Rahul Dravid's retirement March 12, 2012

Opinions divided on Dravid's replacement


Rahul Dravid left cricket assuring everyone that India had an abundance of batting talent which could easily fill in the No. 3 slot he has left vacant. The pundits however find it hard to arrive at a consensus over the most likely candidate capable of filling the void created by Dravid's departure. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, S Badrinath, Ajinkya Rahane and even VVS Laxman were all the names that came up as men well-equipped in both mind and with bat in hand to tackle the various hurdles faced by a one-down batsman.

"The first and obvious choices would be some of the guys who were already there in the reserves in Australia," a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo. He said even the likes of Manoj Tiwary and Punjab youngster Mandeep Singh were on the selectors' roster along with the above names. "People who are performing at the domestic level would be in the fray. Finally it depends on who clicks at the right time," the source said.

The chief parameter the selectors would look out for, the board insider said, was the player's ability to perform on the overseas tours especially in Australia, England and South Africa. "One of the most important things is batsman needs to be a good player of fast and short bowling on overseas wickets. At home it is easy. Except for Sachin [Tendulkar] and Rahul, nobody averages above 50 overseas," he said.

Pujara, after his determined 72 on debut against Australia in the Bangalore Test that India won, would seem to be a readymade replacement for Dravid. Again though, not everyone was in agreement. "He has not scored runs in the Ranji Trophy matches after he came back from injury. Also, he has had two surgeries, so with regards to fitness, he could be a concern," the board official said. Pujara played four Ranji Trophy matches for Saurashtra this season and scored just 200 runs with two fifties. Subsequently, he led West Zone in the Duleep Trophy quarterfinals, but scored just 57 runs in the two innings with 55 in the first.

VB Chandrasekhar, the former national selector, said it would not be a bad idea to reinstate Laxman to the No.3 spot. "If they are going to still continue with Laxman, he should be the No.3 for the short term," he said. But the board official disagreed, saying a more healthy approach would be to think long-term. With India playing their next three Test series (against New Zealand, England and Australia) at home, the selectors had a good opportunity to blood a young talent.

What also does not help Laxman's cause is that he has weaker away record compared to batting at the No. 3 spot at home. Overall, Laxman has made 1611 runs across 23 Tests in that position at an average of 44.75 with four centuries. But in 28 away innings, he averages only 34.40 with a tally of 929 runs compared to 682 runs at 75.77 in nine innings in India, including his highest Test score of 281 in 2001 against Australia at Kolkata. And outside Asia, in 24 innings he has just 797 runs at 33.20 with two hundreds.

If he has to look beyond Laxman, Chandrasekhar said he cannot see too many choices beyond Kohli or Rohit. Chandrasekhar qualified his answer by citing the parameters necessary to be a one-down batsman. "Dravid was successful for two reasons primarily. Considering India had a host of top-order batsmen who were aggressive and if there was an early loss of a wicket, it (situation) required him to come and stonewall. Also, if India had a good start, the team needed someone to sustain the momentum and Dravid did the job successfully again."

Aakash Chopra, the former Indian Test opener, said the selectors had the right opportunity now to actually hit upon a long-term No.3 batsman. Though he is a fan of Pujara, Chopra said his other choice would be Badrinath, who played two Tests in the homes series against South Africa in 2010 but never played again. "He has been the prolific batsman on the domestic circuit," Chopra said. "Allow him to be there for a while and see how it goes."

Chopra said even if age was not exactly on his side, Badrinath had the right fitness, attitude and experience to compete with the youth. "He might be on the wrong side of 30s so to speak, but he is as fit as, or even fitter, than anybody else. And he knows how to score big runs."

Badrinath's case inside the board, however, does not have much support. "Not only is he 30-plus, but he has been tested already. He is a good player at domestic level but unfortunately does not seem to fit at the highest level." The official said the selectors would not be bothered even if the player was inexperienced as long as they felt he had the X-factor. He even cited the example of the Rahul Sharma, the Punjab legspinner, who was criticised as a gamble.

"Some have that and some don't. When the selectors picked Rahul Sharma, they were criticised because he had only played a handful of first-class matches and hardly got any wickets. But he has bowled well in whatever matches he has played. It was a gamble but the selectors had faith in him," the official said.

Asked if Kohli was not being groomed for the No.4 slot once Sachin Tendulkar retires, the board source said the selectors would have to keep their options open. "Depends. Three to six are slots where a lot of places would open up as the selectors would have to look beyond the seniors."

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    Dhoni and only Dhoni should be considered for no 3 slot, no one else, Kohli can become the captain, but Dhoni for no 3...

  • Suman on March 14, 2012, 9:54 GMT

    why cant put dinesh karthik good batsman and keeper...........He also got runs under his belt in the ranji trophy..........

  • Al on March 13, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    Virat Kohli has already replaced Dravid. People suggesting 10dulkar and VVS as replacement for Dravid are out of their mind. 10dulkar and VVS have to go NOW. We need to find replacements for them.

  • Kuldeep on March 13, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    Laxman is not a solution. He is not going to be around for a long time, infact it is time for him to retire from test matches just like Dravid.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2012, 18:46 GMT

    why they are not considering abhinav mukund. He consistantly doing well in internal matches and also international matches he performed better than many players. why they not giving more chance to him. Why cannot think about one allrounder spinner in top order. then in foreign countries like south africa, west indies, australia three fast bowlers, aswin and these all rounder can do his role too. So many option we have now but they will not think about that. They thinking about pure batsman. Here thinking about Dravid place only, after some time Laxman and sachin places need replacement.

  • Cricket on March 13, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    There is plenty of confusion here and I think it's down to the title. Dravid is irreplaceable but not the numer 3 slot. Dravid is the last of the links to the classical batsmen. He was a matchwinner, matchsaver, technically excellent, a champion and master batsman, the glue that held the team together, a consummate professional, well-read, articulate and intelligent and a gentleman on and off the field. So no point wasting time looking for something that is not there. Many of you have Sehwag, Gambhir,Tendulkar, Laxman as automatic choices even after the Australia tour. That being the case, the only small crumb of comfort I take in RD's retirement is that he will no longer have any association with humiliations such as the most recent England and Australian tours that these players and the Indian selectors have contributed to.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2012, 12:21 GMT

    Alright, let me summarize what all my other reader friends have said. This is high time, we need to get rid of age barrier coming in for team selection. Look at Mike Hussey, selection of Doherty, Ed Cowan, Marcus North, all of them are technically sound in their departments. In addition to this, I strongly agree selection of Badrinath at No. 3. At this position in the lineup, you need someone who can stabilise the ship, absorb the pressure, is a good leaver of the ball, values his wicket and most importantly has a solid defense. Badri is OK on this checklist.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2012, 11:58 GMT

    chateshwqar is a good stroke-maker and i think that he'll be a fine replacement...!!!

  • Blake on March 13, 2012, 11:51 GMT

    The best option is to shuffle the batting order and then include rohit sharma in the middle order. virat kohli bats at 3 or 4 in ODI's so he is ready to play at 3 in test matches, Rohit can fit in at 5 and Laxman should move down to 6. When Sachin and Laxman retire then the next in line would be Rahane who might have to bat at 4 to fit him in the side. Next best after Rahane is i feel Abhinav Mukund but he is a opening batsman and im not sure how he would go at number 6 which is where the next position will open up after the seniors go, this being the case Manoj Tiwary might get a go at 6 as he has been scoring heavily and has a ODI hundred. The other main options mentioned where Pujara and Badrinath, well Pujara has not been in top form since injury so he needs to score heavily to get selected and with Badrinath i think he should have been in the side 2 years ago at number 6 instead of trying raina, yuvraj and others in this slot. Now he is getting older

  • aalyaan on March 13, 2012, 10:38 GMT

    IPL will kick out more lazy old players like rahul dravid...keep watching fellows..india is full of talent and there many many v good batsman who r just waiting for a single chance..

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