For 24,208 balls in international cricket — a lifetime in itself — this was Dravid. Try as they might, bowlers rarely got to read what was going on in his head. Fortunately, Dravid the coach is easier to contact during public appearances. In his two years at the helm, Dravid has often spoken to the media, which he doesn’t always like, but he will never shy away from when it’s his time to take the lead.
Sometimes, he will continue, impatient to answer a question, because the first few words have already told him where this is going. At others, he throws his head back because this is something he has already faced, in many ways, many times. It’s a dead giveaway when asked about the team he thinks is unfair. He will sit upright, look the interloper in the eye, cock his head back and bob forward and back a few times, not unlike a peacock on the walk.
Bring it on, is the phrase that comes to mind, and in his zeal to protect the team, the speed of his response will become faster and if he has started in Hindi he will switch to English so that his words can keep up with his thoughts and it is precise.
Have we seen the last of Dravid as the coach of the Indian team? It’s hard to say because he won’t give anything away. Similarly, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is capable of swinging any way.
Through his time as a coach, however, Dravid has earned the trust of his players. First of all, he runs such a tight ship that there was little scope for any inside masala finding its way to the media. Then, he established strong lines of communication, especially for players who had fallen or even been asked to move on. Dravid also understood his place in the larger scheme of things, and this nuance allowed him to always leave the first and last word to Rohit Sharma. That’s why he could feel for her the way he did, through the smog of disappointment, when he lost the final. “There was a lot of emotion in that dressing room,” Dravid said.
“It was difficult to see as a coach because I know how hard the guys worked, what they put in, the sacrifices they made. You get to know these boys personally.
“But that’s sport. We will learn from it. We will reflect. And we will move on, as will everyone else. You don’t stop. Because if you don’t put yourself on the line you don’t experience the big highs or the big lows. And if you don’t do that, you don’t learn.”
Once these tired players have had a good night’s sleep and recovered from their draining campaign, the seniors among them will have to think about the coach. After all, in today’s Indian cricket, the best players play a significant role in deciding who they want to coach. If you think this is a decision taken by the BCCI alone, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. The Cricket Advisory Committee has wise heads on board, but they will not force a captain on someone, as that would have a domino effect that is not good for anyone in the long run.
It was mixed before the World Cup. Outside of the team, no one understood what was going on with the cutting and changing and moving of players in different positions. The results were trivial. But it was clearly time to abandon the notion that these bilateral series meant nothing in terms of results and were better used to set things right for the World Cup.
When he was at the National Cricket Academy and working with development teams, Dravid perhaps got a lot of credit that he didn’t exactly deserve. Every good player that came through was attributed to him alone. Each process was considered his own, and no credit was given to those who worked before or with him. Ironically, the opposite may happen now, as India ponders which coach to bring forward.
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