Dravid: It's great that other sports are growing in India

As an ambassador of Laureus Sport for Good foundation, Dravid held a clinic at a slum in Mankhurd as part of the foundation’s initiative to support Magic Bus, an NGO that helps slum kids.

Rahul Dravid during a visit to a slum in Mankhurd in Mumbai to meet young people from Magic Bus, an organisation supported by Laureus Sport for Good.   -  Special Arrangement

Ever since he hung up his boots from international cricket four years ago, Rahul Dravid has made a smooth transition into a multi-faceted personality, on and off the field. A media expert, a coach, a mentor, a corporate speaker and a social worker, Dravid has been at his usual best while donning these roles.

As an ambassador of Laureus Sport for Good foundation, Dravid held a clinic at a slum in Mankhurd as part of the foundation’s initiative to support Magic Bus, an NGO that helps slum kids. After the clinic, the former India batsman spoke on the World Twenty20, Delhi Daredevils, coaching, among other things.

Excerpts:

How was the experience at the clinic?

It was a really good day and it was terrific to spend the day with Laureus-supported Magic Bus programme. To go and see the work they are doing in the community, the impact that sport is having through the Laureus Foundation is actually changing people’s lives. We play sport and we take a lot of it for granted. Just to see that the attraction of sport has to young children and the fact that sport can be used as something to attract children for a programme like this and then through the programme, change their lives; and create leaders in the community and leaders in the society; I think for me it was really nice.

Watch Rahul Dravid plays a game of cricket with the kids

You have been donning multiple hats over the last four years. Which role do you enjoy the most?

I have really enjoyed the time outside after I finished playing cricket because it’s given me an opportunity to explore a lot of things. Like you said, some of the corporate work I do, some of the sponsorships, some social work, media work and the coaching, it's nice. It’s actually given me an opportunity to meet new people and experience a lot of new things. Obviously a lot of these things take a stress on your time and it’s just a question of balancing out what it is that you can do. This year, a lot of it has been taken up by the coaching assignments that I have had, so I have actually cut down a lot on media. The year before that I was doing a lot of the media leading up to the World Cup in Australia. It’s just a mix and match with everything. And I have really enjoyed over the last year or so with the coaching side of things.



How much time does that leave for you to spend at home?

Yeah, it’s always a challenge. Like I said, there is only so much that you can do. It’s always a question of balancing it out. The difficulty is a lot of the things that I do, fortunately or unfortunately I have to leave home. You can’t sit at home and do them. Means a lot of travel again. After having travelled so much as a professional cricketer for 15-16 years, travelling again sometimes is quite hard. It’s always a question of finding the right balance for me.



You seem to have balanced it to precision all through your career, on and off the field…

It’s never easy and there are always challenges. You try to find what’s best. You want to spend a lot of time at home. When children are growing up, you want to spend time with them.



Of late, especially in urban India, there is a perception that cricket has lost ground among the masses. Not only do kids watch football but they even want to play it over cricket. What do you feel about it?

I think it’s a good thing. It’s great that other sports are actually growing in India. It creates for a much better sporting environment and sporting culture. Sometimes cricket being challenged will be good for cricket because then it will force people to ensure that they do things to attract the best talent; that they don’t take talent or fans for granted. So I think in a sense cricket also needs to be pushed. I am glad that other sports are now coming in with popularity of football or kabaddi or hockey or tennis or badminton. We are seeing the sporting environment in India is changing. It’s a great thing because it all allows all sport to flourish. There are enough people, definitely, and I think there’s enough resources for a lot more than just one sport to survive in this country.



Some elitists even say cricket is no longer the main sport in India. Is that really the case?

When 25,000 people turned up to watch India’s practice match (against West Indies in Kolkata), how can you say it’s over. But you never take things for granted. One of the things that cricket needs to be aware of is it should never become a spectator sport. It’s not only about spectators. Spectators will always come, we love watching cricket, so we will always attract spectators but it’s about participation levels. We need to ensure that we engage enough young children – boys and girls – at that age and we get them to participate in cricket. You want to increase the participation levels. Spectatorship and television revenues, television viewership will always be there but how many of those are converted into participation is very important. And it should be quality participation, not just participation in nets. Ensuring they get to play matches, they get to know the joys of being a cricketer in a team. That in itself is very very important.



In that respect, is T20 the way to go?

T20 is very, very important. There’s no denying the fact that people want to watch T20 -- people are keen to watch it. It’s something that has caught on the imagination of people. And there’s a great amount of skill involved in T20 in all departments: batting, bowling and fielding. For someone like me, I still love Test cricket. I think that’s where you are challenged at your limit, that’s where you are pushed. And a lot of cricketers will say and a lot of cricketers feel as well. Having said that, I truly enjoy Twenty20 cricket as well. It’s a very important part of the future.



You recently took over as the Delhi Daredevils mentor. How did it come about?

After the U-19 World Cup, Delhi kind of approached me and said “look, we are putting together a new group of people. We have a young group of boys. Will you be able to come in and help and assist?” And I thought it was a really good opportunity to work with a good group of young players. Also, an opportunity to try stay involved in the IPL, which is obviously something that I enjoy because it’s a fantastic competition in terms of just the fact that it brings the best out of people from different countries, cultures; create a good environment in that kind of situation is a really good challenge and an opportunity. I am really looking forward to it.



So you mean you were not involved in the auction strategy?

No, I wasn’t involved in the auction strategy at the auction. But obviously, they had hired Zubin (Bharucha, former Rajasthan Royals director of cricket who is now Daredevils’ technical director) for the auction. Zubin has worked very closely with me at Rajasthan, so I kind of knew what his thinking would be and the kind of direction someone like Zubin would be taking.



It is early, but how do you feel about you, Paddy Upton and Zubin to be working with a new set of owners?

While it’s exciting to work with Paddy (Upton, the Daredevils coach, was the Rajasthan Royals coach) and Zubin again and to assist and join Delhi’s support staff – (TA) Sekhar, Pravin (Amre) and (S) Sriram who are quality people and very good coaches – for us to join them and hopefully create a good environment for the players art Delhi and give them the best chance for them to succeed. In the end, it’s about the players to succeed and for us to really create an environment for them to succeed. So I am looking forward to it. Like I said, we haven’t had a chance to connect, so the question I guess would be best answered at the end of the IPL. Over the eight years of IPL, I have learnt a lot, as a player as a coach or mentor, whatever you may call it. I hope to apply a lot of that come April-May.



How will the World Twenty20 affect IPL teams’ preparation?

This year, the way the schedule has worked out that a lot of the players didn’t get involved at the back end of the Ranji Trophy or Irani Trophy, so they are sort of free. But a lot of them are playing company matches, or inter-office or local league matches. I don’t think cricketers are ever free in India because they are playing office or club matches whenever they are not playing first-class cricket. And a lot of the grounds are busy with the World Cup preparations and there’s not a lot of space. Preparation really starts when you get down and meet together a week before the tournament. That is again a challenge; how do you bring people quickly in a week to perform straightaway. That’s one of the challenges that you face as a mentor of the team.



In 2011, crowd turnout for IPL had taken a hit, at least in the initial stages, soon after India hosted the World Cup. Do you see the same happening this year since IPL starts six days after the World Twenty20?

It would be interesting to see. The World T20 is not such a long-drawn tournament as a World Cup tends to be. The World Cup also has a lot of games. The World T20 is a shorter format and a short tournament. Like you rightly said, the crowds didn’t come out for the first few games of the 2011 IPL, so it will be interesting to see what happens this time around.



Are you done with coaching India Under-19 and India A teams?

I am sort of done with it since my contract was only for a year, so we will have to assess it at the end of the IPL. See what the Board wants and what the programme and schedule is for the year ahead.



Are you willing to take up the India responsibility now?

I am actually content at where I am and where I am coaching at the moment. I am realistic about the fact that being a coach of an international team, whichever it is, it means you are going to be away from home for 10-11 months. Ten months is a year really, which at the moment is probably not on. I am enjoying coaching and the IPL and junior levels, which is giving me a lot of satisfaction.