“I have not thought anything too far ahead. I am happy with what I am doing. There are a lot of challenges with doing a full-time role so I really do not know.” These were the words Rahul Dravid spoke after the Sri Lankan tour when he was asked about the move to full-time coach for India’s senior men’s team.
In an interesting change of events, India’s legendary cricketer Rahul Dravid is set to take over as the Indian head coach from the upcoming New Zealand home series. The former Indian captain is regarded in the cricketing world for his coaching career as highly as he was for his batting during his playing days. Dravid’s technical acumen is known to the world. He has played an important role in shaping up India’s younger generation and providing the senior side with an enormous depth in the talent pool. Before we take a deep look into Dravid, let’s talk about India’s outgoing coach Ravi Shastri, whose stint will conclude with the T20 World Cup.
Glory days under Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri took over as the head coach of the Indian team in July 2017 after a bitter fallout between the team and then coach Anil Kumble. Under Shastri’s guidance, the team saw arguably the most glorious days in the history of Indian cricket as they remained the number one Test side for five years and won two back to back Test series in Australia in 2018-19 and 2020-21. India also defeated West Indies in their own backyard and made it to the inaugural World Test Championship final.
They also took a 2-1 lead in the five-match Test series in England, with the last game getting postponed due to the Covid-19 scare. Shastri gelled well with captain Virat Kohli and was commended for his excellent man-management skills.
Rahul Dravid’s baby steps in coaching career
The legendary batsman retired from international cricket in 2012 and went on to play for Rajasthan in the Indian T20 League till 2013. In 2014, Dravid took the first step in the coaching arena as he became Rajasthan’s official mentor. They missed out on the playoffs by a narrow margin on net run-rate, finishing fifth. 2015 proved to be great for Dravid and Rajasthan as they finished third. This stint was enough for the Indian board as they appointed him as the coach of India Under-19 and India A teams in 2015.
Successful years as junior men’s coach
Dravid tasted immediate success as the Under-19 coach, with India reaching the final in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup. The tournament unearthed future stars such as Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and Washington Sundar. Dravid was appointed as the mentor of the Delhi franchise in 2016 but had to choose between the two jobs of India u19 coach and coaching in the Indian T20 League due to a ‘conflict of interest’. Dravid chose to remain with the junior Indian teams and worked on the development of young players.
India went on to lift the 2018 Under-19 World Cup trophy in New Zealand, which gave the country stars like Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill. In 2019, Dravid also became the Director of Cricket Operations at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.
Part-time stint with senior men’s team
In July 2021, when the Indian Test squad was on England’s tour, the board had arranged a limited-overs tour to Sri Lanka to give game time to other players. With the head coach Shastri being England, Dravid was asked to take up the part-time role as India’s coach for the Sri Lankan tour. Shikhar Dhawan led the side full of IPL stars in the reckoning for a spot in the T20 World Cup squad. India won the ODIs by 2-1 but lost the T20I series after winning the first game in a Covid-19 affected series. The likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Devdutt Padikkal and Chetan Sakariya were given opportunities in the T20I leg of the tour.
Focus on the process, not results
Known as one of the smartest brains in the cricketing world, Rahul Dravid always maintained that he focuses more on the process than results. He is someone who has believed in giving as many chances as possible to more players and never settling for a particular playing XI. This policy of his has helped many players to get the proper exposure.
Dravid has been applauded for building a strong system at junior level, which works as a feeder for the national team. In his stint as the Under-19/India A coach, Dravid and selectors worked on organising regular India A tours which have helped young players immensely to perform and acclimatise in overseas conditions. Dravid also introduced a rule in Under-19 cricket that allows a player to compete in the U19 World Cup only once. The rule has worked wonders in preventing age fraud.
When India breached the Gabba fortress earlier this year to complete a 2-1 Test series victory over Australia, Dravid was credited for the development of former under 29 stars Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill and Washington Sundar who had played a crucial role in the come-from-behind win. His focus on making the young guns ready for the international stage by giving them regular domestic games and instilling in them a sense of belief has been praised by international pundits as well, who have not shied away from crediting the former player for making India’s bench strength an enviable one. Dravid has had such an impact that any player who does well at the highest level, expresses his gratitude for the great man.
A new beginning
Filling the shoes of Ravi Shastri, who has left an incredible legacy behind, will not be easy for any coach. But if there’s one personality who can do it, it is Rahul Dravid. The belief in him amongst cricket folks is so strong that even Shastri himself had expressed a wish that Dravid should take over as the next coach.
Dravid’s stint as India’s captain back in 2005-07 witnessed a highly entertaining period for Indian cricket although not without controversies. As a head coach, Dravid will look to make the most of his tactical prowess, management skills and India’s enormous depth to take Indian cricket to a next level. With two ICC world cups lined up in the next three years, this gargantuan figure in Indian cricket has work cut out for him.
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