About two months ago, Rahul Dravid called me to enquire about a couple of domestic 'uncapped' medium pacers - since I'd played with and against both of them. We discussed what they'd bring to the table.
If Rajasthan had vacant spots, it was worth signing these lads, I remember suggesting. Rahul though was quite sure what he wanted, which was to sign only one of the two.
That decision perhaps meant he was being too stiff, which is what I'd expected his captaincy also to be like. With a small squad, it was almost a given that not too many changes would be made in the playing XI or even within the playing XI, for the numbers, or the lack of them in RR's case, couldn't offer that freedom.
Horses for courses
I was in for a surprise and, I think, so were the other teams. While Rajasthan continued their dominance at home, no two games followed the same pattern. In the game against Kolkata Knight Riders, they dished out a green top and played as many as five seam-up bowlers.
The plan was to not only negate the Narine threat but to also not deliver what the top six batsmen of KKR like, spin. As much as it is about playing to your strengths, it's equally about knowing your opposition and denying them what they like the most.
The next game against Mumbai Indians on the same venue; they turned that fast-bowler green top on its head and opened the bowling with two spinners.
The sight of Sachin and Ponting opening can be daunting in any other format but not in T20. While most batsmen don't mind going after the bowlers from the beginning, these two are unlikely to press the accelerator without getting set. That small window was enough for Dravid to bowl two of their rather inexperienced but accurate spinners in Chandila and Chavan.
Dravid is shuffling the pack of cards very often and very quickly. While most teams are reluctant to experiment too much with the batting order, etc, Dravid hasn't played an identical batting order in two consecutive games. He's also identified Watson as their most important man in the batting order.
So, if it's Steyn in the opposition, Dravid opens the batting to negate his threat. But if they're playing against Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, Watson opens the innings because the first six overs and new ball is the best time to score.
In the same game, Dravid demoted himself to No 8, for he knew that to score on that sluggish pitch against spinners, you either needed a southpaw or players with more brute strength. Hence, Dishant Yagnik wasn't only played alongside Sanju Samson (both can keep wickets) but also promoted in the batting order.
Then, against Mumbai, Dravid didn't even come out to bat because the need of the hour was big hitters. Putting the team ahead of himself comes naturally to Dravid. Rahul's view has been to pick the right personnel and empower them.
The writer is a former India opener. Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times. TAG: CYCSPL