India's three One-Day International at Toronto against the West Indies might as well signal the formation of a new "think-tank" in Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Mohammed Azharuddin, who was the skipper for almost a decade (except for 17 months) is not there.
Sachin Tendulkar who regained his captaincy this August will not be there. Ajay Jadeja, who used to be the stopgap skipper of India, will not be making the trip due to a calf-muscle problem. Ganguly, who led the team in the absence of a "resting" Tendulkar in the Singapore Challenge Cup league match against the West Indies on Sunday, is the new captain.
Dravid is his deputy. Nothing extraordinary could be noted in Ganguly's leadership quality on Sunday. After all, it was a 30-over match (due to rain) and so no new captain could be, and, should be, assessed under such an exhibition-match atmosphere. But in Toronto Ganguly's abilities could be judged from a widened scope. After all Tendulkar will be back in the team. Why should anyone bother about discussing Ganguly's abilities at this juncture? It is certainly not an effort to find a replacement for Tendulkar as the captain.
It is an effort to see whether Tendulkar, rated as God's gift to Indian cricket, could be allowed to progress in his own style as a member of the team. In Indian cricket there is a school of thought which strongly believes that Tendulkar the skipper should never disturb Tendulkar the batsman. Vivian Richards one of the game's greatest batsman was enjoying the status as the best batsman of the West Indian team for a long time under the leadership of Clive Lloyd. That suited Richards and the team as well. Richards became the West Indies' captain when the team was hailed as the best in the world. His task as the skipper became easier to certain extent. In Tendulkar's case he is at the helm when Indian cricket would sooner or later undergo a rebuilding process.
At that time Tendulkar, the batsman, might feel the seat of captaincy as a burden. It is a rare coincidence that Ganguly is going to lead a side that would be a sort of an experimental team. Tendulkar, Jadeja, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Nayan Mongia and of course Azharuddin will not be there. Ganguly and Dravid and Venkatesh Prasad are the regulars in both Test and ODI cricket. No doubt Robin Singh is a senior member of India's ODI team. But then the main responsibililies will be with Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Ganguly is a good student of the game, while Dravid is the most studious of them all.
Ganguly and Dravid made their respective Test debut in the same match (at Lord's in 1996). While Ganguly scored a hundred Dravid missed it narrowly. Since then these two men enjoy the reputation as the most impressive and successful partners. Why Dravid was not made the skipper? The answer is simple: Ganguly's long-standing in the ODI must have got him the nod. Dravid after all was ignored as an ODI material and only early this year in New Zealand did this man prove the world his ODI credentials.
Then the World Cup 99 was Dravid's. Right from his schooldays' cricket, Dravid's leadership qualities have been attracting attention of the close watchers of our domestic cricket. He has been really brilliant in the role of a captain when he led India juniors against New Zealand early this decade. He belongs to Karnataka where his senior Anil Kumble has been the skipper. No doubt Kumble is the right choice for Karnataka. A remarkable aspect of the Karnataka team has been the care and affection with which the internationals Kumble, Dravid, Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad nursed the aspairing youngsters in the state.