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The captaincy conundrum

The choice of Kumble is a surprising one because of the way things have gone since Dravid's exit, writes Kadambari Murali.

cricket Updated: Nov 11, 2007 22:41 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times

The choice of Anil Kumble as India’s 30th Test captain was a surprising one. Not because anyone questions the ability of the man to do the job but because of the way things have gone since Rahul Dravid stepped down.

Dravid quit the job dramatically after a successful trip to England, he didn’t give any explanation and if anyone took the trouble to ask him why, then, well, it’s a deep, dark secret.

Again, the next choice for Test skipper was SachinTendulkar, who was Dravid’s deputy in the last few tours (sending out the signal that Tendulkar himself wanted to be captain again). But just days before the final selection, he also pulled out.

<b1>So why suddenly, did no one want what is, arguably, the country’s most high-profile job? And like Dravid, Sachin didn’t publicly explain his reasons and whether anyone in power made the effort to sit him down and seriously ask him why, is not known (and is debatable).

Kumble, meanwhile, has been announced as skipper for just three Tests against Pakistan, though he is expected to continue against Australia. The man has probably won more Tests for India than anyone else. He’s a thorough professional and has always gone about doing what he does best i.e. taking wickets, even when he was treated unfairly. And now, even his first stint at the helm has not come without strings attached.

So why name someone of his stature for just three Tests and raise questions over form or fitness? It’s highly unlikely that he will have a bad series and given the strength of this Indian side in tests, the chances of the team doing decently at home are fairly high as well.

Let’s just ask another question here: What if things do go wrong in these matches, will they go back and ask Tendulkar again? Unlikely. The establishment, apparently, doesn’t want Sourav Ganguly under any circumstance. Dravid is not an option either. So it would then be Dhoni in any case.

Another thing: The argument behind not offering the job to Dhoni was that he is too raw to lead the side on two tough tours, especially Down Under. But does this also mean that the selectors are quite sure that India will not do well in Australia? It’s somewhat of a negativist attitude. If that’s the case, then why make Kumble the scapegoat?

No one needs or should be protected at the highest level. Dhoni himself has been known to say that Australia does not equal pressure as there are no expectations of success, unqualified or otherwise. In any case, if Dhoni wasn’t too young or raw to lead India in a World Championship and to continue even after that as ODI skipper, then shouldn’t he be able to handle the pressure in Tests?

Again, in Australia, apart from Sydney perhaps, you don’t play two spinners. Kumble would be first choice. But if, hypothetically speaking, he doesn’t have a good start to the tour and logic dictates he makes way for another spinner, how would that be handled?

The selectors have been very vocal about the necessity of rotating, even talking of phasing out the seniors and focussing on the youth. So doesn’t the appointment of Kumble, with due respect to his outstanding record, make the selection policy one of convenience?

The problem with the Indian system of cricket is that every selection committee brings in new ideas and more often than not, there is a lack of continuity in the thought process. Kumble was deputy for a while but not only did he never get the top job, he also lost his vice captaincy as well. Now, at the twilight of his career, it seems that he’s got the job by default as the eligible people don’t want the job and the rest are just too young.

First Published: Nov 10, 2007 22:44 IST