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Since 1st March, 1999
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Barbs don’t win matches
- Dravid says criticism unlikely to motivate players

Nov. 25: If Rahul Dravid’s men turn things around at Cape Town tomorrow, don’t expect them to thank the outraged fans, former cricketers or members of Parliament for a timely kick.

The Indian skipper today said the sort of “extreme” criticism the country is now ringing with doesn’t help motivate players.

“I don’t think it’s criticism which motivates cricketers into doing well. If the team did well in the 2003 World Cup after initial days, it was because they played well, not because there was criticism back home,” Dravid told reporters on the eve of the third one-dayer against South Africa.

Experts, fans and the media have lambasted the team after the 157-run surrender in Durban on Wednesday, and have found an echo among some MPs. In keeping with the public mood, board official Ratnakar Shetty today said a proposal was being considered to dock all the players a part of their match fee if the team lost.

“I can’t be worried about things I can’t control. It is difficult for me to make a comment,” Dravid said about the furore.

“We know our country is one of extreme emotions and reactions and I can’t really stop people from making statements. As they are entitled to their opinions, so am I entitled not to react.”

Dravid felt the younger players — Suresh Raina has been a favourite target for critics — should be given time to find their feet. “I remember when Ricky Ponting, who has a phenomenal record, struggled when he came to India in 2001. It can be no different with a few of these youngsters.”

One sore point with experts and fans alike has been Dravid’s refusal to bat at number three, but the captain hinted he might change his mind later during the series only if Mohammed Kaif kept failing.

“Kaif needs a consistent run and coming top of the order could suit his style of game. He has had a stop-start career so far but he has been around for five-six years. If it doesn’t work then I would be considering coming in at number three.”

That might depend on when Virender Sehwag, who sat out the Durban game with an injury, gets fit. “We are hopeful that Sehwag would be all right. But you can never say how a player pulls up on the morning of a match,” Dravid said.

India has been further depleted with new ball bowler Munaf Patel ruled out of tomorrow’s game with a sore left ankle.

Tomorrow, Dravid will be hoping his players dig deep within themselves to find the motivation for a turnaround. But he wouldn’t leave luck out of the equation.

“In these conditions, tosses could be critical,” he said. “If you bat second in day-night games then 80 per cent times you lose a match.”

That, many might feel, could be India’s best bet.

Written with PTI reports

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