No two people can be as different as Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul Haq, and it’s not just their physical frames that separate the two.
Dravid is urbane and suave, a man who reveals little even when he gives long-winded answers to the briefest of questions. Inzamam is a rustic to the core, hates giving long speeches, but proves with his pithy replies that brevity can be the soul of wit.
On Sunday, both faced their moment of truth. If Inzamam's Pakistan were shockingly knocked out by World Cup debutants Ireland, Dravid's India are just one defeat away from a similar fate.
Bangladesh, long ridiculed for having been given Test status without deserving it, played with tigerish resolve to expose India and their pretensions. For the past year, we have been told about "processes", "flexibility" and "a Vision 2007" and how this was the best prepared team ever to leave home.
On Sunday, after their worst-ever World Cup defeat, Dravid — and not his coach and guru, Greg Chappell — had to face the media and defend the indefensible. For once, he did not hide his emotions and had little choice but to admit: "This is a nightmare."
Was this his worst day ever on the cricket field? "It is up there with other defeats, but whether it is the worst or not, I can tell only after we play Sri Lanka. If we beat them to qualify for the next stage, we’ll forget this as a bad dream and move on. If not, then this defeat will hurt still more," said Dravid.
Given the way India and Indians react to victory and defeat, Dravid would know that will not just hurt, it will be the nightmare of gigantic proportions. Assuming that both Bangladesh and India will beat Bermuda (Lanka have done so), the India-SL game becomes crucial. To qualify for the Super 8s, the Indians must win that game and hope that other permutations and combinations fall their way.
India will have an idea of what is happening come Wednesday, when Bangladesh play Sri Lanka. If Bangladesh win, they should be through as group winners, barring an unforeseeable loss to Bermuda in their last match, and the India-SL match becomes a virtual semifinal to the Super 8s. If Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh, it all comes down to whether India beat Sri Lanka and if so, the Net Run Rate equation comes into play. India's display against Bangladesh has put them in a must-win and win-big situation.
Meanwhile, Inzamam, who will certainly lose his captaincy and may even quit the game, did not share Dravid's dilemma. "I don't know what the team is feeling, but this is the worst day of my life." What a sad end to a great career.