THE TIME TO REBUILD IS NOW
by Partab Ramchand
DateLine: 27th March 2007
India’s World Cup campaign is over. For millions of Indian cricket fans worldwide their world itself is seemingly over. There was never any chance of Rahul Dravid’s team winning the World Cup despite all the hype. A more realistic prediction was elimination at the Super Eight stage or at best a place in the semifinals. Hardly anyone however would have bargained for such a limp campaign that would end at the group stage itself. This is the worst showing by an Indian team in the World Cup since 1979 when S Venkatraghavan and his men lost all three group matches including a shock defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, then an associate member. But then what was the status of Indian cricket 28 years ago as compared to now. All things considered this is certainly Indian cricket’s most humiliating debacle in ODI history.
There will be the usual inquests, the long debates into what went wrong and who is responsible. Heads may roll, starting at the top with the captain and coach. There are those who are of the view that even the chairman of the selection committee should quit owning moral responsibility. Greg Chappell has put it this way: "I would take some of the responsibility but I don't think blame could be apportioned on any single individual. It's a collective responsibility." So he admits that he was responsible at least in part to the unmitigated disaster. Actually he has to take a major share of the blame. From the time he took over nearly two years ago his contribution to Indian cricket has been negligible at best, negative at worst. He has come through as a high headed, individualistic personality with dictatorial tendencies. From the public spat with Sourav Ganguly to the various experimentations with the team to taking the credit for Ganguly’s successful comeback Chappell has been a disaster. This is borne out from results. There have been some plus points but these have been few and far between and get easily submerged in the sea of losses the team has suffered particularly over much of his period in charge. Of particular concern is the away record and the ODI record. Almost all the victories have been notched up at home the only notable exceptions being the ODI series win in Pakistan and the Test series triumph in the West Indies last year. Again these have been tempered with losses in the Test series in Pakistan and the ODI series in the West Indies. And of course the other debacles are all too well recorded for posterity – the ODI thrashing in South Africa as well as the loss of the Test series there, the inability of the team to make the final in the three team DLF Cup competition in Malaysia, the failure of the team to enter the semifinals of the Champions Trophy played in their own backyard and now comes this latest major setback. If all this is not enough reason for Chappell to resign then I don’t know what is.
Going by Chappell’s phrase "collective responsibility" the next person on the chopping block has to be the captain. What a letdown he has been! Never an assertive leader, never a great tactician and too much of a nice guy who let things drift, Dravid never came across as a strong captain. Following in the footsteps of Ganguly a successful leader who changed the image of the Indian captain was never going to be easy. But had Dravid emerged as a strong, no nonsense personality even half as assertive as Ganguly he would have been accepted and I am sure India’s record would have been better. But he plainly lacked the requisite leadership qualities, quite often it was obvious that it was the autocratic coach who was calling the shots leaving Dravid to be a glorified vice captain. In matters of strategy and tactics, it seemed quite often that Chappell was directing operations from the pavilion. In the wake of a World Cup disaster of mega proportions – not to forget the other setbacks sustained along the way – Dravid too has to go though his services as a batsman are still very much required.
I don’t think Dilip Vengsarkar needs to quit. Viewed from any angle the Indian team for the World Cup was the best with perhaps the sole exception of Ramesh Powar’s exclusion. It certainly was a team good enough to make the semifinals with a little bit of good fortune, even if it was certainly not a World Cup winning combination. Yes, he erred in revealing when the team was already in the West Indies that Virender Sehwag was included at Dravid’s insistence. The timing could not have been more improper and in any case it only diluted his position as chairman. Surely the captain can make a case for a particular player but the final decision has to remain with the selectors and more so with the chairman.
I suppose Chappell’s phrase "collective responsibility" – also extends to the team members and if the captain and coach have to quit then the axe should also fall on some of the players who have not lived up to their lofty status. No, these are not panic measures. A thorough overall is required. The time to rebuild is now. From something bad if some good is derived or if the mistakes are rectified the net result might still be positive. Reputations should not be honoured, only performance should be recognized and rewarded. In this far sighted policy lies the future of Indian cricket in this, its darkest hour.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 CricketArchive)