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Leave classy Dravid alone!

The Press across the world is preying for the blood of senior Indian players more due to their age than form and fitness.


Read club cricketer Anant Tewari's justification on www.mid-day.com

There is no doubt that India's performance has been below par Down Under. But at the same time, it is not that the team is not trying. It's just that the opponents have identified Team India's weakness and prepared pitches that help expose them.

To be fair, only two players have the class to perform consistently on such pitches, like they have demonstrated numerous times in the past -- Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Gautam Gambhir has the potential, but his batting doesn't look as solid as before.

Dravid, for some reason, has never got the accolades he deserves after years of service to the game. Dravid is the second highest scorer in Test cricket (13262 runs), has the maximum number of catches (210) and holds the record for highest partnership runs in a career along with Tendulkar (6900 runs).

Dravid was 2011's highest scorer in world cricket with 1145 runs. One must consider that the year included the tough England tour.

And just 19 days into the New Year, talks about Dravid's retirement/sacking are gathering steam. Dravid's removal would lead to the Test cap being distributed like a freebie and the selectors realising a big mistake.

Yes, there was a time, when he was totally out of form and could have been dropped easily but kudos to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the selection committee for showing faith in him.

Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar rightly pointed recently that the Test cap should be given only to deserving players, who have been consistent in ODIs and four-day domestic formats. Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh were given ample opportunity, but they could not cement their place. Had they grabbed their chance, with Virat Kohli coming in, selectors would have definitely thought of phasing out the seniors a year ago. India is yet to find a suitable replacement for Sourav Ganguly.

I know many players who have scored thousands of runs in Ranji Trophy but never made it to the next level. This maybe because they scored on flat domestic wickets, mostly against ordinary bowling attacks, lacked the mental composure on the big stage or were just short of luck.

People have suddenly started questioning Dravid's technique since he got bowled five times in the last six innings. That's ridiculous. If someone scores 1000 runs in 10 innings and is bowled all 10 times, will people still criticise him? Definitely not.

In fact, the Australians must get credit for foxing Dravid. They are consistent, stick to the plan and invariably exploit that small chink in Dravid's armour in conditions that suit them.

Dravid does not often get dismissed caught behind or in the slips like most of his teammates. But he does not get credit for that. Australia have devised a plan for Dravid and they have been extremely successful so far. They are patient and don't give up even if they have to wait for 100 balls in some innings.

England, and now Australia, have tailor-made wickets to suit their pace bowling, knowing India well that India will expose them once there is any assistance for spin.

India must learn from this and be as ruthless when New Zealand and England tour India later in the year. The hosts must prepare turning tracks, play three spinners and ensure their batsmen don't breathe easy.

Despite what experts and critics may say, national pride is of prime importance and India should pay back suitably.

Players must be replaced on basis of form and fitness - not age.

Dravid has been in sublime form for the last 12 months and his fitness cannot be questioned. He is out of form in this series, but has spent the most time on the pitch compared to other batsmen. That's the essence of Test cricket.

India need him to stick around for one or even two more years.

The author is a former Mumbai University cricketer and has played 'A' division club cricket in Mumbai, captaining several first-class players.

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