December 29, 2007

Indian Cricket

Dravid: The meddle and the muddle

Mukul Kesavan
Yuvraj Singh is stunned after being given out caught behind, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 2nd day, December 27, 2007
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In a perverse way, it was a pleasure to be beaten by the Australians. It was a reality check conducted by a first-rate professional team. Amongst the many good things about the Australian demolition job, one stood out: Ponting’s handling of Hogg. Despite the rough treatment he suffered at the hands of Tendulkar and Ganguly, Ponting kept him on and by the end of the Test, instead of being a marginal man, he was looking like an asset to the Australian team, going into Sydney. It was a fine piece of man-management, an investment of faith that will likely pay off later in the series. Which brings us to the way the Indian tour selectors managed their players, particularly Dravid.

Rahul Dravid in the kind of form he’s in, isn’t just a bad opener, he’s a blight. In both innings in this MCG Test, but most particularly in the first innings when there was everything to play for after a decent bowling performance by Kumble and Co., Dravid’s example killed such momentum as the Indian bowlers had generated and demoralised his fellows. He’s a great batsman, completely out of sorts, who should be playing at No. 6 so that he doesn’t have the responsibility of giving the Indian innings a start. He was forced to open because the people who picked the team for the Melbourne Test wanted to have their cake and eat it: shoehorn Yuvraj Singh into the side without making difficult choices. Well, it didn’t work.

Dravid was clearly unhappy doing an opener’s job despite his press statements. And he has a right to be: to mess about with India’s best and most consistent middle-order batsman since Tendulkar’s glory days, especially when he’s going through a lean period, is stupid and inconsiderate. To watch the hero of India’s last Australian tour batting like an oppressed bank clerk was awful. In the seventies and eighties when public sector unions in India were stronger than they are now, they would ‘work to rule’, i.e. they would sleepwalk through their jobs in slow motion, doing the barest minimum required by the law. Unlike those time-servers Dravid, as always, gave his all, but the end result was the same: an agonized crawl.

What makes the decision to coerce Dravid into opening even more infuriating is that it was done to make room for a pretender. Yuvraj doesn’t belong in Test cricket. He’s a wonderful limited-overs player who, unfortunately for India’s Test fans, scores the occasional century on the sub-continent’s dead wickets to stay in contention. If you’re playing a side with one dysfunctional fast bowler, a defensive spinner and a bunch of middling medium pacers on a flat track, then Yuvraj is the bully you need. In any other circumstance, he ought to be India’s first pick for 12th man. In the first innings of this Test Yuvraj mimed elaborate dissatisfaction when he was given a bad decision. Given that he had just been let off when he nicked one off Hogg that wasn’t given, you have to marvel that he had the gall to moan. To top that, in the second innings when Hogg had him lbw with a flipper that was going to hit middle, he still managed to look injured in that hard-done-by way that he’s patented.

If the squad’s selectors want to gamble on a batsman, much better that they gamble on Sehwag who is, as Ian Chappell persistently points out, the kind of aggressive opening batsman who might seize the initiative from Australia. At least Sehwag can point to previous successes Down Under. Since we haven’t got another spinner in the touring party, Harbhajan Singh will play in Sydney despite his performance here, so it’s even more urgent that the Indian team gets its batting sorted out. Given Harbhajan’s recent record, Sehwag’s inclusion would at least give Kumble the option of an offspinner who occasionally flights the ball.

None of this is likely to happen. I have the sinking feeling that in the name of consistency and giving Yuvraj a proper run, we’ll go into the Sydney Test with the same team. It’s meant to be a spinner’s wicket and I can already see Yuvraj in the nets, bowling his left-arm slows.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

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Posted by Philip John Joseph on (February 1, 2008, 8:11 GMT)

Actually KKD Karthick should replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is not good enough to be in the Indian team at any level top level international competition.

Virender Sehwag should replace Wasim Jaffer or whoever else.

Five Batsmen, Five Bowlers, One Wicketkeeper.

Ignoring injuries ....

Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag

Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Sree Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh

KKD Karthick as wicketkeeper.

Posted by karthi on (January 6, 2008, 2:00 GMT)

oh bring dinesh karthick as opener.he did well in seemy pitches like south africa and england.but ont bring shewag.dravid get 5 from 60 balls.where else shewag scores 5 from 3 balls and will be out. he wont play in front foot.he will be easily caught by lee. Dont rethink shewag that is my sincere advice to india and indian fans. jaihind

Posted by Siddhartha on (January 4, 2008, 20:46 GMT)

I seem to find a striking similarity between the Indian cricket team and the English football team-both are teams having many "big-name" players,both worship any new player with an ounce of talent as if they have uncovered a new Bradman or a Maradona,both play the "names" and then try and fit them into a system rather than having a system and fitting players into it,and rather unsurprisingly,both have very little to show for at the internatinal arena.Another similarity-both BCCI and the FA are the richest governing bodies in their respective sports.Well, that might point to a few things.

As for Yuvraj,he is an exceptional talent,but his time will come.For the time being though,he would have to sit out to play a specialist opener.Even though Dravid has performed well in this test,but looking at the bigger picture,he has to be restored back to his original position in the middle order.This test hangs in the balance and lets hope India pulls off another famous win against the Aussies

Posted by rahul on (January 4, 2008, 18:30 GMT)

Neil your comments - " Compare with Dravid who sacrificed the momentum of an entire Indian innings to ensure that he could bat. In England he gave up an easy test match win to have a 1-0 series under his belt. Would Ganguly have done such a thing..no. " clearly shows that you have just started watching cricket. Ganguly gave up a test and a series win in australia last time around when he had the option of making australia follow on in the last test at Sydney. Also, dravid had kept wickets for India for almost a year and a half to accomodate an extra batsman during the 2002-2003 season. And i would not like to get into whether ganguly is selfish or not, but it would be better if you put things in perspective basis your understanding of the game and not on the rubbish that is generated by some sections of the media.

Posted by Murali on (January 4, 2008, 7:37 GMT)

Well the Sydney test is on and Yuvraj has failed again. There's still the second innings for him to salvage some reputation and show that maybe he belongs here. But I agree with you Mukul, we should have got Karthik to open with Jaffer and kept Rahul at No. 3. Sehwag would be a better option than Yuvraj, he can open so Rahul can play in his customary position. It is time to drop Yuvraj.

Posted by Neil on (January 2, 2008, 15:52 GMT)

Ganguly selfish??? Are you kidding me? He led from the front and brought up Yuvi, Bhajji and the rest of the 'baccha log' and he's selfish? Compare with Dravid who sacrificed the momentum of an entire Indian innings to ensure that he could bat. In England he gave up an easy test match win to have a 1-0 series under his belt. Would Ganguly have done such a thing..no. If Ganguly has a vice it is over-aggressiveness coupled with poor ground fielding, certainly not selfishness.

Posted by shenbagamoorthy on (January 2, 2008, 7:57 GMT)

On one side is an established player (dravid)who's played many tests, scored thousands of runs. He was forced to open and played 66 & 114 balls and still failed. On another side is unestablished player (yuvraj) who has forced his way into the team. He's pushed to No6 where he will have to play with tail every other day. He too failed. The question is who needs support and chances? In any other country, for established players, their runs would only support and offer chance. The support and chances from any other quarter would be only for establishing players. In india, we are finding exactly opposite phenomenon. We are pleading support and chances for dravid, but crucifying yuvraj. There's unspoken message that is passed to incoming batsmen in cricket. It gives idea about targets and ways to attain. When most of Indian batsman have no targets apart from batting on, a player who plays for team target like yuvraj, shewag would mostly be lost.

Posted by Sridhar on (January 2, 2008, 5:06 GMT)

Will Mr. Kesavan respond to this!! after the first days play in Sydney. I have been watching cricket from 35 years and I know the game reasonably well as good as Mark Benson and Steve Bucknor. Well Australia will always look powerful and stronger when some important decisions are always taken in favor of the Australians. Ponting played twice, and Symonds played thrice. Are the umpires blind ? (or) have they joined the game in fixing the match in favor of the Australians? Shame on these two. Well the third umpire is also no good. Television replays clearly show Symonds foot in the air, and he is given not out after careful consideration. May god bless the Indian team. I felt for a moment, Kumble should have walked out. Its a clear case of three umpires bringing disrepute to the game. And look at the shameless crowd. They keep cheering instead of Booing at the umpires. For a Hyderabadi, this means Chillar Galli Cricket. Hope Mr.R Shastri, Gavaskar and Bhogle are listening.

Posted by amarjeet on (January 1, 2008, 23:14 GMT)

watching the premiership makes me wonder how knowledgeable English football fans are. Every game played yesterday started off with a one-minute silence in honour of the Scottish footballer who died last week. And it was pin-drop silence. Can you imagine 90000 raucous spectators suddenly going completely silent.

Posted by rext on (January 1, 2008, 22:09 GMT)

Check the official attendances punit as what some people think they see has nothing to do with the facts! Read the comments on this blog for proof of that!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mukul Kesavan
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.

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