Hard as it might be to swallow at this point in time, there is no doubt that some good things have emerged from IPL 2013. The most heartwarming and surprising, perhaps, among these positives is the rise and rise of Rahul Dravid, the T20 Captain.
When Rahul Dravid was made captain of the Indian cricket team in 2003, it was under what some might term unfortunate circumstances. As a consequence, Dravid's tenure at the top was not a happy one and he gave up the captaincy after only four years on the job. That makes Dravid's successful stint as captain of Rajasthan rather interesting.
Logically speaking, Dravid should have found captaining India a little easier than leading an inexperienced, weaker Rajasthan team in a format of the game he is least suited to. After all, captaining an IPL side involves leading players from at least three different countries. And Twenty20 cricket is not Dravid's thing, so to speak. Test cricket is. Why, then, did Dravid seem so ill at ease skippering a far more talented set of individuals for India in Tests?
The thing about India under Dravid is that they were a side more divided than the European Union. Much of the discord had to do with the way Greg Chappell went about the business of driving Dravid and Team India into new ways of doing things. Dravid found himself yo-yo-ing between the promise of Chappell's path-breaking but often hard-to-swallow ideas and an Indian team typically resistant to change. The frustrated, sullen, camp-ridden Indian side must have sensed Dravid's conflict. And so Dravid had to work twice as hard to not come across like a 'Chappell fanboy,' while still trying to implement many of the coach's ideas that held undeniable appeal to Dravid's proactive and forward-thinking mind. It became too much for the Dravid to handle. His batting suffered. His people skills were placed under intense scrutiny. And the fun went out of Dravid's cricket.
Captaining Rajasthan, on the other hand, has been great fun for Dravid. Especially in IPL 2013. Despite the fact that the ongoing spot-fixing scandal emerged from his own lovingly nurtured team, Dravid looks a far more confident and relaxed skipper now than he ever did as the captain of the Indian team. And it's not like the Rajasthan side doesn't have difficult characters.
Shane Watson is not an easy man to captain; Micheal Clarke and Mickey Arthur will vouch for that. Brad Hodge must have a lot of baggage, what with him having such a great record and still having played so little for Australia. Then there is the whole other headache of reporting to owners who see cricket very differently from himself. And, of course, figuring out what to do with guys like Sreesanth, Chandila, and Chavan.
Contrary to what some people think, leading an IPL side is not a piece of cake. Still, Dravid has shown us, in the evening of his career, a side of his personality we were not privileged enough to be exposed to during his prime and as captain of Team India.
It's true that Dravid has had a successful captain in IPL 2013 because he has been given a freer hand by Rajasthan than he was by the various camps he had to appease in the Indian team. Oh, and Dravid's current coach is not a megalomaniac, which helps. Also, Rajasthan doesn't have a Tendulkar-camp or a Zaheer-camp or a Sehwag-camp or a Bhajji-camp or a Ganguly-camp or a Chappell-camp. Camps make it hard for a captain to implement bold plans efficiently.They love to say a captain is only as good as his team. That said, no matter how good the team is, a captain is still only as good as his ability to get his team to work like a team.
Truth be told, Team India didn't buy into Dravid's vision because they thought it was Chappell's way. Happily for Dravid fans, Rajasthan have given us a glimpse into the creative brilliance of Dravid's (and Paddy Upton's) way. Imagine what Team India might have achieved under Dravid if somebody else had been coach. Imagine what Sachin Tendulkar could have achieved with a more authoritative voice, literally. But that's a different story.