This blog has been remarkably prescient, as it turns out, on Rahul Dravid's fortunes. Chuck de Dravid, I urged after the England series, and was pleasantly surprised to see him handing over the reins a couple of weeks later. Drop the trio, I urged after another series loss, this time at home against an Aussie side not playing at its best. And another pleasant surprise followed - no Dravid in the ODI team to take on the visiting Pakistanis.
Since then, however, I've been watching with bemusement the outpouring of sympathy for Dravid, mostly from former players who dominate the media scene. I don't understand this - here's a guy who hasn't been performing for a couple of years now, both as captain and player, and yet the sports pages and TV channels are going after the selectors who for once did the right thing.
Out of curiosity I went back and checked what Dravid had been doing as a batsman and sure enough the slump extends way back to the tournament in Kuala Lumpur at the start of last year. India made an early exit in that tournament, made an early exit in the Champions Trophy at home, got thrashed 5-0 by the South Africans in the ODI series there, got knocked out in the first round of the World Cup with the added ignominy of a loss to Bangladesh, lost the series in England to a side playing with a half-fit Flintoff, and lost a home series to the Aussies. In between all that carnage, India managed to win preparatory series at home before the World Cup against the Windies and Lankans who rested most of their top players. India also beat the South Africans 2-1 in Ireland, but again they were without their main players. And yes, India also beat Bangladesh.
Obviously, there's no point continuing with the same old players if this is what the team is producing, and of the senior players Dravid has contributed the least during this time. In fact, he has had only three knocks of over 50 in a match-winning cause in 40 matches in nearly two years - the 92 not out in the England series, a 66 against the Lankans before the World Cup, and a 54 against the Windies again in that preparatory series before the World Cup where nobody was stretching too hard. I did not have the patience to work out his strike rate in this period, but I'm sure it's worse than his none too impressive career strike rate of 71. That would be less than four runs an over, and everyone knows that with one-day scores tending toward 300 these days, a strike rate of four will ensure a defeat.
Instead of shedding tears for Dravid, we should shed a few for all the one-day matches that India has been losing in the last couple of years by refusing to drop the plodding Dravid, while players like Gambhir, Uthappa, Rohit, Badrinath, and Tewary have been waiting in the wings. Yes, I admire Dravid for his exploits in Test cricket, and the two or three years when his one-day batting sparkled with a high strike rate. But I have no sympathy for a guy who is losing matches for India, and keeping out talented youngsters who deserve opportunities to grow in international cricket just like Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar did in their time.