Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes

To have a veteran of the game return in a crucial leadership role, someone who’s more than a legend of the sport, but a dutiful (and well-meaning) resource is always great news. The West Indies understood this recently with the retired legend Courtney Walsh being elected as the coach of the Women’s team. The end result was the Stafanie Taylor side thrashing the Pakistan women in Pakistan.

That for India it is none other than Rahul Dravid who’s returned to the fold as the men’s side’s head coach augurs well on multiple counts.

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes AP

It’s the case of a batting mainstay who stayed put during difficult conditions being tasked to steer the future of one of modern cricket’s powerhouses.

For starters, Rahul Dravid spent a few summers as the main driving force at the NCA, two years to be precise. During his time, he put in place a strong roadmap for the younger generation, concerned himself with development of women’s cricket, and executed a player rehabilitation program along with a process for injury management.

Much like as his technically sound batting, that Dravid, both as a cricketer and student of the game concerns himself with the finer details- how the players are feeling on the mental side of things, how strong their motivation is, what persisting issues plague their development and how can their strong points be enhanced to further assist India are just some of the vital areas the “Wall” will bring to feature.

And that he’s gotten off to a fine start was easily evident in the way the Rohit Sharma-led side decimated the Kiwis in the T20Is.

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes AP

One of the things, interestingly, that one noted under coach Dravid’s maiden assignment was his keenness to test India’s bench strength.

KL Rahul wasn’t played in all T20Is, despite the Bangalorean firing a vital 65. Axar Patel, who one would liken to Tests exclusively, was featured in the briefest format, the slow left-arm orthodox spinner picking a career best 3 for 9 at Eden Gardens proved the gamble was indeed a safe bet. 

Harshal Patel was made to debut and his handy spells at Kolkata and Ranchi turned the game in India’s favour. That at 31 one can very much represent the nation- and is no longer a spent force, or someone whose time won’t come- was perhaps a key lesson in these very early days of Dravid’s tutelage.

And this was rather less surprisingly so since it was at India’s Mr Dependable’s behest that Pravin Tambe, aged 43 debuted for Rajasthan in the IPL.

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes BCCI

Seeing smooth calculations, that great poise and the unflustered focus that only a Dravid can bring would have also rubbed off well on Rohit Sharma, someone who’s also a cool head during pressure. And that it takes two to tango augurs well for the team.

Therefore, unsurprisingly so, there are massive hopes tied to Rahul Dravid and the early results indicate that the team is in great hands.

It’s a team that the world expects a great deal of. And that’s not going to change. 

However, what one must be cautious of is to not burden Rahul Dravid as being some magician who can always pull rabbits out of the hat much like a stage magician expected to thrill.

One notes, there’s a lesson in how Justin Langer’s coaching stint unfurled in cricket’s top flight. Being thrashed by the West Indies earlier this year, 4-1 in T20Is and previously, being defeated on their tour to Bangladesh, success didn’t’ come that easy for Australia.

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes Agency

Which is when months of painstaking effort came through and rather gladly, at cricket’s grandest stage- the T20 world cup.

Similarly, it could be said, Rahul Dravid, while he has plenty of resources around him with which to forge a new bright chapter for India, also has many challenges to take care of.

And much of the challenges- effectively speaking- point to two directions, which a man of Dravid’s sincerity and substance would be keen to focus on.

For starters, India have the strange problem of plenty that its coach would love to make sense out of. For the exact same job, you have three fine talents, not one. A Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan can hammer bowlers in the white-ball game, Pant having done a fair bit in red ball cricket too, just the way KL Rahul can. At the same time, they are all fine keepers, although Pant would like to be more agile behind the stumps.

In the bowling department, for instance, there’s Shami, Ishant, the returning Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the still-here-not-done-yet Umesh as the pace options in Tests. Two of these men, Shami and Kumar are fine forces in white-ball cricket. With Bumrah already the pick of the bowlers as an all-format bowler and youngsters like Harshal coming through, the best days for India, one notes, are here.

But so is the concern of managing player workload, something Dravid will now have to ensure that a Kohli doesn’t suffer from. Ditto for Jadeja, ditto for Ashwin, both matchwinners.

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes BCCI

Interestingly, under Rahul Dravid’s watch, you can expect more youngsters breaking into the side than before. While Chahal isn’t done yet and has much to offer, so does Kuldeep, unless he’s discounted and totally ignored but so too can Axar and Rahul Chahar, the latter still to be utilized.

With no paucity but massive supply of resources, it’ll be interesting to see what Dravid does- will he create a ‘different horses-for-different-courses’ strategy or simply do what most modern team are doing?

Take Windies, for example! With the possible exception of Jason Holder and Shai Hope, both of whom play Tests and ODIs, the T20 team looks nothing like the Tests and the 50-over side.

New Zealand follow the same process with Williamson and Southee as the figureheads across formats.

But there’s something Dravid would like to attempt ever more seriously- the vacuum in India’s ICC world trophy cabinet. It didn’t help to see India thrashed in the T20 world cup in 2021. With another one approaching, the timing of whose arrival would have given one of India’s most reliable thinkers of the game enough time to settle in, it’s interesting to see what unit Dravid will take Down Under.

Rahul Dravid As Coach - What To Expect From The Wall?
© Provided by Indiatimes Agency

At the same time, there’s this expectation to see the mild-mannered achiever create such an environment in the team to which one wants to belong, a set up one aspires to be a part of, not something that one takes for granted. 

For someone who said ‘You don’t play for revenge; but for pride,’ it’ll be pride and the unparalleled joy to serve one’s country that Dravid will eventually seek to create as a India prepares itself for some interesting times ahead on Coach Dravid’s watch.

But until then, let’s refrain from taking wild digs as we often do on the team over social media in the wake of a failure and let’s hope to see a more resolute team forge its own destiny as it serves India.

Go well, Dravid. The need to bat long for India albeit in a new role is still there.

The writer is a New Delhi based freelance sports writer.

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