As you would expect of someone who was played 134 Tests and 333 ODIs, Rahul Dravid was not exactly waiting in front of a television screen on Sunday morning when the national selection panel named him in a 15-man ODI squad for the forthcoming Sri Lanka tri-series and the Champions Trophy in South Africa.
Sachin Tendulkar, who was not part of the World T20 squad, and had asked to be rested for the ODIs against the West Indies, also returned to international action after a gap of five months.
Ever since Dravid was handpicked, out of a near limited-overs retirement, and named in the 30-man probables for the Champions Trophy, it was expected that he would make the cut when the time came to prune the squad.
Dravid, who continues to play Test cricket, has not played an ODI in nearly two years and has never featured in T20s, was getting used to savouring the extra time on his hands, spending it mostly with his two young sons Samit and Anvai.
The selection committee, headed by K Srikkanth, surprised many by including Dravid in the extended probables list, but had their reasons for the decision. The first was the need for an experienced top-order batsman in case Virender Sehwag did not recover in time from a shoulder injury, as has been the case. The second was the search for a batsman who could provide stability on fresh South African pitches, which are expected to assist medium pacers in the early part of the summer, when the Champions Trophy will be played.
Dravid’s return would never have been possible, or necessary, had the likes of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma shown composure against short-pitched bowling. In the event it is Rohit who misses out, even as Raina returns from a thumb injury.
For Dravid, who was not seriously thinking about a return to the ODI side and had reconciled with being a Test specialist, the return was a welcome one.
He, however, insisted he had nothing to prove, either to himself or anyone else. “I have never played my cricket that way, wanting to prove a point,” Dravid said on Sunday. “To me, it’s about trying your best to be the best you can be, day after day, in whichever format you are playing and for whichever team you are playing.”
Dravid also denied that there would be any extra pressure on him because of the long gap between ODIs. “All I can say is that I will do my level best for the team’s cause,” said Dravid. “ I have always believed in preparing well before a match or a competition, and it will be no different this time.”
While it was unclear whether the selectors had consulted captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni or coach Gary Kirsten before naming Dravid in the probables, his selection to the 15 is an indication that the team management is not against the idea. Srikkanth said the panel had picked “the best possible combination” and was “confident that this squad can bring home the Champions Trophy.”
There was also place in the squad for legspinner Amit Mishra, who was preffered over left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, and Dinesh Karthik, who performed creditably as a specialist batsman in the West Indies, as well as allrounder Abhishek Nayar who recently made his ODI debut.