Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid – they were worshiped as the trinity of Indian cricket. However, when the real Gods themselves were involved in plenty of battles, how could the mortal trinity of Indian cricket not have their share of differences.
So, on a day when BCCI announced the names of Tendulkar, Ganguly and V.V..S Laxman, as part of the three-member advisory committee, one was conspicuous by the absence of Rahul Dravid’s name in this elite panel. BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur was quick to say that the board has planned something else for the ‘great wall of India’.
But who can stop the conspiracy theorists. It didn’t take long for one to arise.
“DRAVID OPTED OUT OF THE COMMITTEE AS HE WASN’T COMFORTABLE WORKING WITH GANGULY”
A prominent Indian daily flashed this news, providing the perfect launching pad for writers like me to express their point of view. Of course, I’m not surprised by the news, perhaps, I’d written this article before the daily reporter, but of course, I don’t have a source from BCCI to back my views.
Now that a fellow journalist has taken the initiative, I can state the reasons why I believe the story to be true.
For that, we need look back into the history.
1. NAGPUR TEST, 2005, Dada chickens out
It’s well documented how Sourav Ganguly opted out of the crucial 3rd Test match against Australia, who were leading 1-0, after seeing swathes of grass on the Nagpur pitch. Rumour had it then, after seeing the pitch Ganguly backed out 10 minutes before the toss, allegedly suffering from a mysterious injury. That act led to unrest in the dressing room and Dravid wasn’t pleased a wee bit. He had no option but to lead the side. India lost the Test and the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Buzz has it that Dravid was so pissed off that he didn’t want Ganguly in the dead rubber, 4th Test. India won a low-scoring thriller on a dust bowl in Mumbai to salvage some pride. But Ganguly lost nothing, as India lost the series under Dravid’s captaincy, not him.
2. Loss to Pakistan in the 2005 ODI series
The defeat to Australia was left, behind, as the prospect of beating Pakistan was more enticing Poor bowling and captaincy from Ganguly saw Pakistan conjuring a great escape in Mohali. India made amends in the following Test in Kolkata, where Dravid scored hundreds in each innings, but a meek surrender in the Bangalore Test saw Pak level the series 1-1.
Ganguly, who had led India to victory in the first ever Test series win in Pakistan (his contribution zero, Dravid 270) , blew a great advantage of scoring a first-ever successive series wins against the arch rival. For the record, Ganguly scored 1 & 2 in the Bangalore Test.
Under Ganguly, India led 2-0 in the 6-match ODI series, before going on to lose the next 4 matches. Note Ganguly injured himself again, and didn’t play in the crucial 5th and 6th one-dayers. Once again, the ignominy of being a losing captain fell on poor Dravid’s head.
So, technically speaking, on paper, Ganguly has never lost any series ODI or Test to Pakistan. Who was the losing skipper? Poor Dravid!
3 The tumultuous Chappell era, end of Dada-giri
It was Ganguly who had recommended Greg Chappell’s name for the vacant post of Indian coach. Little did he knew then, that the very Australian would lead to his ouster as Indian captain and then as an ODI player.
Following a prolonged period of agony, Ganguly ended his woes with a pain-staking century against Zimbabwe. Well, he dropped a bomb at the day’s press conference revealing how Chappell had asked him to resign from the captaincy, and to make way for young players like Yuvraj. Indian cricket had never witnessed such confrontation before, and eventually this led to Ganguly’s ouster from the team, with the board firmly backing Chappell and new skipper Dravid. The duo’s vision for Indian cricket was clear, perform or perish. Seniors likes Harbhajan, Zaheer, Nehra too were shown the door as India thrived under new players like Dhoni, Gambhir, Raina, RP. Singh, Sreesanth. Irfan Pathan too rediscovered his mojo.
Under Dravid’s captaincy, India excelled in ODI cricket with crushing defeats of England (6-1), Sri Lanka 5-1 (both home) and avenging the 4-2 home series loss against Pakistan with a stunning 4-1 victory in the away series. The Tests results weren’t great as India lost 1-0 to Pakistan, while drew 1-1 at home to England, but scored their first win overseas in West Indies since 1971.
4. The Dada returns minus his dadagiri
Ganguly’s year-long exclusion from the squad upset the fans and politicos in West Bengal. The ruling CPI government then raised this issue in the parliament claiming that their hero was being harshly treated. Sadly, none of the leaders bothered to check that Ganguly’s struggles continued in domestic and county cricket too.
So, under political pressure, Sharad Pawar-led BCCI gave in to their demands. Ganguly was brought back to the Test squad in the series in South Africa. Much to his credit, Ganguly shone on return scoring a vital 50 that went a long way in India winning the Test. Let’s not forget the exploits of man of the match. Sreesanth though.
While Ganguly recovered his form, he was still a liability in the ODIs. In the period from 2006-07, India played with six batsman, that allowed them to play Irfan Pathan as the bowling all-rounder. So, recalling Ganguly to the side only affected the team balance. But rendered helpless, both Chappell and Dravid had no option but to play Ganguly in the 2007 World Cup. He played like a slow poke in the losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, leading to India’s early exit. But more than his poor form and fitness, Ganguly’s inclusion didn’t allow Dravid and Chappell to play Irfan and Sreesanth, who were a vital cog of their ODI team. India lost the World Cup but what hurt even more that they lost without playing their best eleven.
5. THE COLD WAR – TENDULKAR DROPS A BOMB
Post their retirements, one would have expected Ganguly and Dravid to bury the hatchet and excel as media colleagues. Things seemed to going fine until Sachin Tendulkar dropped a bomb saying that Greg Chappell had asked him to replace Dravid as captain one-month before the 2007 World Cup. Chappell refuted these charges. But Dravid, as always the nice guy, chose to snub it, saying that he can’t comment on conversations between two people to which he wasn’t privy to. Dravid and Ganguly attended the launch of Tendulkar’s biography but this topic wasn’t entertained.
Ganguly, as shrewd as ever, was quick to pounce on issue. He was quoted on air saying, “I’m not surprised by Tendulkar’s claim. This again shows you how poor the character of the man (Chappell) was. I still don’t know why he acted in that manner”
6. THE INTERVIEW
Those who follow Indian cricket passionately know it well that Dravid, being a thorough gentleman, would never wash dirty linen in public. Albeit reluctantly, Dravid opened up diplomatically in an interview to Harsha Bhogle on Star Sports. When asked about the disastrous 2007 World Cup, Dravid first took the blame upon himself but then quickly added that in India, captains are only judged by Word Cup record. Just before the Cup, we were hampered by a lot of personnel issue (obvious reference to Ganguly’s inclusion) and people forgot how well we had done as ODI side leading up to the 2007 World Cup.
In this last two decade, that was perhaps, the only time we came close to Dravid opening up
7. GANGULY, DRAVID KEPT APART DURING 2014-15 AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Perhaps, not many may have noticed but Ganguly and Dravid were not seen together in the studios or on the ground during the entire 2014-15 tour to Australia, Of course, Star Sports saved money by only having 2-3 experts on the ground, while the rest were commentating from the studious in Mumbai. But was it just a coincidence that Dravid only arrived in Australia after Ganguly had left for India?
So, after going through all the above, it’s no surprise to see that Dravid has opted out of this powerful committee, but let’s face it, is it just Ganguly who Dravid isn’t comfortable with? Well, after the shocking disclosure by Tendulkar in his biography, will ‘the wall’ even feel comfortable with the Master Blaster? Or has Tendulkar really forgiven Dravid for declaring when he was batting on 194? Speculation, mere speculation!