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Dravid need batting consistency to lead India

Published: Sunday, October 16, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
 
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New Delhi:New captain Rahul Dravid will need all his batting consistency and cool ability to keep controversy at bay if he is to lead India out of the doldrums and back to the top of world cricket.

Recent turbulence has come as much from off-field in-fighting as the team's non-performance on the pitch, leaving fans to wonder if things could get any worse.

Dravid, 32, was named skipper on Thursday for the home one-day series against Sri Lanka and South Africa, ending Sourav Ganguly's five-year reign as India's most successful skipper.

But he takes over a team that has earned the dubious reputation of flopping in finals, especially in the one-day game.

India have already lost more than a dozen finals in the past five years, forcing Dravid's predecessor to admit he just did not know what was going wrong in crunch matches.

The new leader, nicknamed "The Wall" for his solid defence, has also to restore order and decorum off the field after a highly-damaging public spat between coach Greg Chappell and Ganguly.

The injured ex-captain claimed during the September tour of Zimbabwe that he had been asked to step down on batting form by the coach, who then wrote in a leaked e-mail to cricket chiefs that Ganguly was unfit to lead the side.

The crisis was the worst to have hit Indian cricket since a 2000 match-fixing scandal, and saw embarrassed authorities forced to broker a truce.

It now falls on Dravid to prepare a team to challenge for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. And the fans will expect him to wield a magic wand without losing his touch with the bat.

It is not an easy task, but Chappell sounded very confident Dravid has the character and ability to restore India's fortunes.

"He (Dravid) has always come across as a very positive cricketer with a good cricket brain," said Chappell.

"I think he has earned the honour. He has a fabulous record, which will be an advantage for him. This is a learning curve for him and I am sure he will learn more as he goes. To me, he is well prepared for the job."

Dravid is not considered as aggressive as his predecessor and is not known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. But even his critics concede he has the solid technique and cool temperament to assume the role.

And he has already proved his adaptability.

The man from Bangalore made his Test debut in England in 1996, but struggled to cement his place in the one-day side. Reason: he was considered too slow to force the pace in the 50-over game.

Dravid was asked to prove himself in an insignificant triangular one-day series at home in 1998, featuring cricketing babes Bangladesh and Kenya.

It appears an irony of sorts that the same man is now expected first to revive India's fortunes in one-day cricket.

Dravid adapted himself remarkably well in one-dayers. He also doubled up as a wicket-keeper for more than a year so that the team could accommodate an extra batsman or bowler.

His record today speaks for itself in one-day cricket -- 8,429 runs with 10 centuries in 265 matches. He has also amassed 7,871 runs in 91 Tests with 20 hundreds.

Dravid of course said all the right things after his appointment emphasising the real honour of leading the world's biggest cricketing nation.

"If we can do a good job and have some success then it will be more special," Dravid said in Sydney, where he is playing for the World XI against Australia in the Super Test.

"Irrespective of who the coach or captain is, we all want India to win."

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