Future tense for Rahul Dravid as Asia Cup, World Cup loom

The trio of KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah are back from injuries, and that can only be good news for the currently beleaguered head coach

Can Rahul Dravid finally end India's ICC trophy drought? (photo: Getty Images)
Can Rahul Dravid finally end India's ICC trophy drought? (photo: Getty Images)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

When Rahul Dravid was coaxed to take over as the head coach of India in end-2021, it was being hailed as a casting coup of sorts by the BCCI (read: Sourav Ganguly, the erstwhile president and Dravid’s longtime friend). A complete change of regime, which also saw Rohit Sharma taking over as captain in all formats, was seen as a much-needed move to change the roadmap of Indian cricket.  

Fast forward to mid-2021, and the heat is on ‘The Wall’ as India embarks on a mission to regain the Asia Cup in 10 days’ time — a dress rehearsal for a possible encore of their 2011 triumph in the ICC World Cup in October-November.

While he may be breathing a little easier at getting a full-strength squad back after nearly a year with the return of Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, the Asia Cup will be no easy challenge in the company of arch rivals Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.

The 50-over format of the Asia Cup will suit India on Sri Lankan wickets (they will not be playing in Pakistan in this hybrid model), but Dravid will be wary after a series of underwhelming performances in recent times. The news of him driving down in Miami to meet Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary who was on a private visit in the US where India were playing their last two T20 Internationals against the West Indies, has not exactly been a well-kept secret in the media.  

The two were reportedly closeted in a two-hour meeting and the educated guess is that Dravid has been given a strong message to pull out all stops and gun for the World Cup as hosts after 12 years. While a failure to win the Asia Cup may still be acceptable, it will certainly be the end of the road for India’s most expensive cricket coach if he cannot end India's 10-year ICC trophy drought.  

Shreyas Iyer at a training session (photo: Getty Images)
Shreyas Iyer at a training session (photo: Getty Images)
Getty Images

The balance sheet of India’s performances under Dravid is not flattering by any stretch of the imagination. While they have retained their reputation of being almost invincible in bilateral contests at home, the same cannot be same for the away contests. Up 2-1 in an aborted Test series in England in 2021 under Dravid's predecessor Ravi Shastri, India were routed by England in the fifth Test last year — which ended the series at 2-2 — and were out of sorts in the World Test Championship final against Australia. 

Talking about ICC contests, there more humiliation in store during the T20 World Cup in Australia last year, as England hammered India by 10 wickets. They also failed to make the final of the last Asia Cup T20 in the UAE and lost to the West Indies (away, T20), Bangladesh (away, ODIs) and South Africa (tests & ODIs).

Understandably, the legion of Indian fans have learned to expect less from Dravid the coach, and his refrain about following ‘process’, that much abused word, does not have enough takers.

Known for his keen sense of self-respect, Dravid famously resigned as captain after the Men in Blue were shown the door in the league stage of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. What will he do if India flop at the Asia Cup? Anybody's guess.

Meanwhile, the suspense over Rahul and Iyer’s availability ended on Monday when the selectors named a 17-member jumbo squad — the first under the reign of Ajit Agarkar, the newly appointed chairman of selectors. The only surprise package was the fast-tracking of rookie left-hander Tilak Varma, who showed great maturity on his international debut in the last T20 series in the Caribbean.

Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna, who made their international comebacks during the ongoing T20 series in Ireland after recovering from back surgeries, are also in the squad. Mohammed Shami has made a comeback after being rested for the entire West Indies tour, while Mohammed Siraj and allrounders Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur complete the pace attack. 


The Asia Cup begins on 30 August with Pakistan hosting Nepal in Multan. India’s first Group A game is against Pakistan in Pallekele on 2 September, after which they play Nepal at the same venue on 4 September. Group B comprises Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and the top two teams from each group will progress to the Super Four stage.  

The sides that finish one and two in the Super Fours will contest the final in Colombo on 17 September. 

ASIA CUP SQUAD 

Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Ishan Kishan (wk), Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Prasidh Krishna 

Reserve: Sanju Samson 

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