Dravid the Opener – Why, oh Why?!
They say it’s good to get up early in the morning. I am too lazy to pay any heed to such advice, but the ongoing tour of Australia provided a good reason for me to do just that. Yesterday, I woke up at 5.30 in the morning to watch India bowl, and the effort was worth it. Kumble showed the world, again, what champions like him are made of. Harbhajan was a major disappointment. The guy looked plain scared to toss the ball up. This on a pitch that was providing some assistance to the spinners. But Kumble (and Zaheer) more than compensated for Bhajji. In an interview later, Kumble had this to say about why Dravid was opening: “…he does not have much choice”. A few days back, I was shocked to hear that the Indians were planning to open with Dravid. Why take Sehwag along then? Kumble must know better, I explained to myself. Overall, I slept a happy Indian cricket fan.
Today, I got up late. When I turned the TV on, the score read 34/2. Wow! I said. Clark and Johnson must have put up a good resistance. But a few minutes later, the commentator blurted out the number of overs, 24! Reality dawned upon me. Dravid had done it again.
5 runs off 66 balls. WTF? What did he think he was doing? We were trying to take the game away from the Aussies by scoring at 1.2 RPO for 24 overs? Almost immediately, Kumble’s words from the interview ringed loudly in my head. Dravid had obviously been asked to open the innings. He had no choice because the whole country thought the Yuvraj HAD to play. The scapegoat chose himself. Few players would have the balls to take such a decision at a time when they were going through a lull. But Dravid is different. He’ll do it for the team.
I don’t blame him for his rate of scoring. It’s the team’s strategy. But just consider what is at stake. A chance to beat the aussies in their own backyard.
For a batting line up famed for it’s experience, opening with Dravid is like pressing the self-destruct button. When we went to Australia in 2003-04, it was the middle order that provided the solidity. But the foundation was always laid by Akash Chopra and Virendra Sehwag. Not only did they see the new ball through, but also scored at a brisk pace, thus relieving the pressure for the batsmen to come. But this will not happen as long as Dravid is opening. He is not that ‘type’. In stead, it is more likely to create problems for the team and the man himself.
And now that he has failed to score runs in the first innings, there’s a likelihood of him trying to go for in the second outing. This again, is not his cup of tea and result may not be much different for the team. But more importantly, it will affect Dravid adversely.
So if Kumble wants the Wall to do what he is best at, he should bite the bullet. Drop Yuvraj and open with Sehwag. It doesn’t take 18 years of experience to know that it’s in the team’s interest to do so.