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Don?t write us off: Rahul Dravid

Dravid says there is a lot of talent in Team India, reports Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 16:22 IST

People, their reactions to situations, the complexes that worry them, the choices they make and their thinking processes make for a fascinating study. Here, we have two skippers, markedly different in where they stand in life and the way they approach their cricket.

At 25, Graeme Smith is as yet, very young and despite the temperance that a few years on the job brings, he still has a measure of the brash confidence that set him apart and saw him being given the crown at 22.

He has his career ahead of him and embraces the game, both on and off the field, with an unbridled, exuberant passion that is as yet untamed.

At 33, a skipper quite late in his career, Rahul Dravid, a legend of the game already, has finally shaken off the mantle of 'always the bridesmaid and never the bride'.

While his impassioned performances on the field have displayed a fiercely competitive nature and a bridled aggression, off it, he has always displayed an almost formal restraint, often masking his feelings behind some bland but elegant sophistry.

Both these men though, have something in common — they are bright and have a way with words, even if they choose to view things differently. On Thursday, both Smith and Dravid talked of the expectations from India, but took different tacks.

Smith chose offence: I've toured India three times now, and never seen a situation where there's no expectation from the Indian team. You can't get away from it. It's in your face, the demand for results. There are also your demands on yourself, both as a team and as individuals."

Dravid went the other way, saying there were none. "I think people have written us off and that's a pretty dangerous thing to do. When I look around and see at the quality of players we have, I think it is pretty dangerous to write us off straightaway. And in a way, maybe, as people don't expect anything from us, it gives us something to prove, it gives us somewhere to fight back from."

He said he had always understood that it was "an emotional game" in India and reactions sometimes tended to be over the top, either way. "One of the challenges for me has to keep a perspective within the group. We cannot get carried away by what people are saying, whether it's nice things or whether it's downright criticism," said Dravid. "I've realised that when people are saying nice things about you, generally, you're not as good as they say you are and when they are criticising you, you're not as bad as they say you are. So you've got to find the middle path."

Smith, very gung-ho despite some minor food poisoning ("never have fish in Cape Town"), said his bowlers enjoyed knocking down the big names and India had enough of those. Dravid retorted that Indian batsmen had performed the world over and it was just a matter of taking confidence from those performances and implementing them now. "It's been a disappointing few months but the way we bounced back in the Tests in the Windies after losing the ODIs, is something we can take confidence from. South Africa is the only country in the world where we've never won a Test and that in itself is a motivation."

Motivation is something that Smith, who mentioned that India's middle order looked more substantial with Ganguly there to give it a "hardness" and a "fighting spirit", says his bowlers don't lack. "India would be hoping to bounce back. They had a game in between and will be well prepared, hoping to catch us off guard. But we're confident we can carry on from the one-day series. The bowlers are highly motivated and searching for success."

Well, brave words all around, let's see what the morrow brings.

First Published: Dec 15, 2006 16:22 IST