Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fall of the Wall Rahul Dravid

9 months ago, I wrote a piece http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2008/03/rahul-dravids-defensive-cricket-costing.html
on Rahul Dravid’s slow (and selfish) batting and the need for him to show more positive intent at the crease to hold to the coveted No. 3 spot in the Indian batting order.

We are now into the 2nd series since, there has been a change of test captain and a new selection committee headed by K. Srikkanth (known for his open and straight talking and decision making) but Rahul Dravid continues to occupy the No. 3 position and more importantly has continued with his defensive dead bat cricket.

Out of Form with a difference
Unlike several other cricketers, who when out of form and/or going through a lean phase are shaky and edgy, Rahul Dravid has looked solid in defence (though more often his first edge has been held behind the wicket). But that(his ultra defensive mindset) really has been his downfall. Rarely during this period, has one seen Rahul do what I think would have been(and continue to be) possible solution to his problems:

1. To take quick singles early on his innings so he does not get into a situation of 3 runs of 25 balls or 10 runs of 40 balls… (this is possible even with dead bat cricket). He just hasn’t showed any positive intent in his batting and more often than not his batting partner’s progress has been halted (not receiving the strike often enough). And Dravid’s own running between the wickets, while at the non-strikers end, has been less than positive( What is Robin Singh- fielding coach is also responsible for running between the wickets- doing!!!).

2. He has not tried to stroke the ball off the square. He has rather been content playing ‘dead bat’ cricket, playing the ball back down the pitch or to the cover fielder. Even his flicks to square leg or through the mid wicket have deserted him as have the hook and the pull which he has executed in the past, when in form.

3. The other brave and daring and to me the most sensible action on his part would have been for him to accept that he was no more the best batsman in the team and to have proactively moved down the order to No. 6, a position where a little bit of defensive cricket may not necessarily put pressure on his own team. Rahul could have requested and may be even aggressively pushed the team management to allow him to go at No. 6 or the team management could have forced him into this for his and the team’s benefit. Neither seems to have happened. MS Dhoni, known for his positive instinct, also has not done anything so far, on this front, though knowing him I do believe it will be only a matter of time, before Rahul Dravid is pushed down the order, where his slow batting will be less of a burden for the team.

No. 3 is a position that has traditionally been allotted to the best batter in the team. It is also a position given to one who is solid both against pace and spin. As Richie Benaud said earlier today, it is a position where the most important thing for the (No. 3) player is that he should have an attacking game as well.

Ian Chappell is of the view that No. 3 is a position where the player really sets up the pace of the game for his team and helps shape the game.

Rahul Dravid clearly in the last 12 months has slowed down the pace of the game (and this has not been reflected in a more glaring manner only because of Sehwag’s extraordinary aggression). Dravid has in fact, time and again, with his slow batting at No. 3, given the opposition an opportunity and almost almost opened the gate to put added pressure on the Indian top order.

Sooner than later, Rahul Dravid will have to accept the No. 6 spot as his best option to prolong his career, unless ofcourse if the team management under MSD believe it is time to induct M. Vijay or S. Badrinath in place of Dravid(which I think may not be a bad thing for Indian cricket under Dhoni). This could mean an end to his career, closely following the departure of Ganguly and Kumble.

This may not be the ideal way for Dravid to leave, having served India for over a dozen years, but he will have no one to blame but himself for the hole he has got into.

Defensive Mindset, Dead Bat Cricket , poor running between the wickets (and hence not rotating strike) and failing to stroke the ball beyond the square will stand out as reasons for the ‘Fall of the Wall’.

14 comments:

RajaB said...

I wouldn't agree more...

The one difference would be the "Service" bit, when you talk about our cricketers. They are very well paid and are probably the one of the kind who can overtly mind a "side business", their endorsements etc.

Well at the end of the day Rahul should ask himself, "What would happen to the jammy past expiry date?"

And he would get the answer... "Even ants wouldn't eat it"

So, the best thing for him would be to declare the jammy over, or retire gracefully.

Prabhu.S said...

Raja,

Hi! Thanks for reading and the comments.

He doesnt look like intending to retire, as he has just been handed out a new one year A Grade contract.

Hence, the next best option of moving down the order

Prabhu

dinesh said...

I have my own theory about this (as we all do ofcourse). I thinking he's trying to find a reasonable patch for himself before he can say a final goodbye to the game. He doesn't want to be remembered as the batsman who retired because if he didn't he would have been kicked out !

As for me, I refuse to let this lean patch affect my impression of what he meant to the team in the last 10 years. He has been the most consistent batsman of this era and one of the biggest contributors to indian cricket. I think he deserves a honorable farewell. If only luck would co-operate !

Prabhu.S said...

Dinesh,

Hi! Thanks for the comment.

The piece looked at what he could/should do to keep it going and contribute to the team.

There is no doubt he wants to score and he wouldnt want to go out/retire in this current state of mind and form.

However, what I looked at was what he has not done in the last 12 months and what he should possibly be doing to remain a contributing member of the team.

Prabhu

Anonymous said...

One thing I am not sure about is whether Dravid is to be blamed for not moving out of the No. 3 slot. I remember Gary Kirsten saying (and I think cricinfo still has the old story in its archives) that Dravid is best suited for No 3. May be, the team management doesn't want Dravid in any other position. And Dravid is someone who has shown flexibility in the past in order to help the team -opening the batting or even wicketkeeping.

Prabhu said...

Hi! Thanks for the comment

actually it is easier to bat at No. 5 or 6 than at No.3

with MSD, Sachin(and Kumble when he was there) backing, i think the move could have been done
-easily so, irrespective of what kirsten said.

No. 6 to No. 3 is a challenge for anyone(for example steve waugh in the period 1988-92 tried moving to No. 3- as it is still a prestige thing for the best bat to come in at no. 3- and was found wanting. And within a couple of tests , he moved back to No. 5/6 for the rest of his career) . But I dont think moving from No. 3 to No. 5 or No. 6 is that difficult.

It is an older ball, normally the fielding team is a little more tired than the first session of the batting....

Hence, I dont know why Dravid with 10000 runs behind him wont be suited to No. 5 or No. 6.
there is no cricketing technique reason for dravid not to be suited for No. 5 or No. 6

And in this case, it is not a sacrifice he is making for the team by going in No 5 or No. 6
It is a personal survival strategy for him.


Sometimes in such cases, one has to let go ego(becos moving to No. 5 or 6 will be an acknowledgement that he is no more the best bat/not suited to No. 3 requirements)

I am a little surprised that dravid, knowing him,(i had a longish chat with him in Chennai in 1994-95 when he was scoring a lot of runs but was not able to get into the Indian team and he was so confident of getting his place and his focus was on making runs at the domestic level) is still clinging on to no. 3...
his own and team interest require him to let go No. 3

Prabhu

Anonymous said...

Good one mate and great point on robin and MSD I wish they do sometng.

But in the end politics wins and we will loose a great player look at this.

No one is talking to him guess want the wall to fall let's pray for himand. Vvs. Lakman two best cricketeers mate

Siddharth said...

i really really think this is too harsh...on any cricketer for that matter..
people talk about defensive cricket as not the way to go about winning a game..
i can give you a comparison..
sehwag's innings of 195 at MCG (st rate 83) couldn't win a match for us whereas rahul's 233 (st rate 52) did it for us...
i find it not at all necessary to attack when you have a batting order like the one India possesses
gambir attacking
shewag attacking
sachin moderate
laxman free flowing
dhoni attacking

when you have so many attacking players why should a person coming in at no.3 also attack???we are not playing odi..one team has to survive at least 150 overs and i don't think attacking 150 overs is the right way to go about it..in that case the team totals ll all have to be well above 600 in all innings...i find the criticism on dead bat cricket very absurd..i am sure people wouldn't have been talking like this when good bowlers like Mcgrath and warne bowl at you..will people still say "NO NO DRAVID STRIKE v need 70 per 100 balls???" well it is simply not possible..if you attack such kind of bowling all you will see is that your team ends up scoring 300 runs in an innings...

i am not a good writer..but i have just tried to put across my thoughts in the best possible way i could..i didn't intend to hurt anyone..

Siddharth said...

and yes
"Rahul Dravid’s slow (and selfish) batting"

i think that is taking it a little too far...

Anonymous said...

No doubt Rahul Dravid has contributed in the past.. but at this point of time he seems to be more than a pain for everyone, be it team, management or even spectators.. his defensive attitude kills the game itself..If u see India's victories at present it is because of aggressive batting..its high time for him to say gud bye or all of us to say gud bye to him...

Prabhu.S said...

Siddharth,

Hi! Thanks for reading and the longish comments.

1. The point in discussion is not about Rahul playing attacking, 3 or 4 runs an over cricket. That point is well taken...His role has not been to attack or score runs at a rapid pace since there are others to do that.

The point is about how in the last one year or so, he has been giving the initiative to the opposition early on by consuming a number of balls without scoring ANY runs and without giving the strike back to his more aggressive partners.

And this point in some ways is not about statistics...

The fact that his slow batting during his first 30-40balls gives advantage to the opposition bowlers and/or frustrates his batting partner(because of lack of strike) cannot be proved by statistics. It is a psychological advantage given away...

The fact that he may score a few boundaries later on(which may give him a better strike rate- from about 10-20 to about 40-60) cannot take away the fact that at the top of the order his slow game is giving away advantage to the opposition and taking away all the plusses of sehwag's aggressive game.

Two other comments came in, off print:

1. That his 'stone walling' is required

2. His coming back to form with a century

Stone Walling i.e I will not score runs fast(fast is not 4runs an over!!!) but I will not lose my wicket was a good option that helped India through the 90s when we were not such a strong team at the topof the order(i.e no good openers, poor start)but now we are possibly seeing the best opening pair since gavaskar-chauhan/gavaskar-srikkanth and both sehwag and gambir are aggressive.

(And Dravid's contribution(with his 10000 plus runs+ his value at No.3) over the last decade has been well documented time and again. So this is not to belittle his great achievement for India and for being the Best No. 3 India has had, since 1932).

Hence, someone coming in at No. 3 has to, in a worst case scenario, give strike back to them. He cannot be someone who consumes 40 balls during this crucial period scoring 5-6 runs(which is what Dravid has done in the last 12 months-against Australia, SA, SL and now against England)

India, under MSD, are a lot more aggressive in terms of tactics than all the captains of the last decade(Sourav was aggressive but not always in terms of tactics/declarations/batting order change).

Hence, the need to reconsider Dravid at No. 3.

There is already talks of Dravid gaining back form...And that is so typical of the media that goes overboard... He struggled again in the early part of the innings in both the innings
( 6 runs of 40 balls in the first innings, 0 of 19balls in the 2nd).

You do not want your No.3 to be doing that.

It is not about form but about how you want someone to bat at No. 3.

Dravid's first 15-20runs have to come off 35-40balls not 60balls....

Yes, you are right. No one may have said at the time McGrath or Warne were there... Reason being..India were most of the time trying to save tests/series.

Today, India is competing for No. 1 spot. Overall there is a lot more confidence and No.3 bat needs to reflect that confidence.

Prabhu

Prabhu.S said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for the comment...

Yes, it may or may not be time for good bye, but it definitely is a time for him to be less defensive and less dead bat.

Yes, very few teams in history have won matches over longer period without being positive in its batting.

Prabhu

Raghu said...

Hi

Am sorry to be putting up this comment so late.

In a sense i do agree with the viewpoint expressed in the piece - however sad it might be for us to be talking like this about one of the greatest cricketers of our time. there is really no doubt of his immense expertise and his contribution but statistics over the last 2 years or so protray reality - and however painful it might be (remember in many cases, realities are definitely painful) - it has to be accepted. Contrary to what the press has come up now - i still dont think Dravid is back in form (in spite of his century). He was still not in his class - his body language says it all. He very rarely steps out these days to play any bowler, he's mostly reaching out (even in defence) - in essence not being his usual self.

I would actually have liked him to take a break during the England series - look inwards, think of what he wants to do, gain in confidence, play for Karnataka and get a feel for batting again. But then that did not happen and in a interview a day or two ago, Krish was saying he's our best bet in the New Zealand series where the conditions are going to be extremely tough. All one can do is just hope ...for him and for the team.

Prabhu.S said...

Raghu,

Hi! Thanks for the comments.

Perfectly agree with you...he is definitely not in form(though the media, in their typical hyping of things, has positioned the century as his return to form).

He continued his 'defensive' play in the Ranji match against Saurashtra(Dravid's was the slowest knock in Karnataka's first innings), which Karnataka shockingly lost this evening and hence are out of this year's championship.

Yes, also agree that he should have skipped the England series and got his confidence back- both a break as well as a knock in the Ranji could have helped do that.

It may have served him well(in many ways like how MSD skipped the test series against SL earlier this year).

What use will Badri's unbeaten 90 today against Bengal be, if he is not given the chance when in form!!!

It will require a tough call to leave Dravid out, but if K. Srikkanth is already thinking of Dravid as 'the wall' for the NZ tour, then I guess it may be a long long wait for Badri and Vijay.

Thanks again Raghu for your thoughts.

Prabhu