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Slow and steady, the Dravid way

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Under 19_U19_India_World_Cup_CricketIt is the youngsters who need coaching the most. This is quite intuitive and no doubt all of you will agree. If you have good teachers in school, you make the task for your college lecturers all the more easier. Cricketers on the senior national team (hereafter referred to as Team India) need just marginal coaching.

So it was fitting indeed that Dravid took over as the coach of the Under-19 India team. Exactly where needed the most. Just as he would score runs for India in his playing days when and where needed the most. He would possibly be much happier seeing Prithvi Shaw and his boys win the Under-19 World Cup than if he himself had won the World Cup as captain in the West Indies over a decade ago – the tournament which triggered his decision to step down as India captain, owing responsibility for the defeat. A gentlemanly, commendable act!

This opened the doors for MS Dhoni to script a great chapter in Indian cricket history…he went on to win the next World Cup for India.

There were many who thought Dravid would take over as the senior team’s coach after he quit playing in the IPL and was appointed mentor of the Delhi Daredevils team. Even before that in fact, when he was captain-coach of the Rajasthan Royals team. I seem to recall that Kapil Dev observed that Rahul Dravid must defer any plans to run for Team India coach, as it would not be easy for him to deal with egos. In hindsight, when one thinks of what happened to Anil Kumble, one can say that Kapil was prescient in this regard.

He understood that too much dedication to the task can sometimes blind a coach to the vagaries of human personalities – and when you have fifteen different ones to handle, it is either a tightrope-walk or a run over hot coals. Or sometimes both.

If Dravid had become a prodigal Team India coach (seemingly making up for not being a prodigal Team India player like Sachin Tendulkar was), perhaps he would have met the same fate as Kumble; they are different personalities of course, and maybe I am wrong when I speak of their fates.

Perhaps Dravid would have understood Kohli’s nature and taken a back seat, simply focussing on getting the best out of him and his teammates. We do not (cannot) know.

As captain in the second half of the first decade of the 21st century, one can presume that he must have had a lot of difficulty managing a team which had several 30 year-olds in it. Back to Kapil’s advice…..and I recall something from the past – advice given by MAK Pataudi to Kapil Dev. It was about ignoring what the media was cooking up. Great and inspiring leaders of men. Dravid, of course, has offered a lot of useful advice to the young Indians who triumphed Down Under.  

What he could not accomplish as India skipper, he did earlier as the captain of the Karnataka Ranji trophy team, and more recently as captain-coach of Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. One great positive contribution was Ajinkya Rahane emerging as a middle-order asset in Test cricket and a top-order bat in ODIs for India.

Sreesanth, if he had had some sense and self-restraint, would have gone on to play many more Tests for India. Dravid knew how to get the best out of him…but he vanished from the scene after taking Dravid’s trust for granted.

Dravid has been patience personified all along, and he has displayed it. Whether to gain an entry into the Indian Test team in the second half of the 1990s when he was over 23 years old, or to re-enter the ODI side after being dropped and emerge as the highest run-getter in the 1999 World Cup, or to get a chance to lead India when he was 33 years old, or for that matter every one of those dour knocks which turned matches India’s way. Late blossom. In every sense of the term. Lasted longer and will last for many more years to come, contributing immensely to the game of cricket in India and the world over.

One may wonder what would have happened if he had got a chance to represent India at the age of 16, as Tendulkar did. But no, Dravid was destined to be a real example to Indian cricketers – the non-prodigies who could learn the value of dedication and perseverance and believe in themselves. Prodigies cannot inspire others and set examples for boys and girls who lack prodigious talent.  

One day, Dravid will be invited to coach Team India. By that time, many of the players from the Under-19 team captained by Prithvi Shaw may be on the senior team. And then, just as students who respect a school teacher find, to their pleasant surprise, that the teacher has decided to move on and become their college lecturer, it will be a wonderful continuum for Indian cricket.

But who knows? Maybe the Aussies or South Africans or West Indians or Sri Lankans or Englishmen will want him as a coach. He is a widely respected individual, remember that. And someone who is reliable. They did not call him the Wall for nothing. He still is, in a different capacity. And foreign teams could set a high price on that.

Keep going, Rahul. Happy for you and proud of you. You have inspired and will always inspire. Of course, you would have several stories to share in the future – uplifting ones which will motivate millions. You have taught, and will teach, perseverance, dedication, relentlessness and patience. Tao of cricket, if I may say so.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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