Right or wrong, Dravid quit while he was ahead September 14, 2007

A legacy that lost its way

Rahul Dravid's decision to resign may have been right or wrong but he risks being seen as walking away when he was needed by the team
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Rahul Dravid the captain seems to have exhausted his last drop of patience © Getty Images
Mobile phone statistics aren't for public consumption but it wouldn't come as any surprise if the number most sought after on Friday' was that owned by Rahul Dravid. The words "Dravid" and "jolt" are rarely used in the same sentence but his resignation has left most in a daze. Dravid the batsman has thrived in adversity, soaking up every ounce of pressure and adopting trench warfare, but Dravid the captain seems to have exhausted his last reserves of patience. And he's switched his phone off.

There are two ways to view this decision. An empathetic stance would consider his position, his pressures and the system he needs to work with. In early April he was appointed captain till the end of the England tour. By the end of three series nothing much had changed with the system supporting him.

At the review committee meeting after the World Cup debacle, he had put forward a few demands. A couple of them - seeking specialist bowling and fielding coaches - were met. But the team continues to carry administrative managers who vary from plain incompetent to Machiavellian, and there is no trace yet of a media manager. The process of appointing a new coach has ranged from farcical to indifferent. Dravid has not been in sync with some of the selectors' choices, and he's probably realised, as his official reason suggests, that his batting is being affected after all.

During the England tour he spoke about the lack of proportion among Indian fans. His every move is dissected threadbare and, for the first time in his career, he is being roasted for an aspect of his game other than his batting. His frustrations were apparent during the England tour: he lambasted a television reporter for running a speculative story and, at Old Trafford, left the post-match press conference in a huff after being constantly interrupted.

Yet the move can also be seen as ill-timed and disappointing. Some may even call it a tad selfish. India are currently in a period of transition and need some solidity at the top and Dravid was providing a calming influence. Neither Mahendra Singh Dhoni nor Yuvraj Singh - the captain and deputy for the ICC World Twenty20 - are ready to lead the Test side and going back to Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly would set the team back. Had Dravid continued till the end of the Australian tour, India would have the time to groom a younger successor.

More interestingly, for the first time in a while, the England tour saw a much happier Indian dressing room. The seniors appeared to be chipping in with valuable advice and Dravid, who'd long missed a vice-captain of the sort that he was to Sourav Ganguly, had Ganguly, Tendulkar and Anil Kumble to fall back upon. Did Dravid's personal batting form take precedence over the team's needs? Wasn't he a good enough batsman to overcome these pressures? (Incidentally his one-day average jumps by two points when he leads). Somewhere it all doesn't add up.

Sadly he runs the risk of being remembered as a batsman who always stood up to a challenge and a captain who chose the wrong time to back away
So what could possibly have prompted one of India's most dependable cricketers to leave them in the lurch? We don't know yet but it's probably something to do with the word 'legacy'. He inherited the captaincy with a vision, wanting to revolutionise Indian cricket and put together systems that would make it a world-beating force.

"Our cricketing culture has to change to some extent," he said in an interview to Michael Atherton in the Sunday Telegraph and it's no secret he strongly believed good systems make successful teams. As Atherton himself wrote in that piece: "The removal of a visionary like [Greg] Chappell has probably ended whatever chance Dravid has of making a revolutionary impact on Indian cricket as captain."

Somewhere along the line, especially after Chappell's departure, Dravid probably realised he couldn't achieve what he set out to do. It is also possible - though this is admittedly a far-fetched theory - he feared going the Ganguly way: holding his place by virtue of being a captain alone. His legacy as captain was dotted with a few question marks and he perhaps decided to give his batting his all. He has talked about the focus his batting needs - "I try to slow things down a couple of days before the game" - and would have had to change his method while leading the side.

In an ideal situation Dravid would have wanted to be remembered as an Indian captain who ushered in a new age. He would have also wanted to end his career as the country's greatest batsman. He is astute enough to see that the first dream is now a mirage and focussing wholeheartedly on the second makes the most sense. It may be a decision that's puzzling to most but Dravid, who's normally two moves ahead of the rest, must know exactly what he's doing. Sadly he runs the risk of being remembered as a batsman who always stood up to a challenge and a captain who chose the wrong time to back away.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Baskaran on September 17, 2007, 6:38 GMT

    The wall has been a safety compound, the wall has been a ladder, the wall has been everything for Indian Cricket so many years and after leading India, the wall wants to quit. Its truly a sad part which will make the dressing room go in chaos. Dravid can always reconsider his decision to stay in for atleast to 2 or 3 more series, give a proper heads up to the youngsters and then step out as captain.

  • dhanesh on September 16, 2007, 4:31 GMT

    There's no doubt that Dravid was the only calming influence amidst all the uncertainities of Indian Cricket. Indian cricket will miss Dravid the Captain. No doubt. But now it's time to think about future. And like Siddartha rightly put it, let's not go back to a 'Sachin or Sourav era'. Why not Dhoni?

    He seems to be level headed, brainy and above all a team man. With the likes of Sachin, Sourav and Dravid around him, he will only learn and learn fast! Hardly any young captain in world cricket can turn to such an encyclopedia of experience around him. He can only gain from it. And hence is worth a try.

  • Manu on September 15, 2007, 19:45 GMT

    Its simple...Its an easy way to give Tendulkar a chance to rectify his skipper credentials. Its an internal deal Nothing else. That my view anyways

  • Bindu on September 15, 2007, 16:32 GMT

    Being a true cricket lover I would agree the decision taken by Rahul for the fact it is only going to better his batting performance...It is good for cricket India that it can find people like Rahul who is ready to leave the most prestigiuos sporting job in India amidst people who would do anything to reach that level...as all know he is a person who thinks couple of steps more than anybody else...we should respect his thoughts...at this time Sachin is the lonely candidate other than Rahul who enjoys the support of rest of the team members...Its time Sachin took over the responsibility...

  • Shankar on September 15, 2007, 15:57 GMT

    This is a sure sign that the greatest, (currently)playing cricketing mind in India sees doomsday ahead for Indian cricket. The changes that team Dravid/Chappell sought for the future of Indian cricket was far sighted. Dravid's resignation is an indication that the rot that had been "set" is unlikely to change course, now that Dravid/Chappell are out.

    Welcome back hero worship, dada-giri or whatever you may call it. And watch Indian cricket go the hockey way.

    My only hope is what the other great cricketing mind, Kapil Dev has set in motion, viz. the ICL.

    Sad indeed.

  • S on September 15, 2007, 15:33 GMT

    Siddharthas comment like -going back to Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly would set the team back absolutely has no meaning .. Why ? Dravid and Ganguly started their career together, Tendulkar is currently playing like his old days - then if Dravid shys away from the responsibility - giving it back to Tendulkar or Ganguly is a step back ? Then why was the country so vocal about Kalam's 2nd Term ? The time has come to accept that Dravid was hiding behind Greg Chappell.. with him resigning he is not able to take this pressure of handling the team and more so when Ganguly and Tendulkar has started performing more than often. Time to groom a young captain under the best Captain that India had ever had .. and you know whom I am talking about !!!

  • Alex on September 15, 2007, 15:24 GMT

    Its not fair to call Dravid selfish. I can totally empathize with him. At the end of the day he is a batsman and thats why he is playing for India. Captaincy was affecting his batting and he did not wish to be part of the team just because he was a captain like some selfish ones before him (Examples are: Ganguly, Azharuddin). I respect him for his decision and we all should be proud of what a wonderful ambassador he has been for India and for the game both on and off the field.

  • Bhargava on September 15, 2007, 11:15 GMT

    Yes,unfortunate, but its true, that Dravid's leagacy would be a weak one as captain.But then,the indian system too needs to share the blame.I think Vengsarkar's comments, that Dravid's grooming of karthik for 1 Down were unnecessary, broke his spirit...as also the 5-bowler theory not being accepted...all these made Dravid feel disillusioned as a Captain...

  • Agnel on September 15, 2007, 10:37 GMT

    Dravid will be remembered as the strongest of world batsmen (even ahead of Sachin Tendulkar in this respect) and honest of captains. He lead the side when it was in turmoil and should not be blamed for the wrong timing, especially with so much of back stabbing going on - refer to comments that were made by Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh at the time of his appointment, the obvious supremo influence of the 'stars' - Sachin & Saurav and lastly, the strange attitude of the 'captain in the making' Dhoni (see his recent low scores and lower strike rates in ODIs). He was all in favour of youngsters, but could not bring in guys like Robin Uthappa to open the innings due to the compulsion of pleasing the superstars at the top. If that was not all, he had two captains sitting in the commentary box - Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar making captaincy decisions (bat or bowl after toss!). I agree with you Rahul fully.

  • Gladwin on September 15, 2007, 9:07 GMT

    No it very unfair to say this. Tell us one other captain in the recent times who has fetched glory from WestIndies, Win in SA and England. Also 16 wins on a Trot chasing. Why are these guys talking about his Batting. Does everyone forget that he is the lone Indian Batsmen among TOP TEN in the world Rankings.He is good Batsmen,Captain and also a very good human being.

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