Oh Captain, My Captain ..

This is going to be a long post. With lots of stories and lots of links. And thats basically because it confounds me that people doubt the integrity of the guy. I can understand that they sometimes consider him baggage in the fast evolving version of the one day game. But a saboteur? Rahul Dravid ?

Excerpt from John Wright’s Indian Summers – About the Multan decision..

“Captaining the team in Ganguly’s absence. Dravid won the toss and we batted on a flat wicket. Jut after lunch on day two Virender Sehwag belted his sixth 6 (there were also 39 fours) to become the first Indian to score a triple century in test cricket. Unbelievably, within a few hours this feat had been overshadowed. 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 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. He said he’d been taken by surprise by the timing of the declaration because he thought he had a few more overs to get to 200.

If I’d been captain, I would have declared a lot earlier. I’d advised Dravid to time it so that Pakistan had to face about 25 overs; at that point Tendulkar was about 170. Dravid wanted less time in the field, but got caught a bit betwixt and between. At tea he told the batsmen he wanted 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. A final message went out that they had one more over. Then Yuvraj was runout going for a quick single and Dravid called them in.

There was fault all round. I should have convinced Rahul to declare earlier and he should have grasped that its 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. The fact that we didn’t get a wicket that night added to the jangled nerves. As soon as I heard that Sachin has publicly expressed disappointment, I knew we had a hot potato on our hands. I talked to Rahul who agreed that he had to have a chat with Sachin before things got out of hand. That combination of steeliness and serenity. so evident in David’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.

And of course it was a rich source of conspiracy theories. They came thick and fast; the timing was Ganguly’s idea because he was anti-Tendulkar; if Dravid couldn’t get a double hundred, he didn’t want Tendulkar to get one; Tendulkar had batted slowly on purpose to make life difficult for Dravid. Every hour, it seemed, there was another piece of sensational nonsense coming at us, because people prefer to believe these are the result of careful – and usually malicious – calculation rather than accidents caused by a combination of miscommunication, misjudgement and Murphy’s law.

After a sleepless night, I spoke to Sachin who confirmed that he’s wanted to the team to cut him some slack. Then he and Rahul talked it through and resolved the matter, and we focussed on winning he Test match. There were lessons in it for all of us, but in a way it was what Ian Chappell called it: “A declaration of Independence”.

And considering it would have been sachin’s second consecutive double century, it was an important event in India’s statistic centric development but equally importantly, it was, in my view a very big development in Rahul Dravid’s career as a cricketer and a captain.

Purely as a Test batsman, it had all changed in that Kolkata test. And then those blitz of centuries in West Indies and England and the 4 double centuries thereafter as the Test average screamed past Tendulkar’s and Lara’s.

It was as a one day player though that he’d always been considered “too good” to adjust. Whenever he scored, someone else scored many more. 145 in 129 in a 318 run partnership in a world cup game, and Ganguly got 183. 153 in a 331 run partnership agst NZ and Sachin got 186.

Rahul was always Best Man. Thanks For coming. You may now miss the bride.

Saurav Ganguly said to him, if you wanna play ODIs, you gotta do a bit extra. You gotta keep wickets. And you gotta go up and down the order. And so Rahul Dravid learnt to do that. He stayed out of the side for a bit. He’s a supremely fit guy – holds the record for never having missed a test for the longest time but missed a few ODI games cos he wasnt considered good enough. Learnt how to keep wickets so that he could keep his place. Not great but well enough to justify a 41 batting average (Also Brian Lara’s) . Basically, Rahul Dravid learnt that if you want to survive you have to adapt. and be flexible.

Right through he was the ultimate team man. He did what he was asked to do. If Sachin was on song, or VVS, or Saurav, then so be it, but if Adelaide required someone to step up he did.

As with all hard work one day, all was well. The runs were flowing. The one day spot was secure. As were the brands.

Then Greg Chappell came along. And its important to note that even Ganguly wanted him. A few months later somehow things went wrong there. Emails got leaked and it all got messy.

On the 14th of October, Rahul Dravid took over as captain of India. Since then we had a pretty impressive 17 run unbeaten streak where we chased down everything in sight. (admittedly two of those were under Ganguly).

The first big series was against a full strength Sri Lanka. We won a 7 match ODI series 6-1. And I’m linking each of the games and I’d like you to take a look at the scorecards cos they demonstrate the roles education play in leaders. And the role the flexibility that was forced upon Rahul played in his captaincy.

Game 1. Openers – Viru & Sachin. Pathan at 3. Rahul at 5 gets 85* off 63. We get 350 off 50 and win by 152. – Not bad.

Game 2. We chase 122. Open with Viru and Sachin and JP Yadav comes in at 3. We win by 8 wickets. Not bad either.

Game 3 Aah . Sri Lanka set us 299 to win. We open with Viru and Sachin. And Dhoni comes in at 3. Gets 183. We win with about 4 overs to spare. Not bad.

Game 4 262 to win. Viru and Sachin open. This time its Yuvraj at 3. We’re sure trying everything. Dravid comes in at 4. Gets 63 off 72. We win in 45.

Game 5 Remember, we’ve won the series. We rest Sachin. Gambhir comes in. Opens with Viru. Gets a 100. Dhoni comes in at 3. Yuvi at 4. Dravid comes in at 5 (at 69-3), gets us to 285 with a 103* in 120. But we lose. Uh oh.

Game 6 Sri Lanka set us 197. Dravid rests this game. Viru bats at 3. Sachin and Gambhir open. We win by 7 wickets. Ha !

Game 7 Sri Lanka set a decent 245 to win. We open with Viru and Sachin. Now Pathan at 3, Dhoni at 4 and we win in 39.3 overs.

Game, set and match. 6-1.

That was the first big series. Each of those game had either big changes or subtle nuances. And you’ll find that just as he did in Multan, each time that Rahul Dravid has cocked a tactical and timing snook at the opposition , we’ve invariably won. Unfortunately and for some inexplicable reason, he’s lost the knack of doing that for the past year or so in my view. I still think he’s a cricketer of enormous grit and more conviction than most that have ever played the sport but somewhere recently he’s lost the plot.

I’m hoping that this young brigade hand that he’s been dealt for Bangladesh helps him rediscover a bit of the magic of leadership without the fear of recrimination. I think he’s much better with a coach like John Wright who listens and understands than someone like Greg who doesnt say so but basically means “or-else” . I’m convinced that Rahul Dravid will be better off with Greg Chappell’s departure. Its high time he stopped using process and started using his gut.

Sometimes the most disciplined guys the are most instinctive.


46 thoughts on “Oh Captain, My Captain ..

  1. Does one really need to write a full fledged defence of RD as not being a saboteur.. I don’t think so.. What one needs to do is to give the address of a trauma consultant for those who are saddened by ST and SG’s absence from the team.

  2. Sfx,

    Those 7 games happened in the era of the super subs – remember that time ?

    Saboteur is too strong a term – agenda driven is closer to the truth. Whose agenda? is the million dollar question.

    As regards his captaincy skills, I have repeatedly stated that he has all the tools to become one of India’s better Test captains – his ODI captaincy is a big question mark.

  3. Well, Its also a case of how he’s doing as a ODI captain for a while now. Even on a test level, I think people remember his passive nothingness as Sachin did nothing in that horrible session in Capetown.

    My point (bordering on hope) is, he’s done better and he’s capable of better.

  4. Homer,

    How does it being a supersub fixture change anything?

    And seriously, what agenda and whose is the million dollar question ? The sponsors?

  5. Homer,
    the pitches used to be uncovered during Bradman’s era. So should one not talk about that era? Next thing that we will read is that all of them were on Indian soil.. Have you seen our ODI record on Indian soil for the last 5 years under OTHER captains?

  6. Rahul,

    If the contrast is between Rahul Dravid and other captains, then I am not getting into that debate. If it is about Rahul Dravid, Captain Team India, whole different thing altogether.

  7. Actually guys I checked the scorecards and we used the supersubs in just two of those games.

    game 4 – where raina came in for sreesanth and i guess from 180 for 6 got us to 260 odd and won us the game.

    and game 5 where jp yadav came in for dravid who had batted from 69 for 3 till the end of the innings and i guess rested it out after the series was won. we lost the game ..


    point tho, the supersub rule applied to both sides and what i was trying to prove was that dravid was captain and in his first big series was willing to take a number of risks juggling the batting order with a number of new and untested players and that says a lot for his flexibility in even the ODI form of the game. Something which, as Homer says, he’s lost.

  8. Flexibility is fine when one is defining a team.. Once the roles are understood , it behooves the captain to fine tune the roles and not keep up with the juggling act.

    I did not use the word process. I have not called Rahul Dravid cerebral.

    But is he is cerebral, and he is process oriented, then the natural corollary to that is that he analyzes his captaincy and corrects the errors ( or at least works towards correcting those errors).

    Time and time again, we have come to see the same problems manifest themselves – more so in ODIs than in Tests. So I ask you, where is the learning?

    Remember the series in the Windies? And Pakistan? and in India? Test cricket requires you to have specialist fielders in specific positions. Remember the number of catches spilt in the slip cordon? remember the musical chairs played with the forward short leg position?

    One series – understandable. 2 series – pushing it. 3 series and there is something wrong with the leadership.

    remember 76/6?

  9. Homer,

    Re Sehwag Please dont tell me its cos of Pepsi or Coke cos that to me is as big a sin as match fixing and I’ll lose a lot of faith.

    I’ll go with this : a) get the guy into form. b) get a few new guys middle order slots. And it was politically incorrect to ask either Ganguly or ST to sit it out and so they asked both to comply and both senior pros did. Given, Rahul and Shastri and Vengsarkar and Sachin and Sourav.

    I’ll go with that theory.

    Pls tell me you wil too and I’ll buy the beer !

  10. Sfx,

    I believe in the captains prerogative.. But when it flies in the face of logic, I have to question the motives.

    Against Bangladesh in the World Cup, batting first was the captain’s prerogative. But getting Sehwag, who was so out of form it was not even funny, to open on a juiced up wicket – pray tell me the cricketing logic behind that?

    I do not expect Rahul Dravid to display superior captaincy – but why the insistence on shooting yourself in the foot time and time again?

    Coming back to the Pakistan series 2003/04. The Multan declaration I liked, but please explain to me the decision to bat first on a green top given that the home team had to do all the chasing?

  11. Homer …Agree – there is something wrong with the leadership.

    bowling changes, field placements, body language, run rates, power plays, even batting orders .. something went horribly wrong after malaysia -ish…

    but come back with that agenda bit that you keep alluding to?

  12. Homer,

    I was just trying to frontrun some other guys here -)
    Did anybody ask Ponting wat Gilchrist was doing in his team. the man was completely out of form, adding close to zilch to the team. Today Ponting is touted as a great captain with faith, motivational leadership skills etc. I had made the same point in sfx’ earlier comment on Gilly’s innings. Maybe a Sehwag would have played a similar innings in the finals – IF we reached the finals. Others (esp Hayden, Ponting) in the OZ team gave Gilly a chance to go BANG in the finals. Sehwag never even got the super eights. And believe me he has been the the top 3 match winning batsman that India has ever produced. So you have to have the guy in the team, especially given our riches of talent. My question is the other way round. Why isn’t he in the Test team?

  13. Mahendra Singh Dhoni – India’s answer to Adam Gilchrist or flat track bully?

    Why is it that time and time again, with the game hanging in the balance, MSD has gotten so carried by his own hype that he has lost the plot?

    Remember the Mumbai test? How about Durban in the second innings? And Malaysia?

    Why is the same story being repeated time and again? And what is the captain’s role in all this?

    Isnt it the captain’s responsibility to sit his player down and explain to him the teams requirements? And shouldn’t the captain come down hard if the player puts his hype before the team?

    So, where is the mentoring? Is the captain’s role only limited to spinning the coin?

  14. And I still don’t believe he is a good captain Sfx.. My only point was about sabotaging the selection process etc etc.. Now that was outrageous

  15. Usually a combination of miscommunication , misjudgement and Murphy’s law, as John Wright says, Homer …

    I saw India’s performance in the Sri Lanka series ahead of the World cup and we won all the games that we did chasing .. so I thought , great we’ll chase it down. Thats what we’ve planned on doing. And we got the chance and we screwed up. The occassion got to us.

    But I still wanna know .. What motives ? what agenda?

  16. Rahul, Sfx,

    Sabotaging – too strong a word… And I will give it to the captain that he wanted Sehwag for the World Cup.. But why want him for the BD tour, esp since he ( Sehwag) did not set the world on fire in his domestic appearances?

    Granted that the captain has his likes/dislikes – but what does it take for him to realize that the guy he is backing is not scoring – anywhere. And how long before the realization dawns?

  17. Sfx,

    I had written then and I repeat now – we are an ordinary team when chasing middling scores. Look at the score cards in the Windies and SL series before the WC. A 300 plus wicket and we will do fine, thank you very much.

    Also, against SL, what is forgotten is that the Kolkata game was washed out – on in which Sanath Jayasuriya was going great guns. Also forgotten is that the SL team was sans Murali and Vaas.

  18. sure Sfx – and Sachin got a quick fire 50 odd and we scored the highest total ever recorded in the World Cup – Hurrah to us 🙂

    And what does that mean ? Nothing

  19. The World Cup was a disaster Homer. From the confidence we took from the Sri Lanka series to the fact that Greg c thot that tosses wud be crucial to the fact that we thot that we knew the pitches from last visit(when we lost) to it all …

    And I read now that we’re minnows in the series starting next week ..


  20. Sfx, Rahul,

    I am pretty okay with Rahul Dravid being an ordinary captain – we do not put much premium on captainy anyways – but spare me his whimsical decision making or, as Kartikeya puts it, bloody mindedness bordering on the irrational.

    I dont expect a winning team, but is it too much to expect a team that is competitive, one that does not lose the plot because of bad man management or tactics?

    And if I am to be saddled with this team, then I call to question the man leading it.

  21. Homer,

    I think all of us on the forum have decent memories. So the absence of Murali / Vaas etc is well documented. And there’s always a big IF about a particular player’s presence/ absence from a team and it’s effects. The 3 most important factors of our chasing abilities were 1. Pathan at no 3, 2- RD at no 4 and 3- Yuvi at no 5. So when some/ all of them went through a bad patch, we lost. Whether SL had Murali/ Vaas in the team or not was immaterial. Because the rest of the team was more or less capable of 180 agst an avergae bowling attack and that includes ST and SG. And I still don’t see an ulterior MOTIVE behind Sehwag’s selection.
    Any comment on Manoj Tiwari’s presence and Dinesh Mongia’s presence and RP Singh’s presence and well the list goes on. Some Dravidian conspiracy, I wud say -)

  22. When Dravid was playing his hundredth test, former skipper Pataudi said that Dravid’s contributions though less flamboyant and conspicous were no less than Tendulkar’s . That says it all for Mr Dependable. However as captain, Ganguly will be a notch higher and of course Dravid is the last man who would sabotage anyone else’s charges.

  23. Hiya Hiren

    Welcome here …and thanks for the comments.

    But Dravid isn’t done yet ! Come to think – neither is Ganguly.Or even Tendulkar .. hmmmmmm

    But yes, sabotage is a no-no.

    No, homer?

  24. Sfx,

    I have been pretty consistent in calling Dravid’s captaincy for what it is – whimsical.

    And let us not forget that in the midst of that 17 win streak, we exhibited the very same failings that came to haunt us in the World Cup. Remember the game at Hyderabad against South Africa on a bouncy wicket? Or the game against South Africa at Kolkata- the very same where Greg Chappell’s gestures and the Kolkata crowd’s vocal support for the opposition.

    Thing is, those were problems then and they are problems now and I have yet to see anything concrete done either in terms of personnel or tactics to arrest the slide

  25. so yes, the onus lies with the captain – specially one who had been given an unpreceedented 2 year tenure ( something Ganguly or Tendulkar or Azhar or Kapil or Gavaskar never had).

    As regards sabotage, I do not understand the implication – I hae called to question the guy’s decision making and have wondered aloud the motivation for those decisions – does that tantamount to questioning his character?

  26. Rahul,

    I wish it were that simple. If three people and their form made all the difference between winning and losing, it doesn’t speak too highly of our team.

  27. Hmmmm…. Well, whimsical isnt a bad word I guess Homer. I’d start negotiating at human and settle at whimsical.

    I suspect he’ll get a freer hand this round. and we’ll se how he shapes up. I for one have enormous belief in the integrity of the guy. Not even that lozenge will make me doubt it.

    We’ll see. Meanwhile, I miss lil Indian.

  28. lol 🙂

    I dont care much about his integrity – he is human and there are enough temptations. I also do not believe he has it in him to be a good ODI captain- his captaincy is reactive and the truncated game does not give him the time or space to play out his tactics ( which are set piece and more in tune with the flow of the longer version of the game).

    But yeah, as long as you are okay with whimsical and are buying the beer, I’d settle 🙂

  29. Homer,


    , re Sabotage / Saboteur , that was from the Chinaman post that I linked to in the post..
    “Oh, extremely nifty is our Dravid with a knife from the back.”…

  30. thats the way our team always is/ was… those 3 people kept on changing.. and you realise who those 3 are currently after luking at their total sponsorship earnings

  31. Rahul,

    and that is the thing that gets to me – just because it was like that once doesn’t mean it has to be like that always.
    I dont begrudge players making money – I have seen enuf players living in penury after their playing days and given the shelf life of the players and the non caring nture of the board – sponsorship deals are par for course.

    That said, leadership matters.

  32. I was told this on my last visit.
    I don’t expect a fair discussion here.

    Rahul…April 25th, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Your opinion or mine doesnt mattter does it. Ganguly is out of the ODI team and Dravid is the captain. THAT IS WHAT MATTERS.

    Maybe we will beat only bermuda in future. but what the heck. Maybe that’s our destiny.
    Being a little Indian you might have heard of destiny.

    You asked for my comments,
    I will leave a few questions to think about instead.

    1. Are we not meant to judge team and players by their recent performance?
    2. The team we beat 6-1, went on to play the finals at this WCC. Who knows, with a full days game, they may as well have won. We did not make it to Super 8s. What happened between the 6-1 and the WCC?
    3. Why is Dravid Not Comfortable With “Seniors”?
    4. Why Ganguly, who has consistently made runs since recall, had to be rested after only 10 ODIs?

    you may earnestly believe Dravid is not capable of any wrong doing, or playing politics.
    That doesn’t mean it is true.
    For me the evidence says something different.

    “Oh Captain, My Captain”,…talks of a prize sought that was won.
    What prize did we win? Please remind me.

  33. 1. Big Chief – Yes we are to judge players by their recent performance and it was poor. And they are being judged by that performance.
    2. Yes, the team we beat 6-1 is the team that went on to nearly win the WC. And that just shows the extent of the decline in the two years. Agree.
    3 and 4. I disagree that Dravid is uncomfortable wit the seniors. I am as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that both ST and SG wil be back playing alongside Dravid.

    Qn for you tho – What does evidence show you ?

  34. That is what
    I write on my own page
    and argue/discuss on the forum.

    I am reluctant to continue here.
    I have quoted the reason why.
    I hate it when arguments gets personal.

  35. Little Indian –

    I was just questioning what you thot Dravid’s motives were. Nothing personal in the least ! Please. But if you are getting that impression, lets drop it here and now ..

    Cheers and best,
    as always.

  36. Now let me figure out this CONSISTENCY of Sourav Ganguly.. I was asked the last time to not quote statistics as they reveal less than what they show.. Homer also mentioned about Viru’s average in the WC that most of the runs scored were against Bermuda. Agreed. But in that case lets put Ganguly’s performance in perspective. It was against a Lankan team which didnt have Murali and Vaas, the 3 matches in the WC, were all in lost causes.. And all the EVIDENCE I have points to the fact that he was playing for himself and not for the team..

  37. As the Indian team under Azhar always used to say to the other teams ‘Apne desk mein muze buri tarah haraya, lekin himmat hai to India mein maar ke dikha’

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