“It’s been a tough couple of days for everyone who loves the game,” were the pained utterances of a man scalded by the recent spot-fixing controversy. Rahul Dravid, the captain of Rajasthan Royals (RR), was at the “epicentre” of it, with three of his teammates accused in the scandal.
For someone who has led a ‘budget’ side with conviction, the enquiry about the crisis by commentator Alistair Campbell, before the start of RR’s league fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad, would have doubtless hurt. But, typically, he chose his words with care.
Even in the light of what has happened, Dravid’s efforts, as player and leader, don’t stand diminished. His obsessive pursuit of ‘putting the processes in place’ found its mark this season. Not that he got it wrong last year but, in a ruthlessly bottomline-driven world, a seventh-place finish wouldn’t be viewed kindly.
This season, along with coach Paddy Upton, he began by meticulously plugging the holes. In came James Faulkner, Kusal Perera, Samuel Badree, Fidel Edwards, and a couple of youngsters — Sanju Vishwanadh Samson and Sachin Baby. The acquisitions, he explained, were to have adequate options at hand for urgent replenishments.
The 40-year-old Dravid, with 416 runs at an average of nearly 30, showed through his own example what was required of his personnel. Shane Watson and Ajinkya Rahane empowered their captain by fronting up to crises. Dravid, then, handed out promotions to Stuart Binny and Samson in the batting order, each of them thriving in a calm environment.
It’s learnt that KKR, which Samson was previously a part of, wanted to sign the Kerala lad this year. But Dravid assured the 18-year-old that he would be given a decent run if he turned out for Rajasthan. It wasn’t only about the youngsters: Pravin Tambe, a 41-year-old leg-spinner who plays club cricket in Mumbai, was roped in as well.
RR’s team composition has been nearly impossible to guess; Dravid has shuffled his men around with purpose. What’s also noteworthy is that the horses-for-courses approach hasn’t been compromised for big names. Dravid hasn’t spared himself either, dropping to No.8 in a game.
He didn’t shy away from fielding an all-pace attack or initiating the attack with two relatively unknown spinners. When M.S. Dhoni walked out to bat at Jaipur, he was smart enough to employ a slip for Kevon Cooper. In his review of defeats, Dravid would invariably strike a compassionate note, careful not to deflate the morale of his young side.
With an eliminator match beckoning on Wednesday, an RR victory could be a timely balm — for him and the team. For a tournament over which hover dark, puffy clouds of suspicion, the likes of Dravid are shimmering streaks of redemption.