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    July 19, 2005

    Dravid and Chappell - the new combination?

    Rahul Dravid has been named India's captain for the Indian Oil Cup in Sri Lanka starting later this month. Virender Sehwag is the vice-captain. The squad has a reasonably fresh look about it, with the inclusion of quite a few new faces like JP Yadav, Suresh Raina and Venugopal Rao. JP Yadav, who played a couple of one-dayers against West Indies in 2002, had a great domestic season for Ranji Trophy winners Railways. He is obviously picked with the all-rounder's slot in mind. Suresh Raina starred at last year's under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh while Venugopal Rao has been very consistent whenever he has had opportunities. His double century for South Zone against England 'A' last year to help South Zone chase down a target of 501 firmly put him in the spotlight. His innings prompted England 'A' coach Rod Marsh into terming his team's cricket as being dumb.

    The inclusion of Kumble and Laxman is baffling though. They were not picked first-up against Pakistan or Bangladesh, the ultimate insult. They are both slow movers and there is an urgent need to revamp the batting order and to ensure that Murali Kartik (or any other spinner for that matter) is given the chance to prove that he has the ability to consistently play well at the international level. Just when it seemed certain that they would ride off into the sunset in the one-day game, they've got picked again. When I wondered about why these two were drafted in, I thought about the new ICC rules whereby these specialists could be on standby as substitutes rather than people who were pseudo all-rounders. But this thinking got thrown out of the window when I saw that the Sri Lankan board had already decided against using the new rules in the tournament. I really do fail to see why they missed such a wonderful opportunity to get their players used to the new format. Either we could have seen teams try out new methods to mess around with the rules, as Australia did in their round-about substitution involving Hayden, Hogg and Watson or we could see teams not really use the rules at all which could imply that one-day cricket is better off without these changes. Now we will never know more, for a while at least.

    The rest of the squad has more or less all the usual suspects and I really do think that the team management will experiment with different batting and bowling combinations. Considering the next World Cup is in the West Indies, where the pitches are increasingly becoming very good for batting, there will be a need for batsmen who can bowl spin, bowlers who can vary their pace, bowlers who can contribute a few lusty hits, etc. I suspect the likes of Rayudu, Neeraj Patel and Shikhar Dhawan will also be tried out in the near future.

    Sourav Ganguly has been included as the 16th man. Depending on the outcome of the BCCI's appeal on revoking the ban on Ganguly, he will be dealt with. But even if he is granted clemency, Dravid will skipper. This is perhaps an indication that Dravid (and Sehwag) are being projected as the current (and long-term) solution. Even if Ganguly gets back his batting spot after his stint at Glamorgan, it seems like Dravid will captain the side.

    This series is set to be one of many series between the two sides, apparently in an attempt to make up for lost time between 2001 and 2005.

    I have mixed feelings on Dravid being made captain. He is a very intense cricketer. So I dont know how much effect captaincy will have on his batting. Hopefully it will make him a better batsman. But naming Sehwag as his deputy effectively implies that he is seen as the next-in-line. Dravid and Sehwag are a real ice-and-fire combination, in much the same manner as Ganguly and Dravid were a fire-and-ice pair. Perhaps Sehwag's approach to batting, cricket and life will rub off on Dravid and ease the pressure. I wasnt too impressed with Dravid's captaincy in the test that wasnt thanks to the wrangle between the ICC and the BCCI over Mike Denness' decision to ban Ganguly. With that fiasco in mind, isnt it bizarre that the ICC is awarding one-day status to the Super Series, relief matches to raise funds for tsunami victims and even Afro-Asian inter-continental games?

    In any case, returning to Dravid's captaincy, I found it to be too predictable and lacking flair during that game. But I was very impressed with his captaincy in the Bombay win against Australia as well as on a few other occasions in the same series. He was also very impressive in Pakistan, and I especially found his bowling changes to be very well timed. Either it was sheer coincidence, or he knew what he was doing. He seems to be willing to do unconventional things, such as getting Sehwag to bowl the second over of the innings, even if the ploy didnt really work. So in a sense, he does seem to have learnt the art of thinking on the fly from Ganguly and others in the side.

    Now the question is whether Chappell and Dravid will form the combination that is required for the Indian team to achieve its short-term objective of winning series abroad and the 2007 World Cup and lay a long-term platform in terms of team spirit/culture, infrastructure, support staff, winning feeling etc. for future Indian sides.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:30 AM |
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