September 15, 2007

Quitting when ahead

Rahul Dravid has made the right decision, leaving the captaincy on his own terms



Rahul Dravid won't be remembered as India's best captain, but at least he left the job with his dignity intact © AFP

If you give the captaincy your all, there is a definite use-by date. Rahul Dravid, an intense and thoughtful individual, has obviously reached the end of the line as captain.

As is the case with retirement for a regular player, for a captain it is better to resign when people are asking, "Why did you?" rather than "Why don't you?" Dravid certainly achieved that aim, having just completed a memorable Test series win over England and then pushing the hosts to the limit in the seven-match one-day international series.

Many people will wonder why Dravid has resigned from the most prestigious sporting job in India after only two years. I'm not surprised, because Dravid is the kind of person who puts his heart and soul into any job he tackles. When you do that, especially in a country where a billion people all think they can do the job better or at least as well, it can wear you down mentally.

Dravid is a man of great integrity and if he feels he's no longer capable of doing the job to his satisfaction and in a manner that will serve India best, he is not going to keep doing it for any kudos that may come his way. He won't be remembered as the best Indian captain but he'll be recalled as one who left the job with his dignity intact.

He was a solid captain, and there were times when he threatened to be an aggressive captain with oodles of flair, but in the end there was always the feeling that the extra pressure that comes with being Indian captain generally stifled those urges. It may also have been that captaining a side containing one superstar and a number of high-profile players wasn't conducive to Dravid always doing what his instincts told him was best to claim victory. Dravid is a strong and honest character but he is more inclined towards consensus than confrontation.

Because there is no obvious successor, the selectors may think about splitting the captaincy as a short-term solution. On that basis VVS Laxman would make a good Test captain; it may just be the confidence boost his batting needs, and it would give the selectors time to find a long-term, full-time captain. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been earmarked for future leadership and the one-day captaincy would be a good way to test his mettle.

In September, 1975, I resigned from the Australian captaincy after four years in the job, feeling a sense of satisfaction and relief. In the modern game with all the extra matches and duties, two years of Indian captaincy is the equivalent of four in the Australian job. I empathise with Dravid's decision and think he has made the correct call.