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As of now, old is bold

Both had horrendous starts to their captaincy stints in the Indian Premier League, but have started the current season with a bang. Sanjjeev Karan Samyal reports. The men to beat

india Updated: Apr 11, 2012 01:39 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal

Both had horrendous starts to their captaincy stints in the Indian Premier League, but have started the current season with a bang. Flop shows in the inaugural season with their home outfits, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively, old warhorses Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid have been teaching a trick or two to younger counterparts in Twenty20 captaincy this season.

Both KKR and RCB cut their local icons in the players' auction last year, Ganguly having endured a testy relationship with co-owner Shah Rukh Khan and Challengers bosses making it clear there was no room for sentiment in the IPL business. Ganguly's eventual restoration, with newbies Pune, was to a great extent then skipper Yuvraj Singh returning a favour for the support he got when he came into the Indian team in 2000.

Early momentum
But the two former India captains have guided their teams to the top two positions in the table after the first week. Dravid's Rajasthan Royals are No 1 and Ganguly's Pune Warriors No 2, separated only by run rate.

Their teams are not ranked among the favourites and their line-ups are not star-studded, but the combination has worked.

Royals started with a comfortable win over Kings XI Punjab, perhaps the weakest team, and followed it up by defeating Knight Riders. Warriors stunned Mumbai Indians at home before brushing aside Kings XI.

At 39, however, neither is too effective as batsmen, Dravid having scored a total of 54 in two innings and Ganguly, fitness never his strong point, 23. But their cricketing acumen is coming to the fore. However, their teams are not complaining. For them 'a good captain can make an average team look good and can transform a good team into a great one'.

"Sourav is the best captain India has produced," said Mumbai Indians captain Harbhajan Singh after the Wankhede Stadium defeat. With only 129 to defend, Ganguly got the first wicket with spin and strangled Mumbai for just 101 runs.

Instilling belief
Harbhajan said Ganguly's best quality was in making his players believe in themselves. "When he became captain, we were just normal players, but he made us believe we were match winners," the spinner, who had flourished under Ganguly, said.

In Pune Warriors, the average ones are playing like champions. Robin Uthappa, one of the hardest hitters in Indian cricket, has been given the sheet-anchor's role, and at No 3 tops the run chart. Manish Pandey opened in the first game, flopped, and was pushed down the order in the next. He came up with a 4-ball 12.

Straight bat
After Shane Warne left, many feared Rajasthan Royals' strength would be reduced by half as the team depended so much on the Australian's leadership.

But Dravid is respected widely and foreign players also look up to him.

His influence is acknowledged by India's rising batsman, Ajinkya Rahane, who produced a high-quality 98 in the opening game.

Keeping it simple
"There was a lot of surprise element in Warne's captaincy, Dravid likes to keep things simple," the youngster said.

The team is expected to get better once Shane Watson is available.

But these are early days yet. It remains to be seen how the old warriors shape up when constant travel and ups and downs on the field take their toll.

The men to beat