Whatever the cause of India's swinging fortunes, it definitely doesn't seem to be because of any difference between the coach and captain. It was almost uncanny hearing Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell launch an aggressive defence of sorts of their policy of experimentation and talk about their strategy of team-building.
The tone was the same, the content was similar, even the words were almost the same. For instance, both attributed the often strident criticism of their planning to the fact that outsiders were “not privy” to their meetings and strategy-planning sessions.
“You might call it experimentation,” said Dravid. “I call it strategy. We have to take a lot of things into consideration and the problem is that most people are not privy to the decision-making process, so they don't know what is going on in our dressing room.”
His coach said the same. “Different teams and different conditions require different strategies. Whatever we've done so far has been well planned, thought of in ad vance after discussions between the management group and with senior players. These are not spur-of-the-moment decisions.
The problem is that other people are not privy to these discussions but we do not expect everyone to understand what we do everyday. It is important we understand, and we do.”
Chappell, in fact, indicated that there would be no change in this strategy for the next few months, whatever anyone else had to say about the batting order needing to be more settled. “We are not looking to settle till the World Cup. If other countries are more settled, then that is their concern," said the Indian coach.
“I do not know till one day before a match, till we've seen the conditions, the circumstances, what we're going to do.” He said it wasn't that much of an issue as it was being made out to be — that a player did not know exactly where he would be batting. “The players generally know beforehand but it's the circumstances of that day that matter. Players don't always enjoy it (being moved around in the order) but they do understand.
It is of course demanding but this level of international cricket is demanding. You have to be able to be adaptable, to take on any role. We are looking at building the most adaptable group.” Both Chappell and Dravid said that while winning matches was of course the ultimate goal, there were other issues involved in their planning.
“Winning is important, even critical,” said Dravid, “but so is the development of your squad while trying to get those results. If you're not constantly improving as a team and as an individual, then you're really going back.” Which of course, seems to be a particular problem with India.
Chappell seemed to agree with this, saying, “Even on disappointing days we get positives out of it (experimenting). Individual players realise what happens in the other roles (not generally their own). A top or der player realises what a middle order bat goes through and vice versa. It also helps a player in knowing his own role."
Just one interesting point here. Sachin Tendulkar, asked about the same policy of experimentation, said: “Experiments should go on to a certain extent and then things should settle down. There should be a nice balance.” Now when the Indian management will figure out that balance would be the other interesting poser.
Dravid attributed the patchy form of late to the fact that a few key players had slipped out of form at the same time. “There has been a bit of a dip over the last couple of months because of this. Earlier, we had a slew of match-winners that were performing together.
In the last 6-7 games, there's been some pressure because everyone has gone through a lean patch. We need them to come back and I think that when they do that, we'll be okay.”
Chappell though said that while he agreed that India's record outside home needed improving, there was no need to panic. He said he was not overly concerned about what was past. “What happened in the last tournament, yesterday, the week before, all that is over.”