The Departure of Enigma
Dravid led too much by quiet example, too little by grit and passion
most telling thing about Rahul Dravid’s strange resignation from
Indian captaincy was the eerie tranquillity that surrounded it. On the
Friday afternoon that the story broke, a small crowd of journalists, fans
and usual Indian passers-by gathered outside his Bangalore house in a
light drizzle. Nothing much happened. Rahul’s father, returning
home from the purchase of a Ganpati idol, answered a couple of questions.
For most of the next day the routine analysis and sms polls played out
on television almost out of duty.
knew where Rahul Dravid was. He had not given a single one of his team-mates
an inkling of his decision. Let alone hold a press conference, he had
not even issued a statement. And the administrators, probably delighted
that they now had the opportunity of offering the position to Mumbai deity
Sachin Tendulkar, said nothing really, not even a thank-you. No international
captain in recent memory had gone this way.
By Sunday the newspapers
could just about muster interest in the story. Front-page space was afforded
to India’s tactics at the giggling bowl-out at Durban two nights
before, but the big story of India’s vanished ex-captain was perfunctory.
On Monday morning, less than three days since the resignation, there was
not a word about Dravid. On the streets there were no naras or
public pujas urging him to reconsider. The issue was not discussed in
thing about cricket captains is they change maybe three or four times
a decade. A nation like India puts as much store by its cricket captain
as its prime minister. To see the episode quietly start and finish showed
what an anti-melodramatic response Dravid provoked in the masses. It probably
suited Dravid just fine. Peace again.
more, he must be thinking. No more oily opportunist tour managers, no
more pressures from the Mumbai lobby and public barbs from the chief selector,
no more of self aggrandising administrators, no more suffering for want
of a coach or a media officer, no more accounting for every person’s
actions, no more scrutiny. Time again to do batting, recall the art of
building big innings. Time again to lounge in books. Time again to watch
films, to luxuriate in long lunches in the lead-up to big Tests. Runs,
books, movies, family, runs. Captaincy relinquished, a life reclaimed.
Well, that’s looking at it from Dravid’s perspective, or rather
taking a guess at it. Javagal Srinath, who knows him well, wrote that
Dravid ought to have helped groom a successor. And he should have seen
through the six testing months ahead, where India’s opponents are
Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Srinath is right. Much as one respects that it was Dravid’s personal
decision, a sense of abandonment accompanies it. He has, basically, run
away. If India had a better man waiting in the wings or if Dravid’s
form had slipped to dreadful rather than merely worrisome, the resignation
would have been the way forward. As it stands, it exposes Mahendra Singh
Dhoni, a mere two years old in international cricket, to the staggering
challenge of wicketkeeping, batting, media managing and leading a team
containing three Big Daddy ex-captains against the most formidable one-day
team the world has ever known. Of all the sad thoughts in Indian cricket,
imagine Dhoni with grey hair.
To be driven
in India is also to be driven mad. I had interviewed Dravid at the start
of his first series as Test captain – less than two years have passed,
but how much longer it seems in Indian cricket. He spoke about building
a side, about negotiable and non-negotiable rules, about energy-givers
and energy-leachers in a group. It was rousing stuff. At times his voice
rose and he made the delivery as in a speech. I had expected passion from
Dravid, but I must confess to feeling a little overwhelmed by his missionary
fervour. Half of me thought: ‘Nobody can stop this man now.’
The other half thought: ‘This man will lose his sanity soon.’
of Saurav Ganguly’s genius as captain lay in his off-field management
of the ways of Indian cricket. To take the job is also to accept the wretchedness
of the task. To do it well requires the ability to somehow revel in chaos
and often in a shambles.
an obsessive is an obsessive. It’s hard to grudge him that. Slowly
the job would have eroded Dravid. Captaincy unwittingly compels you to
focus on things you may not really want to. For instance, he cared very
much for what appeared in the media and this was a mistake. It was apparent
to see that his impatience with the press had been growing. Twice in the
last year he walked out of press conferences. He was not beyond cultivating
journalists or putting out his take. He was, in fact, reasonably successful
at it. Perhaps he was also a little sick of it. Maybe he felt the job
was not tending to his best self.
the bruising Greg Chappell era had taken its toll. With a divisive man
running the show, Dravid was unable to forge the kind of bond that needs
to exist between captain and players. But this was a decision he took,
for he knew the score. He may have shared some of Chappell’s observations,
but it was down to him to make them feel secure. By allowing Chappell
to conduct the bizarre business of preparing a team by mentally disintegrating
its members, he lost the faith of senior players. Younger players felt
him uptight and uncommunicative. Dravid ultimately was a pretty solitary
made some odd decisions in selecting XIs and at the toss and in the field,
but he was a sound, standard-setting, passionate man to have at the helm.
He will be remembered, when the context is specific, as the man who led
India to momentous series victories in West Indies and England as also
to a sorry World Cup crash, though in broader terms the period will be
remembered simply as the tumultuous Chappell years.
captaincy was based on leading by example, and maybe when the runs began
drying up so did the larger ambition. In Jamaica last year he played not
one but two supreme captain’s innings in the same Test for a famous
win. Dravid the leader, like Dravid the player, was at his most inspiring
sweating beneath the India helmet, taking guard with a look that is at
once a frown, a grimace and a frozen bliss. It’s a look we all know.
It said, ‘What more can you throw at me?’
this is the spirit that India hoped, or rather assumed, in which his tenure
as captain would pan out. He’s decided it is not worth his energy
any longer. Good luck to Dhoni and whoever else; good luck to India.
is the author of Pundits from Pakistan