Sunday, April 01, 2007

Timid cricket critics of India

It is not surprising that cricket critics in this country poured out their jeremiads at the shameful exit of Team India from the cricket Word Cup in the West Indies. But they did not have either the honesty or the courage to look at the two key people who were responsible for the disaster: coach Gerg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid. There was no need to demonise them, or persecute them. It just had to be said that Chappell was more than a disappointment as a coach, and that Dravid was indeed a bad captain, who did not show the required leadership qualities. This is not an indictment, but observable truth.

But the cricket experts refused to speak. There was quite a bit of politics and prejudice involved in it. They were all enamoured of the magical gifts of Australian Chappell to forge a winning Indian team once troublesome elements like Saurav Ganguly were removed. They refused to recognise that Chappell played dirty politics against Ganguly in a typically Indian maner. He learned the Indian ways faster than the Indian cricketers could learn the Australian's porfessional cricketing ways.

And Dravid played a shameful and selfish role in the whole episode. The plain truth is that Dravid was longing to be the captain, and he felt that he deserved the position. There is nothing much wrong in it. But any one who knew anything about cricket captaincy would have known that Dravid is a bad choice as captain as was Sachin Tendulkar at an earlier point. Dravid was also very keen that Ganguly should not be in the team. He felt threatened by the presence of the former captain. His insistence on taking Virender Sehwag in the team is just a childish way of asserting a captain's voice. Instead, he should have asserted himself more on the field, which he did not. Dravid's captaincy will be recorded as a tame and forgettable chapter in the history of the game in India. In contrast, Ganguly's place, despite the controvrsial endgame, as captain in the annals is secure.

In all the analyses that have been written about the Indian debacle, none of the writers dared to accept the simple fact that the Chappell-Dravid duo have to take the lion's share of the responsibility for the defeat. Instead, everyone blamed Ganguly for scoring at a slow pace, criticised Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and M.S.Dhoni for not rising to the occasion.

It is important to focus on the roles of the coach and the captain because India needs to look for a new coach and a new captain, and unless the failures of Chappell and Dravid are clinically scrutinised, there is every possibility for making the wrong choice in the future as well.

It seems that apart from a few lovers of the game who write on cricket, many of the cricket writers are closely involved in the politics of the game as well. That is why they fail to play the role of a public tribune. Had the cricket writers expressed their dissatisfaction with Chappell and Dravid in the run up to the World Cup and this was no secret, there would have been no unrealistic expectations on the part of the rest of the media, which blindly follows the experts.

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