India’s ODI squad for England is along expected lines. Sachin Tendulkar was expected to play this important series. Harbhajan Singh has been rested due to injury or dropped due to excruciatingly bad form, depending on whose word you take. Sreesanth has been used and thrown away as the team has seen fit. And there’s still no sign of Ashish Nehra despite him submitting a fitness certificate.
But the one selection we didn't see coming was Rahul Dravid. "Rested", incidentally, was the word used to describe his absence from the ODI team in 2007, when he was actually dropped.
Considering Dravid's recent good run in Test cricket, it's easy to understand why he has been recalled. In making three hundreds in trying conditions, he brought respectability to India's otherwise poor show. His younger colleagues continue to flunk tests of their techniques. And it's invariably the short ball that gets them curling up in foetal position.
So, while Dravid's comeback may suit India's short-term interests, it rankles on two counts.
One — in all probability, Dravid will be dumped again once India return home to their flat wickets. He was recalled in 2009 when our selectors saw that our flat-wicket bullies couldn't cope with the bouncy tracks for the Champions Trophy in South Africa.
What did Dravid do? He made 14, 47, 39, 76 and 4 — performances that don't warrant being dropped for two years. Just as he didn't warrant being dropped after one really bad series in 2007 when the rallying cry was Youth Power in the wake of the World T20 triumph. This use-and-throw policy may be justified for lesser players, not for one of the greatest batsmen in history.
Two — this side won the World Cup only four months back, and they didn't win it by looking backwards. Young players had a huge hand in this triumph, as did the policy to persist with them. So why recall a semi-retired player to bat for them now?
The saddest part of this retrograde step is that it will end badly for Dravid. He deserves better in the evening of his tremendous career.
Here's former selector Dilip Vengsarkar's reaction to Dravid's recall:
I’m worried about the reason and the thought process behind the recall. If Rahul is back because he plays the short balls well, it is a matter of great concern for Indian cricket. It means the youngsters cannot play the short balls.
This decision means the cupboard is empty. If the youngsters are not technically equipped to play the short ball, then they should be sent to the National Cricket Academy. But I have my doubts.
The catch? Vengsarkar said this in 2009. Two years later, despite a World Cup win, the reasoning and thought process continue to worry.
Some reactions on Twitter
@vikrantgupta73 - Now that Rahul Dravid has an "ODI Farewell" series, hope for VVS too. And why not get @souravganguly87 also to play a series or two. Joke
@bhogleharsha - so does dravid get to play on a flat deck at rajkot? i greatly fear that the selectors of the world champion team are panicking.
@cricketwallah - Dravid's a personal favourite and has been brilliant on this tour, but choosing him for ODIs shows confusion, not to mention a little panic
@cricketaakash - While I think that Dravid's absence from ODI was premature, going back to him as a stop-gap arrangement is adding insult to injury!