The pressures of captaincy

Captaincy can make severe demands mentally. This is particularly true in the sub-continent where emotions run high following a setback. The captain is often under enormous pressure. There can be occasions when the stressful nature of the job can impact his own game adversely.

When Rahul Dravid announced his decision to relinquish captaincy ahead of the home season, he did so after a largely successful campaign in England where India nailed the Test series. In fact, under Dravid, India, earlier, emerged victorious in the Test series in the Caribbean and won its first ever Test on South African soil. Why then did Dravid give up the high-profile job?

Several reasons are doing the rounds, the most prominent among them being a serious difference of opinion with the chairman of the selection committee, Dilip Vengsarkar, during the tour of Old Blighty.

Dravid was no longer enjoying captaincy and his batting form in the Tests dipped. He sought an honourable way out.

Sachin Tendulkar had relinquished captaincy earlier, and said ‘no’ when the offer was made to him again this time.

In his first tenure as captain, Tendulkar was left frustrated with the mediocrity of some of his men. He was a great cricketer and expected the rest to be like him. This was just not possible.

This time around, the reasons for his refusal could be different. Despite what has been said for public consumption, the entire ‘seniors versus the juniors’ debate and the rash treatment meted out to a few stalwarts by the selectors had left some of the experienced men hurt and disappointed. The feeling is that the youngsters should earn their spots. In other words, nothing should be handed to them on a platter.

Add to this the pressure from the media, particularly of the electronic kind, the fickle public mood and the periods of confrontation with the authorities, and the picture becomes clearer.

Sourav Ganguly is, by winning 42.86 per cent of the 49 Tests he captained India, the most successful Test captain of the country.

Apart from his motivational and strategic ability and an eye for talent, he handled the authority better than most.

He had a few bitter face-offs with the Board and the selection panel, but saw them as challenges rather than hurdles. Temperamentally, he was suited for the top job. Captaincy stimulated him.

From Lala Amarnath to Bishan Bedi to Sunil Gavaskar to Kapil Dev, the Indian captains had their run-ins with the Board. Interestingly, Vengsarkar too was no exception.