The year was 1996, the Indian team was in crisis with the mercurial fly-half Navjot Singh Sidhu rebelling against skipper Mohammad Azharuddin and quitting the Indian tour of England. Team management sent Sourav Ganguly, ever green behind his ears, to strike in a most intimidating setting, Lord’s, the home of Test cricket where cricket fortunes are made and lost. On the third day, its first century announced a future star to India.
India had also dropped veteran Sanjay Manjrekar in that series and offered another start to Rahul Dravid, Ganguly’s Under-19 and India A teammate. Dravid at the crease ended at 95, five shy of a hundred debut even as British commentators hailed New India.
*Dravid was appointed as interim coach of India’s white ball team for the ODI and Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka in the absence of Ravi Shastri, who was in England with the India test team for a bilateral series.
Almost 25 years later, Indian cricket has come full circle. While Ganguly sits at the top as chairman of the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), Dravid, India’s perennial cricket crunch man, has been given a much tougher job: coaching the Indian team. . It becomes all the more arduous in a country where each of the 1.3 billion has a view on the performance of the team, the cacophony being amplified by the speeches on social networks.
There is excitement. There is also another crisis that Dravid enters. After losing two strokes at an ICC title this year – the World Test Championship final in June, then crashing out in the league stages of the T-20 World Cup this week – India grapples with a multi-billion dollar question: what does it take to win critical knockout matches and bring home that elusive ICC title? India haven’t won one since the Champions Trophy in 2013.
The framework took a few months to deploy. Dravid had been happy to coach the Under-19 and India A teams, then to take on the role of manager of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru – and apparently was not interested in the job. senior team. Although he never made it public, those in the know confirm that he felt slighted after a 2017 incident where he was named an Indian batting consultant by Ganguly’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC). , Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, only to be fended off by the duo of Ravi Shastri and India team captain Virat Kohli. The thank-but-no-thank-you snub put him off, so much so that even when it was clear Shastri was out after this year’s T-20 World Cup, Dravid had no intention of applying for the Indian coaching job.
File photo of Dravid and Virat Kohli (Photo: AP)
Then BCCI bosses Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah took over. Dravid was called to Dubai on the day of the IPL finals where he was convinced to take over. Meanwhile, Kohli also announced his decision to step down as India’s captaincy of the T-20. Dravid searched for a few days to consider the offer, but after a few more phone calls, he finally came and applied to be the coach of the Indian men’s cricket team. And with an annual contract of Rs 10 crore, Dravid will be one of the most expensive cricket coaches in the history of the game.
There will be no honeymoon period for the new coach as he balances the two captains; Rohit Sharma, who has taken over the limited series format, and Kohli, who retains his position in testing. With India’s recent disappointments in ICC tournaments, Dravid should bring the Midas touch; his two-year tenure includes another shot at a T-20 World Cup title in 2022 and then the main World Cup (50+ version), to be played in India in 2023. But first, he must identify the good players. for all three formats. He is clearly leaning towards the younger ones. “Having worked closely with the boys, whether at the NCA, U-19s or the India A team, I know they have the passion and desire to improve every day,” said Dravid after his appointment.
After his retirement, Dravid made a pass in the commentary box, but he clearly missed the action on the pitch. It started as a mentoring and coaching job for Rajasthan Royals (2014 & 2015) before going to Delhi Daredevils as a coach for two years (2016 & 2017) but it didn’t yield the best results. The breakthrough came while he was with the India U19 squad for the Youth World Cup in 2016; even though they finished second, it propelled Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan to the big stage. The best came with the Under-19 team that won the Youth World Cup in 2018, and Dravid identified Prithvi Shaw, Shubhman Gill and a few young point guards as those to watch. At Indian A level, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari and Mohammed Siraj earned their stripes under him.
There will be no honeymoon period for the new coach. There are two World Cups lined up in the next two years and expectations will be very high
VVS Laxman played all of his cricket with Dravid and probably saw it coming. “His knowledge and experience helped him maximize his potential. He always wanted to learn and if you are a good student, you must also know how to be a good teacher. What he will bring to the table outside of that will be discipline, work ethic and people management,” Laxman told India Today.
Another legend, Sunil Gavaskar, thinks Dravid’s tendency to stay away from the spotlight will serve him well: “He got it all done by working on his game, brick by brick. He failed and he succeeded, earning respect. I hope players don’t just pick his brains, but learn from the guts he showed while competing against the best.
Dravid takes matters into his own hands amid whispers from the locker room about specific sides and, at times, a lack of communication. While the Shastri-Kohli era saw India dominate world cricket, also winning a format or more in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia), they somehow didn’t have ways to win major tournaments. As Cheteshwar Pujara once told India Today, the team sometimes approached big games the wrong way, watching them. Dravid should bring a much-needed calm in such situations.
Harbhajan Singh, who played under Dravid’s captaincy, thinks he can play the dual role well. “If you look closely at the ‘great’ games that India lost, it was the star hitters who freaked out. I see Dravid not only as a coach but also as your go-to bat man. He was the bald – toughest mouse, who reveled in the harsh conditions, who better to guide our batsmen?” asks Harbhajan.
While he’s not worried about the weight of expectations, Dravid will keep in mind perhaps the only controversial part of his long career, the Greg Chappell era. As in the recent T-20 World Cup, India withdrew from the 2007 World Cup under Dravid and Chappell. Many believed then that it was Dravid’s inability to overpower Chappell or be the bridge between him and the “injured” players that brought the team in. Harbhajan, however, sees a silver lining in it. “He was the captain who suffered because the coach became supreme, sometimes even reversing Dravid’s decision. As a coach, he will know what not to do. He should be like Gary Kirsten. On tough days, do face criticism and defend your players. And when the team wins, let them bask in the glory,” says Harbhajan.
For someone who berated his teammates for wearing ripped jeans or designer shirts in the pre-IPL era, Dravid now walks into a locker room full of players with tattoos on their bodies and designer watches on their wrists. These superstars live with their insecurities behind walls that separate them from “outside noise.” On days when the glass is more half empty than full, they can expect a certain Rahul Sharad Dravid knocking on their door.