A high voltage behind-the-scenes drama was sparked off in the Indian dressing-room by Rahul Dravid's abrupt declaration in the Multan Test which left Sachin Tendulkar stranded only six runs short of a double century, the then coach John Wright has revealed.
Tendulkar, batting on 194 in the first Test against Pakistan, left no one in doubt that "he felt let down", Wright said in his just-published book John Wright's Indian Summers, disclosing for the first time the tense moments the Indian camp went through although publicly every effort had been made at that time to play down the controversy.
Acknowledging that the team managament had a "hot potato on our hands", Wright said he spent a sleepless night whereas captain Sourav Ganguly, who missed the Test because of an injury, was worried that the issue would snowball and end up dividing the team. Wright says no one could be blamed in particular for the situation which could have been avoided had he himself been able to convince Dravid to declare earlier.
"Midway through the final session, Dravid declared, as you do when you're 675 for 5. What Indian captains don't tend to do, however, is declare when Sachin Tendulkar is on 194 not out. The matter became a full-fledged sensation when Tendulkar told a press conference he was disappointed not to get his double century."
Wright said had he been the captain, he would have declared a lot earlier, allowing Pakistan to face about 25 overs and with Tendulkar on about 170. But the former New Zealand captain also pointed out that Tendulkar needed to "move on" after tea when things got slow. "Dravid wanted less time in the field, but got caught a bit betwixt and between. At tea he told the batsmen he wanted 15 or 16 overs at the Pakistanis, and after tea a couple of messages went out. As I sat there watching the innings grind on, it crossed my mind that Tendulkar needed to get a move on," Wright continued. "A final message went out saying they had one more over. Then Yuvraj got run out going for a quick single and Dravid called them in."
Wright felt there was fault all round. "I should have convinced Dravid to declare earlier and he should have grasped that it's one thing to declare when a batsman's 170 or 180, quite another when he's 194. And Tendulkar should have pushed to get there quicker." Once Tendulkar publicly expressed his disappointment, Wright knew they had a "hot potato on our hands".
"I talked to Dravid, who agreed that he had to have a chat with Tendulkar before things got out of hand. That combination of steeliness and serenity, so evident in Dravid's batting, is the mark of the man: nothing fazes him. He's a mature and intelligent individual; all the hype and fuss goes over his head because he can stand back and put the issue in perspective."
Tendulkar, Wright felt, "felt let down". "He'd been playing for India since he was 16; he'd stood up for his country in bad times and tough conditions, and often been the only man to do so. Having given so much for the team, over such a long period, he probably thought this was one time the team could give something back to him. Even the greatest have their goals and dreams and milestones, and a double century against Pakistan in Pakistan would have been a memory to treasure. After a sleepless night, I spoke to Tendulkar who confirmed that he'd wanted the team to cut him some slack. Then he and Dravid talked it through and resolved the matter."