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Dravid shielded Ganguly: Dungarpur

The captain told Chappell that he would open innings, the team manager said.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2006 15:09 IST

Captain Rahul Dravid overruled the selection committee and opened the innings in the Test series against Pakistan to shield predecessor Sourav Ganguly from the strong Pakistani pace attack, Indian team manger Raj Singh Dungarpur says.

Singh, a member of the tour selection committee,returnedon Mondayfrom Pakistan with the team.

"A captain must be able to set an example of sacrifice. He did not want to expose Sourav Ganguly as an opener. He overruled the selection committee of which I was a part," the official maintained.

"We said 'No, you can't open the innings'. He (Dravid) said that let not somebody say that we made him (Ganguly) a sacrificial goat. So he opened the innings and got a hundred (128 not out)," Singh, a former Indian cricket board chief,said.

Recalling the events that led to the intense discussion between Dravid, Ganguly and coach Greg Chappell minutes before the start of the Lahore Test Jan 13, Raj Singh revealed: "He (Dravid) got up early on the morning of the match and went to (coach) Greg Chappell's room and said 'I will open the innings'."

This disclosure clears what transpired during discussion that was shown on television and sparked much speculation. It also means that the decision on who would open the innings with Virender Sehwag was not taken at the team meeting on the eve of the Test.

So Dravid partnered vice-captain Sehwag, who scored 254, and put up 410 runs, missing the world record by a merethree runs.

While India drew that weather-affected Test and lost the series 0-1, they won the one-day series 4-1.

Asked if the selection committee was convinced that Dravid would do a fine job as he is essentially a No. 3 batsman, Raj Singh said: "It's because he wanted to open the innings and he thought it would be unfair to expose Ganguly like that.

"Dravid led the team by example. And this is a hallmark of being a leader," maintained Singh, who heads Mumbai's Cricket Club of India.

Singh also disclosed that the decision to open with Dravid— despite openers Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Jaffer being in the 16-member squad— was initially taken for only the first Test.

"No, it was not for the rest of the two Test matches. It was because there was no room for Gautam Gambhir to be brought into the Test side. But at the first opportunity, it would have been very unfair for Gambhir not to get a chance to play one-day matches also," he said.

"And, again, Dravid said (on the eve of the fifthODI in Karachi Feb 18) that 'Since Sachin is not playing, I'll open the innings'. He sets examples, his communication is fantastic, he is accessible to the senior most and the junior most member."

Singh, who had been critical of Ganguly both as a batsman and captain before the series started, however, gave full marks to him for his "impeccable" behaviour in Pakistan.

"His behaviour was impeccable. He never threw any tantrums, he never displayed disappointment when he was not selected in the one-day team, and I must say that his behaviour was exemplary," he said.

"That is how it should be as there is time to come and there's time to go. I don't say that Ganguly will never play (for India again), but with the younger boys coming into the mainstream it would not be easy for him in any form."

While stressing that the game was getting younger and that Ganguly would also find it difficult to keep his place in the Test team, Raj Singh said: "It's because Mohammed Kaif and Suresh Raina will now start playing Test cricket. They are our future stars. But then these are questions that (selectors' chairman) Kiran More should be asked to answer, not me."

First Published: Feb 21, 2006 13:40 IST