Rajkot: The ultimate disaster imaginable to the Indian cricket team at Sharjah will be talked about for years to come. India had lost quite a number of matches by good margins but the one against Sri Lanka on Sunday was absolutely heart shattering.
The reasons will be discussed and post mortems will be done by the former players and by carping critics. But India's performances in the last three matches in this Coca Cola trophy made sure that the Indian team's success story is always written by individual players.
And indeed Indian cricket has never been a team game. The final result made us realise how important a player Rahul Dravid is to the Indian team. Dravid is the sort of cricketer who can mastermind any attack and make sure that there will no more damage when he is at the crease.
The big failures of the Indian team against Sri Lanka were an eye opener for us in more than one ways. The results clearly showed that India inevitably rely too much on Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly.
When Saurav played his two most reckless shots (consecutive matches) in his career what needed was a class player who could not only guarantee the other opener to play his natural, game but also make sure that the bowlers had to strive for their wickets. This is the role that Rahul Dravid plays to perfection.
Had Rahul Dravid been around in both the matches, the story perhaps would have been different. Sri Lanka got the perfect platform only because they got the Indian captain on both occasions with a short-pitched deliveries.
This was compounded for India by the fact that the replacements for Saurav were absolute newcomers. First it was S Sriram, who was playing his first match here, and then Yuvraj Singh, who no doubt looks very positive but was too inexperienced to handle the situation.
Bowlers of most teams know that the wickets of Sachin and Saurav are very important, but they also give a lot of respect to Rahul Dravid. Because they know that Rahul is a class act.
Rahul may not appear to be in the One-day mould, but on a number of occasions he has proved that he can score as fast as any other batsman in the shorter version of the game. Who can forget his onslaught on Allan Donald and that too in the South African's own territory? Who can forget Rahul Dravid's swashbuckling innings at Taunton against Sri Lanka in the last World Cup where he made 145 off 145 balls?
When he is on song no other cricketer times the ball so sweetly and so precisely as Rahul does. Technically he is even superb than Sachin or Saurav. When he dispatches the ball to the boundary, it reaches the destination because of the neat timing and placement.
It is often alleged that Rahul plays too slow in the beginning. This may be true but when he finishes his innings, we all know that the difference between the balls and the runs would be very narrow. Javed Miandad recently said that if Pakistan had just one batsman like Rahul Dravid then they would never lose.
One day cricket is just not about scoring fast, but it is about scoring in a calculating manner. This is an art which England showed to perfection in the first One-day international at Karachi recently when they were chasing 304 runs and achieved the target.
Runs are not often scored by the hard hitters, but also by those who just nudge the ball here and there. This was the style adopted to a nicety by Attapattu and Jayawardena. Even Jayasuriya initially nudged the balls and then launched. Rahul Dravid could also have played a similar innings. Thus an Indian team without Rahul Dravid is unthinkable.