If India is looking for the next great spinner, they should look no further than the good folks at Cricinfo whose adeptness in putting a spin on things would make even Murali blush.
With Dravid struggling for runs, and he’s hardly been at the crease enough to judge what kind of form he is in, the selectors have a tough decision on their hands. In different circumstances, with the series decided one way or the other by the time game six came around, Dravid would have been rested. But now, with only 44 runs from five matches, there’s hardly a case to rest him, and dropping him in the first series after he stepped down as captain would be cruel to someone who has served the team’s cause exceedingly well in both forms of the game for several years now.
One could say that “Dravid stuggling for runs” and “he’s hardly been at the crease enough to judge what kind of form he is in” kind of contradict each other as struggling for runs is generally what defines poor form. One could also point out that Dravid’s hardly being at the crease (because of zeros and sometimes a little more) is exactly what attests to his current batting form. One could also chuckle wryly to oneself at the assertion that dropping/resting someone “in the first series after he has stepped down from the captaincy is a cruel act” especially since it comes from a body of writers who lauded Chappell’s “current performance is king” mindset and wanted Indians to have an “Aussie” no-sentiments attitude in dropping big names. One could also chuckle again (for effect) if one remembers that it was the same author who, most “uncruelly” said on October 14,2005 that through Ganguly’s stubborn refusal to let go during a poor run of form, he has brought the ensuing public humiliation on himself.
[Cricinfo’s biases have been discussed before and I will not go through the bias deconstruction again. Some commenters have asked why so much is made of Cricinfo and my answer is that for a substantial number of Indians who are not in India, Cricinfo has become the “eyes” into the world of cricket (and deservedly so, their match coverage and the sheer amount of cricket-related content that they have dwarfs anything else available on the net) and the tint they put on their glasses color the perception and opinions of a significant number of Indian cricket fans.]
Sad to say it but it’s true. Dravid has lost his form woefully —watching him flounder and miss his bread-and-butter twirl to the leg several times (one of which caught him plumb in front but was not given by the umpire) before holing out to the first aggressive shot he played in the sixth ODI was proof enough that there is something that is not quite right. However that was not where he let the team down the most—for me his failure in the fifth ODI was even more disappointing. Here was a situation tailor-made for Rahul Dravid, coming in with no pressure to force the score (which never was his strong point) at his favorite slot: Number 3 on a pitch that had something in it for the bowlers, his first ball dismissal by playing down the wrong line (he expected the ball to swing out) to a delivery that was by no means sensational, was extremely disappointing.
Yes Dravid should possibly have been rested, just like Sourav deserved to be in 2005, for the sixth ODI simply because the Aussies have mastered the art of keeping a man, not in the best of form, down.
However Dravid should not be humiliated in the process, nor be made target of unsubstantiated innuendo (like in Sourav’s case where he was accused of faking injuries) nor should his attempts at keeping his place in the side be termed as his refusal to let go. Dravid is a champion, he is still India’s most solid batsman and I have no doubt that he will be back among the runs before long.
And so India loses yet another ODI series to Australia. To their credit, they took the sixth ODI to the very end but once again they made one too many mistakes. There are two ways you can beat Australia—1) they themselves throw it away (a rare once-in-a-blue-moon happening like the fourth ODI when they bowled a large number of wides and Gilchrist had a Deep Dasgupta day) or 2) you play your 100% game. Unfortunately India did not do the latter in the sixth ODI—–they had selected an out-of-form Dravid in a pressure game, Irfan was sent in one drop (which in itself was a good idea) but then he started playing like a genuine batsman and blocking deliveries (his strike rate of 100% was not what a pinch hitter is supposed to have), Sreesanth should have gone for Symond’s catch with his mouth—he would have had a better chance and Sourav Ganguly, despite his 80-odd score, criminally wasted way too many opportunities for twos and threes and contributed in no small measure to the “crawl” that cost us the match, which was there for the taking after such a well-paced opening partnership.
And finally in closing a word about the racist taunts targeted at Andrew Symonds at Vadadora. Total unequivocal condemnation and a matter of great shame. Its a pity that because of this, the Aussies can now take the “moral high ground” whereas throughout the series it was their behavior on the field (Sachin the coolest one lost it against Hayden and Irfan Pathan was being openly abused by Andrew Symonds in the last ODI) and their pronouncements off it together together with the “violent” hypocritical outrage in the Aussie press (read this article that suggests that “Sreesanth’s nose should have been plastered over his leering face” something which was only prevented because “Symonds is a man of peace and tranquility”) that was quite outrageous—all of which shall be forgotten amidst the deluge of “Indians are the most racist” shrieks that now naturally shall be heard.