Friday, July 6, 2012

Greg Chappell on Rahul Dravid's captaincy

It is interesting to note Greg Chappell's comments on Dravid's captaincy - where Chappell feels that if Dravid received the kind of support from his team that he gave others, he would have been a far more successful captain. One cannot but agree with that observation, though what purpose it serves, as it is perhaps, an opinion at best (other than raise a bit of a controversy). But I would wholeheartedly agree that Dravid has been the quintessential team man, the highest in that order almost, for the sheer load he carried and the variety of roles he has performed without a murmur for India. In fact if the army wanted a role model for a soldier who sacrifices his interests for the larger interests of the country, even at the cost of incurring the wrath of his popular colleagues, fought the toughest battles in the most extreme conditions and held ends up, bled hope out of the opposition so his other glamourous teammates could look good, they needed to look no further than the tall, upright and elegant figure of Dravid.

One decision that he made as a captain says it all. His decision to declare the innings when Sachin Tendlukar was crawling to a slow double century in a careful and deliberate manner. A lesser man might not have declared but for Dravid his commitment was for his  team and his country and as captain he did what was in the best interests of the team - at the cost of a controversy in a country which is obsessed with records, and Sachin, even to the extent of sacrificing the main interest of the game to support their illusion of greatness. A bit of mud flew, Sachin kept an injured silence, when in fact he should have come out and supported Rahul's decision (he should have gone for his shotsand completed his double ideally). Rahul was calm as ice. He knew what he had done was right and he would have done it irrespective of whoever was batting.

The way he quit captaincy after a successful English tour was another brilliant and almost unprecedented of act in the power hungry and egoistic land of Indian cricket. It is no secret that many aspirants in the Indian dressing room nurture the desire to be the skipper - most without as much as a clue of man management or strategy, one must add. Greats in the game but clueless about leading - from the brash youngsters to wise old veterans - everyone wishes to be the captain and not let go. In fact some seniors do resent the fact that others have been made captain and make life miserable by their taciturn and slightly uncooperative attitude - 'I am doing my job so what else do you want from me?' What a captain wants is wholehearted support, enthusiastic players who are willing to die for their captain, and not just performing roles woodenly. Rahul unfortunately, and this was his failing as a captain, could not elicit their support, nor deal with their egos.
To his credit he also realised that it is best that this era of egos and superstars now moves on, and in a classic sacrifice, after a stirring series victory in England's tough conditions, announced that the seniors would not be around for the T20 World Cup thereby paving way for Dhoni, India's Captain Fantastic in one  move. In that one single selfless act Rahul freed Indian cricket of a burden that it was needlessly carrying and would have carried for some more time.

If the first act is of courage and putting the team interest first, the second was of immense love for the country and the game where you sacrifice your own glory because you see the country needs a change of guard, a change of thought. And as always the change of thought requires a revolution, a violent end, and that was the price that was demanded of Rahul - a seemingly suicidal end to his captaincy. Akin to an army officer who sacrifices himself because he knows that his younger and more able bodied soldiers have a better shot at completing the mission and of securing their countries position.

But where I do not agree with Chappell is that in my mind Rahul was not yet fully evolved as a leader, primarily because he was not exposed too much to it. He was not the kind of a captain who drew unconditional support from his players. They respected him for his deeds, his thoughts, but perhaps found it difficult to penetrate the wall around him. In my opinion Rahul was a brooder, a thinker, a soldier who was best operating alone and in his zone, one who thought nothing about giving his all for his country. He knew his role extremely well and always fulfilled it. But he expected others to do the same merely because he was doing it. Here, as a captain, he had a failing of judging, perhaps, everyone by his high and seemingly perfect standards. It is not easy for most to identify with such high standards, such noble thoughts and such evolved actions and so the person who could have been India's most successful captain did not become successful because he never had the time to figure the trick of getting his team to die for him. A longer stint, and he, one who who is intelligent enough to, would certainly have got there. Captaincy as anything else, takes a bit of time, to understand unless you are a natural like Dhoni who brings such a clear head to the ground. Would Rahul have become the most successful captain? Yes, with more time because he needed to still develop the art of getting his players to believe that they were responsible for the team (as much as he was). Did he have the raw material to be the greatest? Yes, he had the stuff that legendary leaders have. Of courage, clarity, compassion and wisdom.    

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