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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Dravid's recall: a knee-jerk reaction

Once again, youth has been jettisoned, the system has been done away with, journalist's Saturdays have been ruined and, quite amazingly, Rahul Dravid is back in the one-day team. The same Dravid who was dumped twice over the last four years and overlooked for the World Cup, a chance he silently pined for. WTF?

The decision, we are told, is a pragmatic, immediate one: the team is marred by injury and needs Dravid's vault of international experience - he is the seventh-highest run-scorer of all time, with 10,765 runs in 339 matches - and his innate ability to scrap and hold together an innings. 

But the man in question is 38 years and 207 days and hasn't played an ODI since September 2009, after being recalled two years from being dropped. The scenario then? India's young hopefuls had failed to cope in testing conditions in the lead-up to the Champions Trophy in 2009. The scenario now? Injury to Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara's absence through injury, the apparent need for solidity in tough conditions, and the selectors' lack of faith in Yusuf Pathan, Subramaniam Badrinath and Manoj Tiwary, who were part of the ODI set-up in the West Indies prior to this tour.

Beyond the headlines that Dravid will dominate, there is a bigger issue at hand - why and how this selection came about. Were there really no options beyond Dravid? Have the young men in whom the selectors had earlier placed faith failed to make the grade?  Keeping in mind the future of Indian cricket, would it not have been a bad move to bring in Tiwary or Ajinkya Rahane, giving them a a chance to taste English conditions? Or to look back on Robin Uthappa, perhaps see if Ambati Rayudu actually has the goods? To give youngsters the chance to spend time in the dressing room, to tour international venues, to soak in the team culture?

The message to the younger is brigade is clear. Sorry kids, you aren't up to scratch. Yusuf bhai, your 56 ODIs haven't inspired us. Badri, you're still not international quality. Ajinkya, runs for the Emerging Players side in Australia don't amount to much. Manoj, umm ... yeah ... well ... you know. Uthappa, Rayudu ... the IPL isn't actually a springboard for Indian talent.

There has been no batting crisis for the one-day world champions. The top three spots are fixed. Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni make up the middle order. Success or failure would have surely come in handy for the youngsters like Tiwary and Rahane. What does Dravid have to gain from five ODIs?

Given his form of late, and especially in seam-friendly English conditions, Dravid's selection would make sense if he were four years younger. But it is clear that the BCCI is not thinking of Dravid the ODI player beyond the upcoming five-match series. India's next ODI assignment is a five-match series at home on placid tracks against England, where they will surely not need Dravid. Yuvraj will be fit, Pujara should be available too, and knowing the BCCI, it won't at all be surprising if they pluck Tiwary or Pathan for fixtures in Hyderabad, Delhi, Mohali, Mumbai or Kolkata. It is, after all, India. Where the World Cup was one. Where Pathan can clobber 60-ball centuries. Where survival isn't necessary - notice Guwahati isn't a venue - and where players can drive off the front foot without worry.

India have enough players to field an XI without Dravid, but after recalling him, the management would do the man a huge disrespect by not playing Dravid. In November, Harsha Bhogle wondered whether Dravid was too caught up in the mechanics of survival to flourish. Since then, Dravid has responded with runs a aplenty, in conditions as diverse as Nagpur, Centurion, Kingston, Lord's and Trent Bridge. He is in a very good spot as a Test batsman, once again, though at the end of his glorious career. And he has never officially announced his retirement from ODI cricket. But is a one-day recall the right thing for Dravid? And for Indian cricket?

4 comments:

sathish said...

Myopic is the word I'd use to describe it. Giving chances to untried players like Rahane, Rayudu, Pandey would be of immense benefit to them and consequently to Indian cricket in the long run.

Having Dravid in there might ensure a better showing from the Indian team, but a bilateral series is of no consequence that it doesn't really matter -- he's not going to be around for the next WC.

Assuming Dravid slots in as a replacement for Yuvraj(surely you can't have Dravid in the squad and not play him?), this also means that one of Rohit or Raina will miss out. If it's Raina, it's a player who is finding his feet and has potentially more than a decade more in the game and if it's Rohit, you're leaving out a guy who is just starting to hit the straps. Leaving Rohit out is going to drag his career back.

I was thinking after the WC win that now would be the right time for Sachin to retire from ODIs to breed a new set of cricketers for the next WC, but they've gone and done the exact opposite with this Dravid selection. Silly and short-sighted. And rather expected, really.

Sujesh Kumar said...

By the by when did Pujara played ODIs for India?

MSR said...

James, excellent article.
Srikkanth and co have lost it - this is no way to treat a legend . When WI and Eng come visiting they will pick those flat track bullies
Regards
Srinivas Rao

MSR said...

James, excellent article.
Srikkanth and co have lost it - this is no way to treat a legend . When WI and Eng come visiting they will pick those flat track bullies
Regards
Srinivas Rao