Kolkata: The sight of Rahul Dravid in the avatar of a Head Coach of India is something which cricket fans have often longed for - and it became a reality on Sunday - albeit for a parallel outfit headed for a white ball series in Sri Lanka.
‘‘As a coach, you are always learning. I look at this assignment as another opportunity to learn and am quite excited about it,’’ said Dravid in his first virtual media interaction alongwith skipper Shikhar Dhawan on the eve of their departure for the island nation on Monday. The Dhawan-led team, a combination of several senior pros who are not in England along with a number of exciting talents, will be playing three One-day Internationals and as many T20 Internationals.
It’s humility - so typical of ‘The Wall’ - talking again even though Dravid’s assignment is being seen as a probation for the hot seat once the current imcumbent Ravi Shastri’s term ends. Dravid is widely acknowledged as the man who played the silent mentor’s role in grooming the pipeline of young talent in graduating them to international cricket in the role as coach of India A or the Under-19 Indian team. The list of such cricketers is endless - be it a Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar or the likes of Shardul Thakur or Mohammed Siraj.
Interestingly enough, Dravid was one of the first options considered by the late Jagmohan Dalmiya, on his assumption of the BCCI President’s chair for the second time around 2015, to take over as the Indian coach. Dalmiya wanted to use the expertise of the erstwhile ‘Fab Four’ of Indian batting for the benefit of Indian cricket and formed a Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, while Dravid wanted to take a backseat and take the job of grooming future talent.
It’s a job which he performed to perfection, before graduating to the Director’s role of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, for which he had been nurturing ambitious plans of expansion with a hand the BCCI supremo Ganguly, a friend and erstwhile teammate.
Asked how would he approach his role in running a squad - which has the likes of Pandya brothers, Sanju Samson, the leg spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal along with rookies like a Devdutt Padikkal or Chetan Sakariya - Dravid focused on the process: ‘‘The team is an exciting mix of experienced players and debutants. My job is to create an environment where they can learn and am looking forward to it.’’
He also sounded a pragmatic note about the expectations from the upcoming tour, saying that it will throw up only an odd player or two for the T20 World Cup squad which would have been roughly finalised by now.
“These are the only three games before the T20 World Cup. I am sure the selectors and management would have a fair idea by now as to what kind of squad they are looking for T20 World Cup.…Can’t read too much into it (the Sri Lanka series). There might be the odd spots and people might raise their hands up and knock on the doors,” he said.
“I haven’t disturbed them (Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri) during WTC but will touch base with them over the next couple of weeks and see what they are thinking,” he added.