December 24, 2010

India have let themselves down

By not preparing well enough for South Africa and by not acknowledging Dravid's landmark as much as they should have

Sachin Tendulkar has made a 50th Test century seem more like an appointment kept than a journey into the uncharted. Great men do that, reaching out to things that others cannot even spot. His longevity has been staggering, and I often wonder if others deny themselves that because they stifle the child within, drain the enthusiasm that an untroubled childhood possesses. Tendulkar's 50th, and in course of time maybe his 100th, is as much a tribute to his innate ability and extraordinary intelligence as it is to his youthful exuberance. Cricket is a toy, a pet that he hasn't yet outgrown.

Too many others fall in love with the reward. In its mindless pursuit they find the journey tedious, they seek to shorten it, often to ignore it. It has become a cliché to say so but Tendulkar is still in love with the journey. The box office may pass its verdict but the role is still to be enjoyed. It's an extraordinary, beautiful way to live, and one that is available to all of us.

Tendulkar's 50th, dazzling as it was, blinded many to two other events. In an extraordinary, and dare I say heartless, act of omission, most of India chose to ignore that another legend of the modern game had gone past 12,000 runs. Rahul Dravid has rarely demanded the spotlight, and increasingly in India, with its modern obsession for self-promotion, the strong, quiet, efficient ones get overlooked.

If Tendulkar's life is about enthusiasm, Dravid's is about determination. If Tendulkar is the child splashing colour about with glee, Dravid is the scientist in a relentless search for progress. He might seem weighed down but that is his style and it is a style that has served him and his team handsomely for almost 15 years. Tendulkar might have been a Formula One driver or a striker in a goalmouth, Dravid would have been an Olympic shooter.

Twelve thousand runs is a colossal achievement. Very good players are respected for life for scoring half those. It is a reward for an unwavering work ethic, for a man who has never drifted from the path of perseverance and integrity, two rather unfashionable qualities in public life these days. By not recognising the enormity of what Dravid has achieved, India has let itself down.

Having said that, neither champion will have enjoyed the occasion for their landmarks. Indeed, Tendulkar's achievement blinded many to the fact that a Test match was eventually conceded. Once again India had lost the first Test of a series overseas, and once again the lesson will be completely ignored.

India are slow starters on bouncy pitches. It takes time to make the adjustment, even for the very best - as it would be for a linguist who has spoken Tamil for a couple of years to switch to French immediately. But India have always been adamant about not giving themselves more than a game to acclimatise; now even that is a luxury. And so we must reap what we sow. In 2007 in England, rain, and an astonishing umpiring error, allowed India to escape with a draw in the first Test, and in Australia later that year India kept the tradition alive by losing the Boxing Day Test match.

Yet India seem to enjoy jumping off planes and into cricket matches. In 2007, after much pleading, Anil Kumble was given one warm-up game in Australia. I found that staggering: that an Indian captain was having to negotiate with his own administration for the best possible opportunity to win. Admittedly there are some players who don't enjoy playing warm-up games on the grounds that they are served with poor opposition on pitches that may not always resemble those in the Test matches. And it is true that conditions at Centurion on the first day were very different from those on subsequent days, but I can't help thinking that better preparation might have ensured India didn't get bowled out as cheaply as they did.

But India's current problems lie deeper. The best teams in the world are those that are capable of taking 20 wickets in most conditions. Strong bowling sides keep you in the game longer than strong batting sides do. India's bowling in Centurion was amiable, even embarrassing. It didn't have the potency to drag India back into the game and allow the second-innings performance to take them to safety. India might have lost the Test on the first day, but the bowlers ensured that no other result was possible.

India produced the landmarks, brilliant as they are; South Africa produced the result.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 21:21 GMT

    I must say, I missed this one too :( 12000 runs is monumental!!

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    @Ravi_Musti: rocking comment..u jst snatched my thoughts & left me come they challenged the thoughts of a man with more than 2 decades of experience sitting on cricinfo @all other guys fighting over who is better...both r legends & have won matches for India..Dravid has always been the unsung hero but I don't think he minds that..the pair of them have always been my favourite test players playing truly for india..if sachin is in a much better form and flow than dravid the vice-versa was the situation in 2002-03....

  • Gulshan_Grover on December 27, 2010, 17:52 GMT

    Dravid has been a great batsman for India and we all love him a lot, but he is way past his sell date....he should go now so we can induct younger players one by one, otherwise all the men of the golden generation will be gone at once in couple years time (Sachin, Laxman etc.) and we will be left holding the bucket just like Australia.

    Loyalty towards a certain player should never exceed loyalty for Team india. Cheers :)

  • 114_in_final_Six_overs on December 27, 2010, 17:43 GMT

    Rahul Dravid, no doubt a great batsman once, has become the albatross around India's neck. Neither he is retiring, nor being shown the door, and he is definitely not batting like a dominant number 3 that India needs. Apart from few centuries on dead tracks against some very ordinary opposition he has nothing to show for. Emperor has no cloth and no one wants to point this out. Hopefully, now that he has scored 12K runs and taken 200 catches he will call it a day and not make team India suffer any more. He has now failed in all 4 innings of this test series and that is definitely one of the reasons India is struggling to compete despite brave efforts from others.

  • Biophysicist on December 27, 2010, 12:10 GMT

    @NoCountry_for_OldMan: If one who has scored two centuries in the last series with an average of 110.25 is in terminal decline, just after one relatively poor performance in the present series, I wonder why you did not say the same of Sachin after the NZ series (when his average was in the low 30s)? For your information, Dravid averages over 46 so far in this calendar year, i.e., upto the end of the 1st test in SA. It is an average most test players would be happy for their career not when they are out of form, which has been the case with Dravid in the recent times. Please look up statistics before making statements.

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 9:30 GMT

    Dravid:Scored nearly 23% of the total runs put up by India (with a batting average of 102.84) in the 21 Test matches won under Ganguly's captaincy. This is the highest percentage contribution by any batsman in Test cricket history in matches won under a single captain where the captain has won more than 20 Tests.Only player to score a century against every Test playing nation away from home.Averages 66 in matches won (43), 78 in matches won abroad (18). off cricinfo (same period) sachin dravid 49 52 matches won 4580 4748 runs scored 68.37 66.87 average 17 13 100s (6 200+ each) 16 22 50s Equal number of 50s to 16 dravid has 16 100s to tendulkar's 17 55.9 47.71 SR lets compare SR with lesser balls dravid is 57.95 to sachin 55.9. in short sachin is greatand so is dravid don't disaccount the wall

  • Biophysicist on December 27, 2010, 5:18 GMT

    Gulshan_Grover and Hema_Adhikari: I don't understand how you people can be so critical when Dravid doesn't perform in a test, but be blind to the non-performance of Sachin? Why didn't you call for the head of Tendulkar when he failed to score even one century against NZ in the last series? Even Haribhajan got two centuries in that series? If Dravid has become the problem now, wasn't Tendulkar the problem then, not to speak of his poor run from 2003-2007, when he averaged just 39.54 against all countries (both home and away combined), excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe (47.31 if these two countries are included). How does it compare with Dravid's average of 56.55 (58.42 if you include Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) for the same period against the same opposition during the same period? Who among these two was boosting his average against weak opposition? Did you guys ask for Tendulkar to be dropped then, since he was the problem at that time?

  • NoCountry_for_OldMan on December 27, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    I agree with Gulshan, RD seems to be in terminal decline and at the age of 38-39 giving more chances is ridiculous. It is not that he will be around in 2012-13 to play test cricket for India. Plus, he is so out of form for so long. His place should go to a youngster.

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2010, 4:41 GMT

    I am a hardcore Dravid fan from the day I saw him make his debut in England, I was thinking was there ever a way I could tell people in India to look beyond Sachin and then I came across this article... Harsha let me tell you... you command respect for such articles in many cricketing circles... Keep writing... :)

  • Milind_Jadhav on December 27, 2010, 4:05 GMT

    Vishal Gopal, Kallis was right in being unhappy that the contribution of the other players were overlooked...after all he took 143 tests to get to his first double hundred! Of all the players he should know what it takes to get to 38 centuries and acknowledging Sachin's feat would not have made him any lesser. Let us not confuse matters here. Test cricket has been played now for close to 135 years. Hundreds of matches and players and it took this fantastic player to be the first one to get to there. The circumstances are not relevant. So lets us not miss the woods for the trees. I find Harsha's comparisons rather silly to say the least. Child splashing colour and a scientist! What the hell was dealing with Warne's leg stump attack about? Was not playing on the off-side in an innings of 241 any less? The one about F1 and Shooting is even worse! F1 drivers have to deal with all kinds of variables and how many variables do shooters deal with? Lets get real here! They are all winners.

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