And yet another totally insignificant triangular tournament gets underway and people wonder why attendance for one day internationals is dwindling.
However what is worth commenting on, from the perspective of an Indian fan, has been the return of Rahul Dravid into the one-day side. A year ago, another player of his generation Sourav Ganguly was forced into retirement at a time when he was arguably playing the best Test cricket of his life (his best one day form was behind him but he was still worth his place in the side in my opinion) by the present board. Then we were told by the pundits, both at the “Home for Cricket” and on this comment-space and other fora, that the basis of the argument for Ganguly’s continuance ,which relied on recent performances and averages and things like form, was fundamentally flawed.
Simply because this was the new age (Vision 2007 or Disco 82 or Hope 86 I forget what it was called) where the paradigm of cricket had changed so much that just batting alone was no longer going to cut it, where Ganguly’s undoubted poor fitness and sluggishness on the field were the overriding considerations in his being rendered useless to Team India. In support of this thesis not only was Ganguly removed from the ODI side (and soon also from the Test side) but also Dravid after he had scored 80 runs in nine innings.
Fine. At least there was a principle behind the whole thing whether one agreed with it or not.
Very soon we had what was being touted as the best Indian ODI team ever. Everyone was happy.
Then of course things took a slight turn into the ditch in the T20 World Cup where a chink or two was revealed especially against our opponent’s judicious use of the short ball. And immediately, Dravid was called back in.
Now let me make it very clear that I am not against Dravid being re-called. As a matter of fact I always thought that cricket was a far more complex game than the collection of “eleven extremely fit men” idea that has become popular. I also think that while cricket has changed a lot over the years, at its heart it remains inherently the same—namely that a good team is a blend of youth and experience, where you not only need adventurous dashers who score rapidly and move like greased lighting but also battle-scarred veterans who can dig deep and claw in when things don’t look so good (i.e. champions like Dravid) even though they tread sometimes with lead in their boots.
However if we go by the “principle”, which we were assured to be “above all individuals” , then Dravid’s recall is puzzling considering that Dravid’s fielding has over the years gone into decline with him dropping catches regularly of late (his drop in the World Cup match against Bangladesh being the most memorable) and by no stretch of imagination can he be said to be anything close to the “average” we have come to expect from the so-called Youngistan side.
Now one can say that desperate situations call for desperate measures and that for a while, the principle has to be put on the back-burner, like in South Africa in 2006 when the side was being pulverized and Ganguly was brought back as an emergency measure after which of course he made a triumphant comeback.
But where is the crisis this time? India did well in West Indies after the stutter at the T20 World Cup. This series is not the World Cup and the Champions Trophy after that is again not significant any more, in light of the T20 World Cups which have become the primary non-ODI World Cup events of importance in the international calendar.
One would have thought that if someone new was to be tried (since Rohit Sharma seems to have lost his way once again) keeping in mind the long term as well as the “principle” , this was the right time to blood him rather than bringing Dravid back.
That however has not happened. Which leaves me with only one conclusion: the “principle” (foisted on the public through “helpful” media channels) was not as sacrosanct as we were told to believe and was, like many things in Indian cricket and politics, adopted as a momentary convenience in order to push a certain agenda, only to be quietly discarded later on.