September 14, 2007

Who after Dravid?

The appointment of the coach is a distant second with the quest to find a successor to Rahul Dravid becoming the burning concern. There aren't too many obvious candidates either
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Mahendra Singh Dhoni is someone being looked at in a captaincy role, but there was no chance he would be handed the job just now, till Dravid made his decision to quit © Getty Images

Till Friday, 14th September, Indian cricket was in search of a coach. Now, the appointment of the coach is a distant second with the quest to find a successor to Rahul Dravid becoming the burning concern. With a seven-ODI series against Australia beginning in just over a fortnight, there isn't much time. What's more worrying, though, is that there aren't too many obvious candidates either.

The first question the selectors have to answer is whether they want to look forward or back. If they choose to look forward then Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the front-runner by some way. But, that wouldn't just be looking forward, it would be fast-tracking someone who may or may not be ready for the job just yet. Dhoni has been handed the captaincy for the ICC World Twenty20, but no-one knows yet what his approach will be, what kind of captain he'd make or if he'd even be any good at it. Sure, Dhoni is someone being looked at in a captaincy role, but there was no chance he'd be handed the job just now, till Dravid made his decision to quit.

The most serious and immediate concern over appointing Dhoni captain is one of work-load. Will wicketkeeping and leading the team be too much to handle? With Dinesh Karthik in the mix, will Dhoni give up the gloves, lead the team, and play as a pure batsman? At the moment Dhoni doesn't quite cut it as a No. 5 batsman in Tests. And, if the big gloves are taken away from him, and his primary responsibility withdrawn, he won't enjoy the same insurance against poor form that he does now. A couple of low scores and the pressure will be on him.

The second thing the selectors will have to ponder when short-listing Dhoni for the job is the fact that the Indian captaincy is different from any other. It's not merely calling right at the toss, helping select teams or setting fields. If anything, that's the easy part. Those internal pressures are something Dhoni will be able to handle, being the sensible and level-headed cricketer that he is. It's what comes from outside that pose the biggest challenge. The expectations of a nation, the ire of fickle fans who have already defaced Dhoni's house once for no fault of his, the ever-present attention of a demanding media, the constant cajoling and confrontation with various sections of the board to get things done ... How well would Dhoni cope? Someone like Dravid didn't think it was worth it beyond a point.

If the selectors choose to look back, then there are two serious options in Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, the first of whom relinquished the captaincy, and the second had it taken away because his batting went to pieces. Whether either wants it back, no-one is sure, but the whispers have never been too far away. At one point in the not-so-distant past, Tendulkar was appointed vice-captain, and reportedly gave some decision makers the impression that he would not be "averse to the idea" if he was offered the captaincy. Since then, though, he has said more than once that it is not a job he has coveted.

Will the selectors go long-term? Will they only appoint someone for the home one-dayers against Australia and worry about the Tests later? Will they split the captaincy?

Ganguly knows better than anyone in the running what the stresses of captaincy can do to a cricketer. And he knows how much it can take out of a person. After a spell out of the team that involved much heartburn he's now settled back into the groove, and is batting as well has he has in a long time. In England he was more assured at the crease than some of his more technically accomplished colleagues. With sheer determination and grit Ganguly has overcome more obstacles, and spent more time at the crease, than many of his detractors thought possible. Would he want to risk throwing that all away, taking up the captaincy again?

Beyond these three, there are no real candidates. Yuvraj Singh was once vice-captain and supposedly being groomed for the role but he can't find a place in the Test side. VVS Laxman has plenty of leadership experience but there's no place for him in the one-day team. Virender Sehwag, another one spoken of as a possible inheritor of Ganguly's mantle can't find a place in either team at the moment.

Will the selectors go long-term? Will they only appoint someone for the home one-dayers against Australia and worry about the Tests later? Will they split the captaincy? Dilip Vengsarkar, who said he was in a meeting when contacted soon after Dravid's decision was made public, did not want to comment. And, given some of the choices his committee has made in the recent past, and some of the statements he has made in interviews recently, that might just be the best way forward till September 18, when a successor to Dravid is appointed.

Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ratheesh on September 19, 2007, 5:13 GMT

    Test and one day's are highly different versions of game. In my opy, the best option will be to split it into two, inorder to reduce work pressure.By implementing the afforsaid, we can build a basic platform and utilise the capabalities of diiferent players according to their concerned international profile. I think Dhoni will suit one day- Sachin for the test. Highly experienced players can be incorporated in Test team leaving no pressure to both forms of the game.

    Cordailly

    Ratheesh

  • Mr.Coach.Captain on September 16, 2007, 14:50 GMT

    I am sorry. Ganguly can only make the things worsen. We seem to have easily forgotten his period during 2003-2005 when he constantly kept India in 8th and 6th positions in ODIs and Tests respectively. He not only failed himself but was failing India also that time with unnecessary politics. The reason why Dravid became captain was due to the failure of Ganguly and nothingelse as people want to conveniently say.

    I believe both Ganguly and Tendulkar must be out of the team. One could see Ganguly's capabilities during the last ODI against England. Dravid must continue for some more time before he retires. Let the rest of the team be filled with young blood.

  • sri1010 on September 16, 2007, 4:00 GMT

    With so much cricket being played these days, it would be ideal to have different captains for the Tests and limited over matches. This will ensure that the captains are not under pressure all the time as well as providing a fall back in the event of failure.

    Looking to the future Dhoni is Limited overs and Yuvraj in the Tests would be ideal.

    Yuvraj is a quality player and a good thinker of the game. He does not command a place in the side because of all the aging stars. Captaincy would get the best out of Yuvraj who has time and again played very responsibly for India.

    Ganguly was a good captain, but at the the fag end of his career. Laxman cannot really command his place in the sides.

    Dhoni and Yuvraj need to be groomed into the role.

    For the last couple of years everyone was doubting Dravid's captaincy. Give the younsters a chance and the results would be there for everyone to see.

  • Sam1980 on September 16, 2007, 0:58 GMT

    You are right. Ganguly is batting well at ease and has himself talked about how the pressure of captaincy did him in. Tendulkar may be given a chance at least for a short term. He has matured now and should make a better captain than before. Or Laxman for tests and Dhoni for the rest will be the best thing. And Dhoni should give up the wicket-keepers gloves to Dinesh Karthik. The last one is a must.

    Sane Indian

  • Tom67_- on September 15, 2007, 23:40 GMT

    I think Sourav Ganguly should be captain. He is the only person who played well and maintained the form even after bieng captain from 2000-2003.

  • picalex on September 15, 2007, 21:34 GMT

    Saurav Ganguly should be handed over the captancy. He has experience in this role. We are talking about a mighty team, Australia, touring India for seven One Dayers. Ganguly has led several such match series against Australia in Australia and in India, or non-series games abroad. Any youngster, including Dhoni, is not suitable in this role simply because of lack or experience, and possible responsibility of blame due to likely loss against Australia.

  • Azfar on September 15, 2007, 19:17 GMT

    I am getting to hear that Sachin has been sounded out for the Captaincy by the BCCI.This is an absolute blunder.This smacks of the Mumbaisation of Indian Cricket.All important posts in the game are held by Mumbaikars.With Dravid resigning they want to give the most coveted one to a Mumbaikar too.Sachin proved to be disaster whenever he captained the team. He was so non-assertive that even people like Jaywant Lele were dictating to him his batting position in the team. He is not cut out for captaincy. With lot of difficulty he has got his batting form back, he should concentrate solely on his batting.He should refuse even if the captaincy is offered to him. Ganguly should be made the captain for the series against Pakistan & Australia and Dhoni should be his deputy. In the next one year Dhoni should be given the job. If Ganguly refuses then Laxman should be considered. I repeat once more...making Sachin the captain will be the most regressive step taken by BBCI.

  • naddu on September 15, 2007, 18:57 GMT

    i think the best option for india is to bring back sachin as the captain and mohammed kaif as the vice captain and in two years time when it iwll be the time for sachin to retire there will be no better choice and option bcoz after sachin only kaif ios the captain material in team india. and kaif has proved it more that more tahn once

  • Sidhu on September 15, 2007, 15:37 GMT

    i think Yuvraj should be the next as he is the best options in ODI's & 20-20.....in tests i say that A.Kumble should be there till his career & that will be enough time to groom

  • VIN-IT on September 15, 2007, 15:24 GMT

    I think Ganguly is selected as a captain. The reason is Ganguly is the most successfyll captain of India and he has lot of experience to lead and have good aggression to build the stable team. Forget about his form while he was captain earlier. As long as whole nation is winning no matter what the captain or idividual form. Also gangulu is back to his form now and learned from his past.

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