Dravid’s big advantage is his knowledge of India’s talent pool

Even as we welcome Rahul Dravid to be the new coach of the Indian cricket team, let us also put our hands together and applaud Ravi Shastri and his support staff for the way they have taken India to the top of the cricketing ladder.

Smooth transition: The Rahul Dravid-era restarts in Indian cricket as he takes over as the men’s senior team’s head coach from Ravi Shastri.   -  AP

Rahul Dravid’s appointment as the new coach of the Indian team has brought about a huge sense of anticipation. The job of the coach of the Indian cricket team is very high profile, the individual is in the limelight pretty much throughout the tenure. Dravid, although he has a bagful of endorsements, is a low-profile person and would prefer to be away from the spotlight as much as he can. But this job will not allow him that liberty. He will be even more sought after now, not just by the media but also by corporates wanting to learn how to keep together a stable full of some of the most talented and wealthy cricketers in the game.

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There will also be some in that group who want to be famous for being famous and it will be a challenge to get them to focus on the game and not the externals for the soft-spoken Dravid. What goes in his favour though is that he didn’t chase the job, he was in fact chased for it. Not a single voice has raised questions about his appointment and that tells you about the cricket fraternity’s high regard for him. Indian cricket fans want nothing but the number one position for their beloved team and that is going to be a huge challenge for Dravid. He has the big advantage of seeing first-hand the young talent available as he has been their coach and mentor over the last several years and hence knows the players who can make it at the international level.

The Indian team will have to start looking at the future as many of its stalwarts are now in their thirties and could well be on their last legs at the highest level. What Indian cricket must be careful about is that there are no group retirements that can create a hole too big to fill. Exits should be planned in such a way that there’s adequate time to groom a younger man to fill those places. It’s going to be an interesting time for sure.

Hopefully, the BCCI will still keep the NCA director’s position for him when he finishes with the senior team because it is universally accepted that if today India has such an enviable pool of young talent the lion’s share of the credit should go to Dravid for the way he has handled them at the junior level.

READ: Ravi Shastri: Sooner or later, the bubble will burst

Even as Dravid takes over and Ravi Shastri and his support staff make way, one mustn’t forget the terrific contribution that they have made. It wasn’t the easiest of times for Shastri to take over as he came in following the disgusting manner of Anil Kumble’s exit. Despite being chosen once again by the Cricket Advisory Committee of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, and V. V. S. Laxman, Kumble chose not to accept the job as he was given a broad hint that the skipper did not want him as the coach. As always Kumble chose Indian cricket over personal glory and so opted not to stay on and create an unpleasant situation. It was and will go down as one of the saddest chapters in Indian cricket history where a legend of not just Indian cricket but of the game was treated scurvily by the captain and the administrators then (COA) chose to look the other way.

It was in these circumstances that Shastri — preferred by the captain — took back the job he had held briefly earlier. Shastri’s biggest trait is his self-confidence and like Kumble he too has always been utterly dedicated to Indian cricket. He quickly re-established the rapport he had with the captain and the team.

The team won easily at home but struggled overseas especially in the SENA countries to start with. Things turned around with the win in 2018/19 over Australia. If that win was — in the eyes of many — a bit hollow as the Aussies were without the banned duo of Steve Smith and David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne had not become the player he was to become in the next few months, the win earlier this year came after the humiliation of being dismissed for India’s lowest score in Test cricket. It is here that Shastri showed his mettle as a motivator by lifting the team’s sagging spirit and in the company of Ajinkya Rahane took India to a famous win over the Australians in the very next game, the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne, followed by a series-clinching win at what is called Australia’s fortress, the ‘Gabba’ in Brisbane. The series in England followed the same pattern where India came back after losing a Test match and then took the lead in the series.

This ‘never give up and keep on trying’ is what was Shastri’s strength as a cricketer and he has passed it on to the boys under him.

So even as we welcome Dravid to be the new coach of the Indian cricket team, let us also put our hands together and applaud Shastri and his support staff for the way they have taken India to the top of the cricketing ladder.

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