Sunday, August 12, 2007

The lack of cojones

Growing up, the term ‘innings defeat’ became familiar the wrong way. With India losing. By the time India’s team started winning, in the 80s, ‘follow-on and innings defeat’ were what we hankered for. To make up for all the times Sunil Gavaskar had to stand among the ruins, to make up for all the times an India captain would lose with grace. Oh, we wanted it so bad – for INDIA to not only WIN, but to grind the opposition into the dust.

Rahul Dravid is one of the greatest batsmen to play for India. I’d go so far as to say he is one of the best batsmen ever. Definitely one of the most complete, correct and graceful right-handers, straight out of the copy-book. He looks so good with that full follow-through, I can sit and watch him play defensive strokes for hours. And a fighter. No bravado, very under-stated but one of the gutsiest and toughest men to stand in the middle of a cricket field with the India crest on his helmet. This is the one man we’d all want to be at the wicket if our lives depended on it. True Grit. Possibly India’s best batsman since 1998. Rahul Dravid, The Wall.

Rahul Dravid, the schizo. Because he’s not only a batsman, but also the captain of India. And not just any captain. One of the most limp-wristed, gutless, back-pedalling cricket captains to have ever led any country. With England 319 runs behind and almost six full sessions of play remaining, Mr. R. Dravid chose to NOT enforce the follow-on. With the cloud cover aiding swing, with the pitch still bouncy, he decided that India need to bat England out of the match. This from the man who before the first day’s play dusted off that old chestnut ‘Bat once, bat big’.

When I started writing this, India were 10 for 2. Now they are 11 for 3, with Sachin Tendulkar comprehensively bowled by Jamie Anderson off an inside edge.

Take it from the top, now.

Making England follow-on would have rubbed their noses in it. As Ravi Shastri said between the innings, it would have made a point. England’s batsmen would have been under pressure to bat long, make runs. Pressure brings mistakes. Mind-games? No thank you, Mr. Dravid would rather consult an actuary about his insurance policies. What do we have to lose?

What we have to lose, Mr. Rahul where-are-your-balls-when-we-need-them Dravid, is the match. Item, the cloud cover now would help swing. It IS helping swing, except that our bowlers aren’t getting any. Our batsmen are facing it.

Item, we lose time. India, batting now, have that margin of uncertainty as to what score will be big enough. With your no-risks policy, Mr. Dravid, our team has to bat that extra session, add those 50 extra runs, before they can declare. IF they’re not bowled out in a heap, which suddenly seems a possibility. Thus reducing the time that England have to survive through, giving our bowlers less time to knock them over.

Item, the other team gets a target to aim for. Once they know what the final Indian score is, they can always pace their innings. It’s no longer about survival. Hell, the way things are going now, they might even have a chance of winning it. If they do, Mr. Dravid, I hope you go on the Queen’s next Birthday Honours List. It would be the least they could do for the man who single-handedly revived the English cricket team.

Item, we lose the high, we lose the mental edge. Have you heard of the killer instinct, Mr. Dravid? Do you know what it is to be ruthless? Ask a man named Steve Waugh. Hell, ask Ravi Shastri, he’s the closest we have to an Aussie mind. What did Ravi say, Mr. D? ‘If you’ve got your man under water, hold him there. Why give him a chance to breathe?’ (Incidentally, Ian Chappell says the same.) What you’ve done, Mr. D, is bring him up and give him the kiss of life. What next, an oxygen cylinder? Balanced on your head while YOU stand underwater?

Yes, you had a good day yesterday. You called the changes, put men in the right positions. You have a brain, even a cricketing brain, no doubt about that. I don’t agree that it was inspired captaincy yesterday – for example, Tendulkar should have bowled earlier, bowled more – but it was good captaincy. Where you lose out, Mr. Dravid, is on leadership. Captaincy isn’t about strategy alone. It’s about heart. That jingle they play with your team colours, have you ever seen it? ‘Mind and body, heart and soul’. You have all that as a batsman, Mr. Dravid, even though you’re going through a bad patch now. As a batsman, you’re a stud. As a captain, you lack half of that. You lack the fire. As a captain, Mr. Rahul Dravid, you’re a wuss.

This was the chance you had to win big, Mr. Dravid. This was your chance to ride into the sunset with that big overseas win on your saddle-bow. You blew it. England may or may not win. A draw would be welcome to both teams now. That’s your contribution. Follow-on and innings defeat? Not against you, Mr. D. From a position where India were running hot, teeth bared, muscles itching, you have brought them back to being journeymen. When Kumble got Monty, we thought there could only be two results – India winning, or a draw. In true sporting spirit, you’ve opened the door for an England win. Bully for you.

Do us a favour, Mr. Dravid. When this is over, get some testosterone injections. And oh, a left brain implant might be a good idea too.


Update: I may have been just a little unfair. Apparently Zaheer Khan had a thigh strain. Not much sense bowling again when the spearhead is blunted. Drat. Nothing rankles like a wasted rant!


Tabula Rasa said...

and now our man's on a couple of runs from about a hundred er, deliveries. i'm a great fan of his but this truly is a heck of a cunning plan.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Siddharth Vaidyanathan on Cricinfo supports the decision.


BongoP'o'ndit said...

@JAP: Do you expect anything less from the good unbiased folks at Cricinfo :-) ?

But I agree with you, gutless decision by Dravid

D.P.Patra said...

Mr. J A P has written a nice piece - typically British - controlled in criticism and benevolent when the act deserved damning. Dravid - Borde et al need to be remembered for the most psuilanimous act in the history of Indian cricket - may even be World Cricket. The Coach being a septugenerian with memories of his era of achieving the greatest success - a draw - could he have advised a weakling captain like Dravid in any other manner?

In fine it was an hour of shame for Indian cricket.

Pri said...

the whole thing was embarrassing to watch. i went from utter disbelief to frustration [when they wouldn't declare even past tea] to pure hatred for the man.

Karun said...

Now I'm truly convinced you know more about cricket and the pressure of playing for India than Dravid.

Sue said...

There, there.

(My word verification code this time reads "ekrgpyg" -- which could almost be Ukridge Pig, if you think about it.)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Pondit Moshai, I say it again - great minds.

Mr. DPP - understated invective, sir!

Pri - Dravid doesn't comprehend hatred. He doesn't go beyond a mild irritation.

Mr. Cariappa - Ouch. You're good. (But look at it this way, I can diss Dravid on my blog, he can diss me on the field. No?)

Sue - Where? Where?


Lazyani said...

My first venture in your comments section. You need not have posted the late disclaimer as the thigh strain was not evident later on.

Lately RD has been so defensive that he has started making snide comments about unseen opposition(living room experts).

I hope that he injects some more heart in his head or else the game would become too robotic.

Rishav said...

Dada is back in the team..would you guys layoff dravid already...

He will make good decisions bad anybody else......

Please avoid hyperbole like Most Gutless etc...

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Anirban, the captain has to take the call on his team's fitness. Maybe Zaheer recovered because of the rest?

Spiff, get a grip. This has nothing to do with S. Ganguly's being in the team. Yes, the captain can take some wrong decisions on the field. And I can call it the way I see it, on my blog.


Unknown said...

As you said..its a rant..

its just that sometimes i sense unnecessary hostility towards dravid which originated with the dada saga..

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Ooh luverly!

You do foaming-in-the-mouth very well!

antickpix said...

hahaha. great post, regardless of whether one agrees with it or not.

*imagines Dravid getting spanked with a foot ruler by leering teacher*

satanbug21 said...

watching Dravid take a decision akins to taking a racing start in a Tub Pairs...

littleindian said...

I can sit and watch him play defensive strokes for hours...
...This is the one man we’d all want to be at the wicket if our lives depended on it.

What if your life depended on scoring runs quickly? Would you still entrust your life in his hands?

You say you can sit and watch him play his defensive shots for hours, what about his attacking shots? Why would you not want to watch those? Or does he not play many?

Dravid is a batsman who plays by the book and can only play text book cricket. His primary objective is to survive, not to chase runs.

Unlike in the past, the buck stops with him, if others failed the blame falls on him, and not on the captain. Now everytime he has the responsibility to up the run rate, he succumbs. For that is not his natural game.

He probably hoped for another solid start from the openers, not a 11/3. He had to score quickly, but knew he couldn't, (watching Ganguly play a fluent innings in that situation did not help for regardless of what is shown to the public I am certain Dravid does not want Ganguly in the team); he was panic stricken. There is no other explanation for his painful innings.

As to the reasons for not enforcing the follow on, what ever was the motive, it was not Zaheer Khan, that much has been clarified.