If TRPs are any indicator of national mood, then the one sports story playing non-stop across TV channels last week said it all: why was Rahul Dravid, ex-India captain, dropped from the national cricket team? The man they called 'the Wall', who's pulled Team India out of so many tight spots in the last decade that even die-hard fans would be hard-pressed to list them all, had been "rested". Naturally, in our 200-and-counting digital channel age, matters would not be left to rest so easy. The channels soon had a gallery of former greats lined up, conspiracy theories were trotted out, old enmities were dissected, the tamasha had begun. Yesteryear heroes ranging from the legendary Gundappa Vishwanath to '83 Cup winning team member Madan Lal, the debonair Sandeep Patil to former chairman of selectors Kiran More, they were all doing the studio rounds questioning the wisdom of dropping Dravid at the start of an important series. Why, even the Pakistanis—gleeful though they were that they wouldn't have to bowl to Dravid—were weighing in with comments on how bad they felt for the man.
Among all this, the perceived villain of the piece, chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar, stood stone-hearted and dispassionate. "Dravid has been given a break, he's a great player. The players whose form and fitness are good will always be considered for India. This applies to all players. It's a five-match series against Pakistan and we have picked the team for the first two matches," he said, matter-of-factly. But it's not as if Dravid was replaced by a man in roaring form. The irony would not have been lost on the reflective Dravid that his place in the side has been taken by Virender Sehwag. He had backed Sehwag when the Delhi opener was out of form but, today, it is Dravid who finds himself with little support in the quarters that matter. He finished the NatWest series against England with an average of 37.16 but the final four innings yielded just 29 runs. Things came to a head after his run of low scores (31, 0, 13, 0 and 7) in the just concluded ODI series against Australia.