Friday, September 14, 2007

The Labours of Leadership

Rahul Dravid resigns as India captain. What makes leadership so difficult? What's it about India captaincy that it keeps claiming its victims and never ceases to be a game of musical chairs?

Its quite easy to look back in hindsight and criticise a lot of captaincy decisions, but to be very fair to the guy in the middle, he makes decisions at the spur of the moment for many of which he is merely an executioner and not the inventor. I guess as a mature audience, we need to slowly start being more forgiving of the India captain. For one, the team that he captains isnt always the best. Yes, we have Tendulkar and we have Ganguly but then this is a 11 man game isnt it? How many genuine match-winners do we have in our ranks? Of these potential match-winners, how many have won us matches with regularity? Why then, the fury against the captain?

We're a country of contradictions. We talk of a team game and yet our focus is so much on individuals. We'd settle for a Sachin century as against an Indian victory. We blame the captain for what essentially is a team game. Its a shame to see some of the greatest Indian players like Dravid, Tendulkar and Sourav being goaded towards retirement just because they're 30 plus, when the rest of the world is banking on their 30 plus warriors to deliver the goods. Take a look at a few.

Matthew Hayden - 35
Adam Gilchrist - 35
Andrew Symonds -32
Ricky Ponting -32
Sanath Jayasuriya - 38
Shaun Pollock - 34
Jacques Kallis - 31
Stephen Fleming - 34

If Jayasuriya can belt 88 of 44 balls at the age of 38, I dont see why a Sachin or a Sourav or Dravid need to retire just as yet. Why do we need to believe that they've played their last World Cup? I still believe that we're yet to see the best of this big three. I still believe that to replace these stalwarts there needs to be someone who can fill their shoes (as batsmen and not just as fielders). A Ganguly who cant field too well is certainly better than a Sehwag who doesnt know where his off stump is. A Tendulkar who gets frequently laid down with cramps, is a safer bet
than a Kaif who struggles to get the ball off the square. A Dravid at 34, can cream attacks with greater ease than a Suresh Raina who squares up with every quick delivery that's thrown at him. When will those crying themselves hoarse about the joy of youth realise that we simply dont have the bench strength to talk about replacing these guys!

Indian cricket is at a crucial juncture as I see it today. We need a coach that can groom young players by easing them into the rigmarole of international cricket. We badly need a few express bowlers that can run through a side. We need a couple of all rounders. We need a few good middle order batsmen that can face all kinds of bowling and cart them around when required. And we immediately need a captain.

While reports say its Tendulkar who's tipped to be the next man in the hot seat, we should not forget the Prince of Kolkata who arguably was the face of effective leadership for the better part of his tenure as captain. If we see a team that's willing to take the fight to the opposition when required; if we see a team that doesnt back down even if its chasing a 300 plus score; if we see a Rahul Dravid (earlier renowned as a grafter) in a run-pincher's role; if we see fast bowlers steaming in to bowl; its a passion that Sourav instilled in this team. The nucleus for the future -- Harbhajan, Zaheer, Yuvraj was laid by the Prince. If Sourav lost his captaincy to Dravid, its only fit that when Dravid relinquishes it, Sourav be the man considered fit for the job. We should also not forget that Sourav took up the reins of the team when it was down in the dumps. Sachin had relinquished the captaincy then and the ugly face of match-fixing had cast its shadow on Indian cricket, taking away from it a few specialists - Nikhil Chopra, Azhar, Jadeja and Mongia. To have brought India back from that situation and to have created a team that others take seriously is a matter of great credit and I'd always be a Ganguly fan for that.

While a lot of fans would be screaming "Chak De! Sachin", and I wouldnt want to argue with that, I've got a few words of my own, "Dada, phatiye daao!"


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