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Old July 16th, 2002, 08:32 AM
MrSarfira MrSarfira is offline
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Dravid's keeping pays handsome dividends
By Harish Chandramouli

Going by India's performance in the first two games of the limited overs series in England so far, one would have to reasonably argue that Saurav Ganguly has once again come out trumps. Having taken on the establishment and all the other purported pundits around, and having forced Rahul Dravid to don the gloves (a move which this writer has always felt should have been enforced from Day 1 - given the total inability of the keepers in our country to score quickly down the order) there is no doubt the Indian captain must feel a vindicated man today.

In the first game, not only did Dravid more than adequately do his job behind the stumps, but his wicket keeping seemed not to adversely affect his batting at all, as he scored a breezy 73* off just 86 deliveries to help India reach a mammoth target of 270. What was particularly stunning is that after reaching his 50, Dravid demolished a further 23 runs off just 13 deliveries, hitting boundaries at the death when India needed them the most. Coming from a man nicknamed the 'tortoise' by more than one cricket fan around, this was truly eye-opening in more ways than one.

In the second, Dravid's keeping (particularly to Agarkar) was fairly stunning. Even a wicketkeeper of the calibre of Mark Boucher or Ridley Jacobs would have been hard pressed to do better. But more importantly, because Dravid playing the dual role freed up an extra spot, India were able to play the seventh batsman - and what a vital hand that batsman played. Mohammed Kaif's 38* at nearly a run a ball when India were in the doldrums chasing a meagre target of 203, was indeed what made the difference between victory and defeat on that occasion. I for one shudder to think what might have happened had a Nayan Mongia or even an MSK Prasad been batting at that position with only the tail to follow. Going by what has happened in the past, it is safe to say that India would have probably lost in that scenario.

Now admittedly, as far as this whole topic goes, a sample space of 2 games is too small to take seriously. And no one here is suggesting that a pair of swallows makes a summer. Nonetheless, it is on basic principle that one always suggested, and one is now suggesting, that when all other options fail, then the one avenue that is left, no matter how improbable or impossible to follow it seems, is the one that one must certainly take.

After watching the likes of Nayan Mongia, MSK Prasad, Deep Dasgupta and others fail time and again down the order with the bat, one naturally felt that Rahul Dravid could don the gloves and perform the role for India that Alec Stewart does for England. Of course, I hasten to add, this is solely for OD cricket. For test cricket, not only is Dravid too a valuable batsman in his own right, but in addition he lacks the stamina to do the job for 5 full days.

All in all, India is a far better side playing 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers with Dravid donning the gloves, than it was playing just 6 specialist batsmen and a keeper who couldn't hold the bat to save his life. And when you consider that for several years, one of those 6 "batsmen" was the club class Robin Singh who had no business playing international cricket let alone representing a country laden with as much batting talent as India, you begin to see why India's overall success rate has been so appalling all these years. How can a side compete on a consistent basis against the top teams with just Ganguly and Tendulkar at the top?

Thankfully now, with the emergence of Shewag and Yuvraj, India now no longer depends solely on the above two for all of its power hitting.

And when the day comes that India finds a quality allrounder to replace Kapil Dev that will be the day we play said AR ahead of the seventh batsman. Till then, Ganguly's strategy and indeed the Indian lineup in this tournament are absolutely the way to go. OD cricket, as SL showed in the late 1990s, can be won on pure batting strength alone. And when your bowling is as non-existent as India's, it is not hard to see why endorsement of the extra batting punch in the lineup should be every Indian cricket fan's raison deter.
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