Dravid takes over as India search for victory

Sourav Ganguly woke up on Wednesday morning not too sure whether he should risk playing or not.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2003 23:54 IST

By a strange quirk of fate, Yuvraj Singh will make his Test debut in his hometown. Sourav Ganguly woke up on Wednesday morning not too sure whether he should risk playing or not. And by the afternoon, the pain in his groin wasn't getting any better and he decided he would leave for Kolkata on the second day of the second Test.

As Ganguly limped his way out of the stadium and a pensive Rahul Dravid, wondering what lay in store for him as stand-in captain, took centrestage, the strapping, wide-eyed Yuvraj was told he was playing on the morrow.

It was a news for which Yuvraj may have not been prepared. He would probably have preferred wearing an India cap in much happier circumstances. But that did not deter the immensely talented youngster from registering a huge smile of delight on his face.

How highly the left-handed batsman is rated was evident by the fact that the New Zealanders didn't seem all that pleased with the news that Stephen Fleming's countymate in Yorkshire would be playing in the second Test.

That, despite Yuvraj having proved a complete failure in the English county circuit.

"Fleming thinks very highly of him. He believes he is one of the best players of the short ball," was the comment from the New Zealand camp.

Not just the short ball, Yuvraj has strokes which can destroy an attack and if the occasion and the pressure of expectations do not wear him down, India may just be watching greatness take its first steps on the ladder of fame.

While Yuvraj, dreaming of the possibility of a great future, was accepting all the adulation of his friends and fans, the steely Dravid was preparing himself to get on with the game.

If you belong to cricket's traditional school of thought , then you would be among those who would think Dravid should have been preferred to Ganguly when the choice was first made as to who would lead India after Sachin Tendulkar decided to quit as captain.

As personalities, the two are poles apart. One is given to a lot of brooding and introspection and the other is very much an extrovert who wouldn't mind calling a spade a spade. Dravid, the thinker, is nowadays batting like a man who has forgotten to play a false stroke.

And he responded with the same poise and equanimity with which he bats when he was told at the ground that he would lead the side tomorrow.

It would be interesting to see what kind of change in strategy, if any, Dravid can bring about in the match — even though there is nothing much that he can do, given the settled nature of the side and the fact the Ganguly is very much the command man, despite not playing here.

Dravid, responded to all media queries — from the sharp to the mundane — without too much fuss and made an interesting statement of intent as well: "I will tell my players to play good cricket. The rest will follow."

The next five days will show what that "good cricket" will translate into.

There are many skirmishes within the larger battle that the two teams are involved in.

The wicket, home conditions, defensive mindset, aggressive cricket, grudge series and a whole lot of real and imaginary, perceived and created issues which the televised world rakes up to keep its viewers engrossed and guessing as to what will happen next.

Fleming won't mind if at the end of the fifth day, he has been able to draw the series.

For India, a draw would be a poor commentary of the state of its cricket.

And after that, what next? Australia, mate!

First Published: Oct 15, 2003 23:34 IST