Captaincy conundrums

AFTER GANGULY (below): Will Dravid be able to handle the trials and tribulations of captaining Team India?-PTI AFTER GANGULY (below): Will Dravid be able to handle the trials and tribulations of captaining Team India?

CAPTAINING the Indian cricket team is not only an exceptionally tough job, it's also a thankless one. The undercurrents in Indian cricket make it more stressful. Study the history of Indian cricket and one finds that all the captains, barring a few, had to encounter problems not created by them. Sourav Ganguly is one captain who, with the backing of the BCCI, dodged problems till he created one in Zimbabwe.

Rahul Dravid is a different type of a person. He is not one to create problems nor does he allow himself to get provoked by controversies. He reminds you of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi who once said that in a country like India with so many religions and languages, getting eleven minds together is not easy, but at the age of 21 when he was appointed captain, he still managed not only players of different religions but also their egos.

Polly Umrigar, Nari Contractor and Vijay Manjrekar praise Pataudi's captaincy and his man-management skills. As a junior, Pataudi had to handle seniors and when he did that, things began to work smoothly. There is one point that Pataudi made that players from the North first act and then think. But players from the South and the West think before acting. This observation made him a better captain.

Rahul Dravid doesn't have to deal with seniors unless Ganguly returns but he must have, over a period of time, made observations about the behavioral pattern of each player. Whatever interaction I had with him during my Bangalore assignment for four years, I have observed that he is a well-read person and that's a big plus for any leader.

The books that one reads and music that one listens to definitely influence one's personality and decision-making. The problem is that in this Indian team not many have a solid academic base, and getting such players to perform at their optimum level is not going to be an easy task. Pataudi had players who not only were graduates but had a good cricketing brain. Can this be said of even half a dozen players in the current Indian team? It's to the credit of Ganguly that he managed to get the best out of cricketers who always lacked confidence. Dravid too has this knack of handling players. A couple of years back, I requested him to talk to Karnataka Under-19 players before the tournament. He spoke for twenty minutes and covered all the points. What was impressive was that he did admit that not everything that he did as a teenager was right but he stressed the need to do the right things more consistently.

V.V. KRISHNAN

The media will find it difficult to deal with Dravid. During Ganguly's regime, there was a lot of non-cricketing stuff that was floating around. No way Dravid will allow this. Again, here one remembers Pataudi saying that a captain of the country has to assess the cricket knowledge of a journalist and his commitment to the game. But Pataudi didn't have to deal with story-hungry modern journalists.

Dravid is well aware of the fact that the media is important to the game but unlike Ganguly, who used to have a separate press meet for his Bengali press, Dravid will not oblige the local media with juicy stories. Had Ganguly not spoken about the captaincy issue in Zimbabwe, he would have continued to lead. In a cricket-mad country like ours, things at times can't be controlled and Dravid has seen that.

A captain who controls the emotions of his players and doesn't rub the followers and the officials the wrong way is the one who is likely to succeed. International cricket is nothing if not about pressure and Dravid-Chappell are intelligent enough to use those pressure tactics against the opposition.

The win at Nagpur had some positives, with each player sticking to his role. This is what a team game is all about. It does seem Dravid and Chappell have respect for each other and that's quite evident in their strategy. Furthermore, if Sourav Ganguly starts scoring runs, we will soon see him back in the team.

Ganguly can no longer afford to be complacent. Greg Chappell means business and it's for Ganguly to fit into the system. This game can't be played without being focussed. Chappell has set the standard. Now it is up to the players to fall in line.