Monday, December 15, 2008

End of the Wall?

India's win today against England was impressive; India now has two of the four highest winning fourth-innings scores in history. Sachin, who some have claimed does not contribute adequately under the pressure of chasing (in fact, of his 41 centuries in Tests, this was the only one that occurred in the fourth innings of a game that India won), and Yuvraj, who many doubted was suited to Test cricket at all, saw India through, scoring an unbeaten 103 and 85 respectively.

But I wonder what Rahul Dravid is thinking at the moment. His form has entirely deserted him since late 2006: his few high scores have been gritty and quite unpretty. Before being out for 4 today, did he think he had the ability to play India into a winning position, if not actually see India through? (After Sehwag's innings yesterday, India was more or less obliged to try for a win today, though the ask was more than twice as large as the previous best 4th-innings chase in Chennai.) Having got out for 4 (to no great harm done), does he feel that he has it in him to contribute a good score in the next Test? If the answers to these questions are no, can he, in good conscience, allow himself to be selected and play? And if he plays and does not measure up, what do the selectors do next? His loss of form has lasted two years, and at his age, a temporary dropping until he recovers his form really does not make much sense.

Rahul Dravid has been one of our all-time greats and deserves a send-off on a high note. However, as many pointed out in Sourav Ganguly's case, a befitting send-off is possible only when the player recognises that the time is right and shows a willingness to go. Is the time right? In the best scenario, he will answer all skeptics at Mohali with a match-winning innings (or two), but somehow I doubt that will happen. If not, it is for him to make the call on continuing to play, and I hope others will not have to make it for him.

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