Two decades ago, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman changed the face of Indian cricket during their epochal 376-run partnership against Australia at Eden Gardens. It breathed fresh life into Sourav Ganguly’s team as they went on to win the series 2-1.
As Dravid takes his nascent steps as head coach of Team India, Laxman is waiting to take up his new responsibility as head of cricket at the National Cricket Academy. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has shown purpose in decision-making and remains resolute in its effort to push the side towards the next level.
A significant trait of their stand on the fourth day of the that Test in 2001 had been their ability to deal with small aspects. ‘Come on buddy, one more over’, the two batsmen used to tell each other.
The focus was on achieving smaller goals. Both believed that when facing a big challenge, you cannot think about the bigger picture. It is the smaller goals that help you reach the ultimate target.
There was no surprise when Dravid made it clear on assuming charge that balancing long-term planning with short-term goals was his aim. Winning the T20I series against New Zealand was one of those smaller goals in his pursuit of the three ICC events scheduled in the next couple of years — the T20 World Cup in Australia next year, the ODI World Cup at home and the World Test Championship final in 2023.
Indian cricket is probably hoping for too much from Dravid after its eight-year drought at world events. But given his work ethics and propensity to make every small move count, there’s hope that the expectations won’t be misplaced.
Captain Rohit Sharma and other India players on arrival at the Calcutta airport. CAB Media and PTI
It would be naive to think that the Indians would take the inconsequential final T20I at Eden Gardens a bit easy on Sunday. A Ruturaj Gaikwad or an Avesh Khan may be tried out but, make no mistake, there will no let-up in intensity. Not without reason did Dravid inspect the Eden wicket on Saturday evening, hours after landing in the city, and inquired about how much it would help the pacers.
The subtle changes brought in by Dravid are already drawing much applause. The practice of handing over caps to debutants by former India players has been appreciated even by Sunil Gavaskar. Ajit Agarkar gave away the cap to Harshal Patel on Friday. This tradition had been started
by Anil Kumble but discontinued in the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri era.
But it is the results that matter and the preparation and process that Dravid always talks about. After the previous team management literally shut the door on Ravichandran Ashwin, the off-spinner has shown that he still has a lot to offer in the limited-overs variety.
New Zealand players at Ranchi airport on Saturday. CAB Media and PTI
Since being shunted out of the white-ball team after the 2017 Champions Trophy, he has only evolved as a better finger spinner. The variations in pace, the carrom ball or
the loop in the delivery has made things difficult for the batsmen. In Rohit Sharma,
he has found a captain who trusts finger spinners’ wicket-taking abilities and the results are showing.
In the T20 World Cup, Ashwin’s six wickets came at an average of 10.50 and an economy of 5.25. In the two matches in this series, he has three wickets at an economy of 5.25.
Harshal’s performance has also been similarly encouraging on debut in Ranchi. Having gone through the rigours of domestic cricket for almost 10 years, he is adept at handling pressure.
Venkatesh Iyer has been another talented prospect since he fashioned Kolkata Knight Riders to the final of the IPL. Trying him as the sixth bowler could give Rohit more options, something that the think-tank would be keen to experiment.
These small aspects will help Dravid and the team attain their ultimate goal.
Total T20Is at Eden since 2011: 7
⚫ India: Played 3 Won 2 Lost 1
⚫ NZ: Played 1 Won 1
⚫ Won by team batting first: 2
⚫ Won by team batting second: 5
INDIA AT EDEN
⚫ Oct. 29, 2011: Lost to
Eng by 6 wkts
⚫ March 19, 2016: Beat Pak by 6 wkts
⚫ Nov. 4, 2018: Beat WI
by 5 wkts
⚫ 120/9 (20 ovs):
vs Eng in 2011
⚫ 55 not out: Virat Kohli,
vs Pak in 2016
⚫ 3/13: Kuldeep Yadav,
vs WI in 2018
NZ AT EDEN
⚫ March 26, 2016: Beat Bangla by 75 runs
⚫ NZ 145/8 in 20 ovs (2016)
⚫ 42: Kane Williamson,
vs Bangla in 2016
⚫ 3/12: Grant Elliott,
vs Bangla in 2016