x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

No rift in India team says Rahul Dravid as Ricky Ponting grows in confidence

Indians left with lot of firefighting to do as criticism mounts on the visitors on the torrid tour of Australia.

VVS Laxman, left, is one of the big names struggling and he could do with some advise from Sachin Tendulkar.
VVS Laxman, left, is one of the big names struggling and he could do with some advise from Sachin Tendulkar.

With India 2-0 down midway through the tour of Australia, the cricket team is facing mounting pressure and speculation on their short-lived status as one of the best teams in the world.

The thir Test begins on Friday and it was left to Rahul Dravid to quash rumours that there was a rift within the senior members of the team, two days after Ishant Sharma was seen giving a finger salute to unruly fans, the second occasion involving an Indian player in the series already after Virat Kohli.

"When you lose 2-0, that's part and parcel of the game," Dravid, who celebrates his 39th birthday today, told reporters.

"Suddenly everything is wrong. There's absolutely no truth to those (reports about a rift)... the spirit in the team is really good."

Dravid, who has compiled 13,206 runs in 162 Tests, said the karting session was not an indication of the team losing their focus.

"A lot of discussions happen in the dressing room, in the course of dinner and when we go for go-karting.

"Lots of conversations can happen in times like that which are very useful, and that's how you learn. You don't learn through sitting in meetings, having powerpoint presentations. That's not how teams work.

"Obviously there is a sense of disappointment in the result we had so far. We'd like to do better definitely but in terms of spirit, it has been very good."

Dravid has been far from his best in the series, bowled four times so far, including by a Peter Siddle no-ball in the first Test at Melbourne.

"Obviously when you get [bowled] out three times, you think about it, there's no doubt about it. I worked on a few things. Hopefully it will be better," said the player, nicknamed 'The Wall' for his otherwise impregnable defence.

"I don't think anything has drastically changed since what was a successful year for me. I have looked at some of the videos and can't see any difference. I hope it's a coincidence and I can set it right".

Dravid had similar things to say about his teammate VVS Laxman, but his former captain and contemporary Sourav Ganguly joined in the chorus of the doubters.

As India's most successful captain before the incumbent MS Dhoni came along, Ganguly fears India may have lost the ability to win overseas.

"It's not the loss but the manner in which they have been outplayed that will be of concern," Ganguly wrote in a newspaper column. "Indian cricket has taken a lot of pride in its performance overseas in the last 10 years, but the fear I have now is, have we taken a huge step backward?"

"Winning cricket matches is about seizing the moment and that did not happen. Indian batting has been rated very highly for the last 10 years, but somewhere in the last few Tests, they have found themselves in difficult positions," the 39-year-old Ganguly wrote.

Sunil Gavaskar, a veteran legend and commentator, snapped at the attitude of the players. "Have they gone there for sightseeing or (to) play cricket?" Gavaskar said.

"The first Test ended on the fourth day and the next day was a free day," he added. "But did the Indian team practice? The attitude has to be there. You have to go out there and practice cricket."

Wasim Akram, former Pakistan pace bowler, added: "India are seriously looking out of sorts. There seems to be no planning in the team.

"Players are just looking like individuals and not gelling as a unit. This is surprising considering the fact that almost the same team were world No 1 just a few months back".

On the other hand, unlike the Indians, Ricky Ponting has seized the moment. The former Australia captain said he was growing in confidence after his century against India in Sydney last week.

Ponting, the third highest run-scorer in the series so far behind India's Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid, scored 134 in Sydney, his first hundred after two years.

"I've had to work really hard with my game the last few months and I felt that I made a bit of progress the last few weeks," Ponting said.

"I think the biggest challenge for me was the technical flaws that I've been working on and getting enough quality time in the middle and starting to feel that bit more free again and I feel my rhythm is starting to come back in my batting."