Dravid unlikely to be next comeback-via-IPL story

There have many stirring tales of comebacks to one-day international and even Test squads scripted in the DLF Indian Premier League. The names of Shane Watson, Jacques Kallis and Ashish Nehra spring to mind. And, after he was named among the 30 probables for the Indian team to play in the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa, many seem inclined to believed that Rahul Dravid has added himself to that list

It has been fascinating to observe the reactions in the 24 hours since Dravid was named in that list. I reckon Dravid would not be on that flight to South Africa when Team India heads there in its quest to win the ICC Champions Trophy. This is a title that India has not won outright, having shared it with Sri Lanka in 2002.

Of course, talk of a revival of Dravid’s ODI career has come because he had a great time in the early half of IPL 2009 in South Africa before he returned home to be with his wife during the delivery of their second child Then again, in his last ODI series, he averaged 10.20 runs an innings – scoring 51 runs in five innings against Australia, with a highest of 31.

In the time since, India have played 49 ODIs and have notched up a 32-13 win loss record, including six series victories. Surely, these could not have been achieved because the middle order is weak, as an anonymous selector has been quoted as saying in justifying the move to recall Dravid.

Come to think of it, another nameless selector has sold the theory how this move has been thought out by the panel to ease the pressure of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and encourage him to re-discover his aggressive streak with the bat. And another report, sourced to another selector, will have us believe that failure in the ICC World Twenty20 has led to Dravid’s return.

A moment’s analysis will tell us that the media has willingly bought both stories. First, it is illogical to connect ICC WT20 and the team’s so called failure in the ODIs. In any case, India has just won another one-day series – and this one in the West Indies despite not having Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina in its ranks.

Let us now see if the pressure-off-Dhoni theory holds any water.

In a team that boasts of stroke makers of the caliber of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, not to speak of Yusuf Pathan, there really is no need for Dhoni to revert to the all-out attack mode. He has evolved as a batsman, happy to play the nip and tuck game mostly and then burst into some strokes when needed.

As many as 13 – Dhoni, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Dinesh Karthik – could be automatic choices and will not be picked only if they are not fit. And Rohit Sharma and RP Singh may take up the last two slots after some debate in the selection room.

So, if it is such an open and shut case against Dravid’s selection in the ODI squad, why have the selectors included him in the list of 30 probables? Let us try and apply some logic here. Since there is no cricket slotted between now and the triangular series in Sri Lanka that will precede the ICC Champions Trophy, it can be presumed that Team India will have a conditioning camp.

With VVS Laxman playing for Lancashire in England, Dravid is the only major Test cricketer who would be totally out of touch with the game, except at the club level. I reckon the selectors and the team management would like him to be a part of the squad that prepared for the coming season rather leave him in the lurch altogether.

The romantics will keep hoping that Dravid would, indeed, join Watson, Kallis and Nehra among those who have used the IPL route to stage successful returns to ODI and Test cricket but I find it hard to be enthused about the chances of his wearing the blue uniform of the limited-over side one more time.