‘Not the place, time:’ Dravid deadbats questions about Kohli-Ganguly saga

Two expected events happened at the India’s pre-game press conference in South Africa. The absence of Virat Kohli and the ability of Rahul Dravid to wriggle out of a tight spot. In a departure from the conventions of pre-Test media interactions where the captain usually attends with the coach, Kohli chose not to attend.

Perhaps, because the last time he fronted up the media, he had had his say against Sourav Ganguly led BCCI over the way he was dethroned from the ODI captaincy, and since there has been no official response yet from the board, it would have been more of the same. Last time around, he was urging the media manager, who was intent on ending the conference, to carry on and read out questions from the chat window on the Zoom.

Unsurprisingly, Dravid didn’t bite the question about his role in the Kohli vs Ganguly saga.

“To be honest that’s the role of the selectors and I am not going to get into conversations that I might or might not have had,” when asked if he had given his opinion on change of white ball captaincy. “It’s not the place and the time to be doing that and discussing that. And what internal conversations I have had is certainly not going to come out in the media and I am not going to start telling people what conversations I have had.”

Team selection could be tricky, Ajinkya Rahane or Shreyas Iyer to start with. Also, without Ravindra Jadeja, India will have to strike the right balance, five bowlers or an extra batsman to be precise. Dravid’s answers aren’t tricky. He spoke about Rahane training well. As regards to team combination, he said: “In terms of picking and dropping players, we have to make decisions. I don’t expect everyone not to be disappointed. We are very clear within our group what kind of team combination we want to play with. I would like to keep it that way.”

The former India captain once again turned to the team-effort factor, when he was asked about Cheteshwar Pujara’s lean run. “These kinds of series are won by team performances. It’s not right to focus on an individual name.”

Dravid has sat through more tense media interactions during his captaincy, handling controversies that has ranged from Ganguly vs Greg Chappell, his declaration with Sachin Tendulkar just short of a double hundred, world cup debacle, decisions at toss and whatever else that was the rage of the day. He would hardly reveal much, wouldn’t come remotely close to biting any tempting apples from the reporters’ questions, and knew how to leave the metaphorical ball outside off stump.

Only once in 2004 in Pakistan, when a reporter had asked a question after a ODI whether the game was fixed, did Dravid stir with: “Someone get this guy out of the room. It’s ridiculous. These sort of statements are just bad for the game.” Inzamam Ul Haq too was asked the same question and had responded with a long angry stare and a crisp “Shut up!”.

A question about Kohli’s leadership in Tests popped up and Dravid eased into a cover drive.

“Virat as a leader, as a captain, he’s been fantastic. We are certainly looking to him to carry that forward and really pushing and challenging this team. The Test team; we want to keep improving, we want to get better as a group and Virat plays a huge role in that, in taking the Test team forward. He is one of those players who loves Test cricket, who looks forward to Test cricket. Hopefully he has a great series and that will benefit the team as well,” Dravid said.

In a interview a couple of days ago, the head coach had spoken about supporting Kohli along the way. “Being in part of the environment and supporting him (Kohli) along the way is something I’m looking forward to.”

For India, the immediate goal would be to win the series. In the grand scheme of things, the World Test Championship points are there to be collected as well. Dravid said as much. “From a Test team’s perspective, there are series to win and it obviously starts with this one. It’s really an important series, a challenge away from home. We look forward to play some good cricket. Obviously in the larger scheme of things, the World Test Championship points, that’s a goal as well.”

Going by the training session video clips posted on the BCCI’s website, the mood in the camp looks pretty jovial. But it won’t be easy in South Africa, even in Anrich Nortje’s absence.

“It’s a great challenge. (Also), it’s a great opportunity for anyone, whether you are in-form or out-of-form. It’s always something that you look forward to as a batsman. A lot of your career is defined by those kinds of performances,” said Dravid, adding: “It does take a little bit of time to get used to the conditions, especially here at Centurion. Hopefully they would be able to adapt quickly.”

As he pointed out, India would look forward to start well. “Starting well is very important. It’s not the be-all and end-all of everything. It’s a three-Test series. But in a three-Test series, it’s nice to be able to start well.”

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