravidís 58.30.
Sourav is an automatic choice in one-day matches and Dravid in Tests. Dravid is less suitable for ODIs because he is a compiler of runs, he takes a lot of balls to settle and canít improvise as well as is necessary in this variety of cricket. Just as Sourav, Dravid could be struck by the disease of a slump in form. And, with age, the demands of one-day cricket get that much harder to respond to.
Dravid could be hit by another common disease that only captains are vulnerable to. The crown often begins to sit heavy on the bat. It happened to Sachin and Dravid is a lesser batsman.
Does Chappell have a fallback option' And if he has one, is it another 34/35-year-old' Sachin would, hopefully, still be around, but may be unwilling.