The Sourav Ganguly-led
Indian team had opined that Dravid needed to push the envelope and contribute
in two aspects of the game, as the team needed it dearly.
He was asked to don the
wicket-keeping gloves so that India could play an extra batsman. Keeping
wickets is a specialized job that demands both a specific skill-set and special
physical fitness. Since it's impossible to acquire both overnight, Dravid went
that extra yard, on and off the field.
Knowing Dravid and his
penchant for excellence, it's easy to fathom the amount of work that must've
gone into avoiding glaring mistakes through the World Cup. Not to mention that
he needed to devote equal amounts of time, if not more, on his batting.
Wicket-keeping is one
of the most difficult tasks in cricket and if given a choice, most players
would refuse to assume that role. And if the player happens to be the senior
pro in the side, his refusal is only a formality. But not Dravid, for he would
happily give his right arm for the team.
Dravid took charge as
the Indian skipper and demoted himself to assume the role of a finisher. It's
common knowledge that the best chance of scoring big runs in an ODI is to bat
in the top three. The lower your order, the more chances of failing.
Since he was both the
captain and a regular, successful number 3, nobody would have raised a stink
about the exploitation of power. Dravid knew that greater responsibility comes
with great power and allowed others to prosper under his reins.
As he relinquished
captaincy to sort out his batting, he was unceremoniously shown the door. He
wanted to continue for a little while before passing the baton to the younger
lot for the 2011 World Cup. He had intended to play till the Champions Trophy in
2009 in South Africa and then call it quits in the shorter format. He knew that
he wouldn't be there for the World Cup and the team needed a couple of years to
find the right combination. Unfortunately, he was denied that right. He didn't
like it but didn't begrudge anyone either, for he was aware of the uncertainty
in professional sports. He didn't stop to ask, but moved on.
The Indian batting had
looked a little frail and out of sorts during the tour of South Africa that
year. Our young Indian crop of ‘talented' batsmen couldn't cope with the bounce
and pace of South African pitches. Hence, an SOS call was sent to Dravid - the
man for all seasons. He came, did what he's best at - score runs and save India
from humiliation - only to be shown the door once we returned to Indian soil.
He'd worked as a
stopgap arrangement. The team didn't need his watertight technique on docile
Indian surfaces. Dravid quietly returned to Test cricket and added another
dimension to his batting to succeed in T20 cricket at the IPL.
It's been two long
years since Dravid's last ODI and a lot seems to have changed. Team India has
achieved heights that it hadn't seen hitherto, including the World Cup triumph.
But nothing seems to have changed for Dravid. Once again, the young Indian
batsmen have failed the test of bounce and swing in England, and selectors have
gone back to Dravid. It's beyond doubt that he'll score runs. But I wonder if he'll
be treated differently this time. Or would he be used and dumped again?
Dravid has given his
heart and soul to Indian cricket; it's about time that we give him the respect
he deserves. We can do at least this much for him.