Rahul Dravid puts focus on mental health in uncertain times

Rahul Dravid also believes that the lockdown due to the pandemic has allowed many cricketers to look at things differently and has opened newer opportunities.

Rahul Dravid says dressing room has the power to lift a team's morale.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Former India captain, Rahul Dravid, believes that a healthy dressing room is like a ‘pot of energy’, which has the power to lift a team’s morale. And every time he interacts with India’s young players, that’s something he tells them.

“Our initial talks are that a dressing room is like a pot of energy. You are either putting into the pot or taking away from the pot,” Dravid said during a conference on mental health and well-being, organised by Rajasthan Royals.

“You are in charge of the pot of energy and it’s your responsibility what sort of environment you want to create. Everything that you say and do has a consequence on the team and on the people. At times, you need to take from the pot. If you filled up the pot with energy when you have the opportunity, when you have a tough time, you have that energy to fall back on,” Dravid, who is now the director of National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, said.

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In an international team, players are mostly travelling throughout the year and the team becomes a family. And having done that for nearly two decades, Dravid understands that and in times of difficulty, players actually seek that backing from the team-mates. “You are spending a lot of time with your colleagues and sometimes those are high-pressure environments and if those environments are not safe, not secure or don’t allow you to express yourself emotionally to the level you want, that is not an easy place to be and that will eventually affect performances,” Dravid said.

“These environments are hard, at times, a lot of your teammates are your competitors for spots in the playing eleven. They want to express themselves emotionally, and not be judged and they want to know that they have the support of teammates when things get tough,” Dravid said.

Mental health and players

Over the last few years, a lot of players have come out in open, sharing stories of mental health and how they overcame the odds. “You have got to applaud the players for what they have done,” he said.

Even star players have gone through challenging phases in their lives, but they have been able to pull it through. “There were many stages in my career, when you felt that you were lacking confidence, runs were not coming. There were doubts over the game, but there was realisation that it was not just me who was going through that. Personally, one of the easiest ways to get back the confidence in your ability was trying and (realising) the fact that the game will always be important -- cricket will always be important for a professional or young cricketer. You can’t afford to make it the be all and end all of everything you do. It can’t define you as a person. That’s important,” Dravid said.

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Lessons for U-19 and non-contracted players

The NCA director also revealed that they have been addressing mental health issues of non-contracted and U-19 players during the lockdown.

“It's something we tried in this lockdown (addressing mental health of players through professionals). We identified outside of the contract list and with the U-19 players. We have the given the opportunity to connect to professionalism,” Dravid said.

“As a former cricketer I truly believe that former cricket players, cricket coaches rarely don't have the expertise to deal with the issues that some of the youngsters have these days. The right thing for us to direct them to professionals and take it forward,” he added.

He also believes that the lockdown due to the COVID-19 has also allowed many cricketers to look at things differently and has opened newer opportunities.

“As players, you devote so much time in the game that it is physically impossible to go to schools or college. Now, what you are seeing over the last few months -- with these webinars -- that world has no boundaries. The future is really going to be knowledge and accessibility, and people recognising it as a genuine way of gaining knowledge (beyond) college or writing examinations,” Dravid said. And that he feels, will teach players to learn and deal with life after sports.

In his playing days, sports pyschology was quite a niche subject, but things have changed over the period of time. With the advancement of technology, even the NCA is now encouraging youngsters to deal with their mental health -- which Dravid admits has been of huge importance.

By his own admission, before making it to the Indian team, there have been challenges and dilemmas coming his way, but over the years, Dravid could take things in his stride and battle past the odds.

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