They are on their charm offensive, without a shadow of a doubt, on the 22-yard strip in an attire rather unimaginatively called the ‘whites’. But give them a dapper suit with a tie and place them in a conference room, and Michael Vaughan and Rahul Dravid can be equally expressive, cogent and somewhat delightful in showing their wares. Good words quench more then a bucket of water, after all.
And so it was on Day Two of HT Leadership Summit on Saturday, when Dravid and Vaughan, no less an authority than former skippers of India and England who finally found the thorns in the crown too scarring to endure, came together to express their views on the current tumultuous climate that is threatening to split world cricket and on the pitfalls of over-milking the cashcow that is the Twenty20 format.
Vaughan was the first to express his concern about the impact of the shortest form of cricket, saying that Test cricket needed to be re-jigged and tweaked a bit if its primacy is to be maintained.
“Youngsters these days are more committed to Twenty20, more than they are to Tests, I feel,” Vaughan said. “I’m sure they all love Test cricket, but if you ask them honestly, they would rather opt for Tests. This worries me.”
Dravid’s worry, however, was not the present, but the future. “The game has changed dramatically over the last one-and-a-half years. Choices have changed, the perception has changed. I’m not worried about today’s youngsters as they’ve grown up on Test cricket, just as I have, and regard it as the ultimate form. What will be interesting is to see what happens in the next 4-5 years. There’ll be many choices and it’ll be interesting to see youngster’s choices and decisions then. That is why the decisions we take now will tell the fate of Test cricket,” Dravid said. Better be convinced by words than by blows, ICC.
Dravid also said that while agents and management companies help a player concentrate on his game, the influx of some “unscrupulous ones” on the youngsters needed to be kept in check.
“There are unscrupulous elements in the game and that is why current administrators need to play a more proactive role. Agents help you focus but agents signing 14-15 year old players is something that needs to be monitored by the respective boards. I believe the English football has some kind of regulation to prevent this, maybe something like that needs to be done,” Dravid said, a suggestion that definitely should be entertained.
Dravid also felt that the current criticism of the Indian team for being overtly defensive and setting 8-1 offside field in Nagpur was down to the intense scrutiny from the Fourth Estate, as there was more to the strategy and its execution that met the eye.
"I don’t buy that. The Test was at a crucial stage and could have gone away from us. It takes a lot to bowl with such discipline and credit should be given. There is so much scrutiny thanks to the growing media attention. Sledging and a few verbals on the field too have been blown out of proportion. I think the behaviour of players have improved from the past,” he said.
There was a touching moment towards the end of the session when Dravid took a minute out to congratulate India’s first Olympic Gold winner Abhinav Bindra, who was sitting in the audience, on his stupendous achievement and praised him for his level-headed and serene reaction to the storm that ensued. See Webcast
Dravid repeated Bindra’s achievement in front of Vaughan and put in a beautiful manner: “In days of hype and jingoism, you were so balanced after winning the gold, it was great to see. While rest of us were going berserk, when the interviewer asked you why aren’t you more excited by your achievement, you merely said, ‘what’s to get excited. I was excited when I shot the gold.’ That was so right, you made us all proud.”
The audience at the Summit couldn’t have agreed more.