Thursday, March 08, 2007

Musical chairs, and repeating a tough act

The Team India we saw play in the 2003 World Cup final had (i) a flamboyant leader who could coax out a show from most of his wards and deal in sixes with the bat, (ii) the greatest ODI batsman in sight to open the innings, (iii) a multi utility keeper-batsman adept at grafting runs n' assisting the skip and (iv) a pack talented but unpredictable fast bowlers backed up by an attacking offspinner and a few part time tweakers from other batsmen.

The bowling lot is still led by Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh in familiar roles but the intervening 4-year period was apparently sufficient time for those batting roles to complete an intriguing game of musical chairs (this version even had some forced 'time outs'). The keeper-bat for the 2007 event is no grafter but one powerhouse of a hitter, while the erstwhile keeper-bat is now the skipper-bat. The former skipper-bat is now the greatest ODI opener in the planet on current form, while the erstwhile greatest opener is guised as a shrewd middle-overs modulator.

In 2003 we saw the skipper having 2 distinct roles (point no - i above). When last spotted Rahul Dravid was desperately trying to master the second, six hitting part in the WC lead-up matches. In fact he has surprisingly done rather decently. Having already hit 5 sixes in his last seven ODI innings, he hit two more against Netherlands the other day. Can''t remember watching Rahul Dravid hit as many sixes anytime before; he has 34 of them in his entire 310 match career - to Ganguly's 176 sixes in 286! U n b e l i e v a b l e for two players having identical career spans and averages, isn't it? Check out
Gangs' and Dravid's player pages before it engenders distrust between us old friends.

Tough as that may look, infinitely tougher for Dravid will be to emulate that first of skipper's jobs: making his mates go through the roof on special occasions. For much of the past year it has looked just that but fortunately for Indian cricket that part is not beyond the means or stature of Rahul Dravid.

After a prolonged period of struggle for much of the previous year the Indian team has finally shown good-ish form in recent matches riding on the blazing form of - who else, Sourav. With some delicate-yet-decisive man management in the dressing room and intrusive leadership in middle overs from the present leader this team is not stopping before the semi finals - and (slurrrpp) beyond.
[This post features in the collaborative World Cup 2007 preview for Team India on Desicritics]


Jagadish said...

Angshu - Aside from the fact that Dravid's batting style is totally different, I think a comparison of the number of sixes they've hit is unfair simply because Ganguly's played 240+ innings in the top 3 (when the fielding restrictions etc. are going to be around) compared to Dravid's count of 118.

If anything, a comparison of Dravid's and Ganguly's performances across batting positions tells me that Dravid is the far more all-round batsman. He doesn't average below 35 anywhere in the top 6. In contrast, Ganguly's average plummets unless he opens/bats #3 (ignoring an average of 59 from 1 game at #7)

angshu said...

Righto jagadish. It was just a fun comment. I saw it as another amazing reminder that cricketers can be so different and yet so comparable in importance.