Sober and cerebral Dravid as coach

He is thorough, cool, a perfectionist and comes with administrative experience that most previous coaches did not have

Dravid on the field
Dravid on the field

Qaiser Mohammad Ali

During India’s 2005 tour of Sri Lanka, Nirupama Rao, the then Indian High Commissioner, had hosted high tea for the team at her residence in Colombo. While other players sang Indian songs inside, Dravid chose to check out Rao’s library, eventually borrowing a couple of books. He had just taken over captaincy for that tri-series in Sri Lanka, and the books he picked up included one on the art of leadership by a renowned Chinese author.

As a player, Dravid had been impeccable in his preparation. You would never find him free even for a minute during the Indian team’s practice sessions. Off the nets, he would immerse himself into books or his laptop.

Dravid’s coaching is on the same lines he played his cricket– uncomplicated, straight forward, and following the basics. The BCCI has given the 48-year-old former junior India coach a two-year tenure, until the 50-over World Cup in 2023, and he is unlikely to change his character now.

Dravid has seen the junior India set-up from outside and inside – as coach of the India ‘A’ and India under-19 teams, and as the head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. Unlike Ravi Shastri or other previous coaches, this knowledge would come as a bonus in his new role.

Another advantage with Dravid is that his former India teammate and friend VVS Laxman is now head of the NCA. They had many fruitful partnerships as batsmen. Now, they are expected to work in close coordination as ‘administrators’ for the benefit of Indian cricket.

As junior India coach, Dravid has tasted both defeat and glory and came out richer in experience. In 2016, India lost the under-19 World Cup final to the West Indies in Bangladesh and two years later triumphed, beating Australia in the u-19 World Cup final in South Africa.

Some of Dravid’s pupils from the junior Indian teams have graduated to the senior national team. Prithvi Shaw, the 2018 U-19 World Cup winning captain, and Shubman Gill have already broken into the India Test team while more players who were under his charge at the two World Cups and India ‘A’ teams would, hopefully, soon graduate, too.

Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel, and Shivam Mavi, who played at the 2018 U-19 World Cup, are close to it. Knowing all these young players well would be another huge plus for both Dravid and the youngsters.

With the international cricket schedule getting tighter by the day, India will have no choice but to interchange players if the BCCI wants to save players from burnout and mental health issues caused due to the loneliness of the bio-bubble.

The concern is reflected in the squad that was announced for the three-match T20Is against New Zealand. Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami were rested while new T20 captain Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Bumrah and Shami would be rested for one or both Tests that follow. Kohli, rested for the T20s and the first Test in Kanpur, would return for the second Test. The selectors and the BCCI seem to have agreed to rotate players.

“Like we see in football also, seasons are so long and some of the top players don't play all the games,” Dravid said. Towards the end of the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE, Shastri had admitted that he and the players were “drained” by non-stop cricket. Shastri, however, chose to air his feelings on the last day of his tenure. Dravid let his mind speak at his very first press conference.

“We need to do this balancing act and work towards getting everyone fit and ready for the big tournament,” Dravid said. Rotation of players is welcome news as more promising players would get a chance to play and not just warm the bench and carry water.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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