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’.