Rahul Dravid is not a coach.
He is The Choke.
As a captain, he led one of the most listless Indian squads to an ignominious exit from the league stages of the World Cup 2007. His years as the captain of Rajasthan Royals saw spot-fixing getting rampant. In 2022, Jamie Dravid of Indra Nagar has coached India to a ten-wicket drubbing in the T20 World Cup semi-final at the hands of very merciless England, and then to a ODI series loss against the Bangladeshis at their home. In the deciding test, BCCI Xi struggled to chase down 145 at Dhaka, and at one point had lost seven wickets for seventy odd runs. The match was eventually won, but some sorry reputations have been reaffirmed. Any keen observer of the sport would have predicted before we began the chase that Kannur Lokesh Rahul and Virat Mayur Kohli shall not be able to make meaty contributions, and they have obliged well and truly. Rohit Vadapao Sharma can count himself lucky for being conveniently absent from the scene.
Coming back to this team, we no longer have ‘team selections’, but ‘collection of duds’. Performers are snubbed with impunity. Ishan Kishen might have slammed a double hundred, but might find himself out of the side in the next ODI that India plays, because Mr.Fatso shall return, and Kannur Lokesh Rahul is an untouchable, a fixture, an automatic pick in every Indian side, unaffected by small matters like consistency and performances against quality opposition in key matches. On the other hand, someone like Kuldeep Yadav would be lucky to get picked for two consecutive tests. Reasons get invented to keep him benched after he manages to bag fifers – that he does not move the ball away from right-handers, cannot use the rough well, does not contribute with bat, or is not quite consistent being a left-arm wrist spinner. The Democles Sword keeps hanging over even Cheteshwar Pujara’s head. I am not a big fan of Lord Shardul, but forced to warm the benches for the likes of Unadkat, he has been liking controversial tweets suggesting there is politics behind team selection (collection) and that teams are being selected (collected) based on twitter trends.
This is The Choke’s Dream Team. Of course, the culture of impunity, and the philosophy of entitlement got etched into the system during the times of Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli. But the Choke has surprised even his die-hard supporters by his eager embracement and refinement of this way of life. Kannur Lokesh Rahul would always be the first pick in Choke’s side. The Choke has already declared that Rahul is beyond the simple laws of physics and statistics, and principle of accountability, and only biological troubles can keep him away from the side. There is no Karanataka angle behind this blatant favouritism. Sometimes regional and state considerations do come into play, but that does not seem to be the case here. It’s just that there is a fixed hierarchy of players and the ones on the higher peg shall always get picked, their form be damned. They would come back from injuries, repetitive or convenient ones, vacations or ‘rests’ (citing burnouts to keep themselves fresh for the IPL) and get back their slots as if by divine right. A newcomer might score a triple ton in Tests, or a double in ODI, bag a fifer or two, but would still have to vacate the perch atop which the ‘made guy’ shall form his nest and lay his eggs. Even in such a scenario, you cannot make things like these up – Man of the match in the first test, who scored 40 odd runs and claimed 8 wickets is dropped to make way for the third pacer, playing only his second test after a 12 years gap, on hold your breath, a rank-turner. This team management is truly capable of anything, or more appropriately, nothing.
Take Virat Kohli’s example, for instance. His average stands at a paltry 26 in last 20 tests. Yet he gets picked as the batting main-stay and fails regularly with casual abandon especially in make or break situations and is found wanting against any kind of movement on or off the pitch. Even in the on-going test, he dropped four catches, scored 24 and 1 in two innings and threw around tantrums like a bitch after getting out cheaply. Apparently the putative ‘GOAT’ does not like the opposition players celebrating the fall of his wicket. The captain, KL Rahul, the famed minnow-basher has also fallen cheaply for the fourth time in four innings. When things get tough, Rahul usually capitulates at the first possible opportunity. He does not have it in him to grind it out.
After Litton Das did a Dinesh Chandimal in the second innings of the second test, BCCI Xi are reduced to playing catch-up game, and now with Rahul, Pujara and Kohli having gotten out already, it is once again left to Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer to dig deep, and conjure the remaining runs. Imagine the defensive mindset of The Choke that at stumps on Day Three, two night-watchmen were guarding the crease while the heroes of the first innings, Pant and Iyer, remained shielded from the Bangladeshi spinners. Contrast this Lizard on the Wall approach with Bazball, the fearsome Three-Lions approach, and offer two minutes of silence for the dead Indian cricket. While Indian top order played for stumps on Day three, the Poms would have attempted to knock off the required runs in that session itself.
PS- I have not raised the Gujarat connection of Jaydev Unadkat and Axar Patel. That is too obvious to be mentioned.