When your 45-year-old coach jogs around 15 rounds — covering the entire ground by the boundary line — in the post-lunch session of a Test match (unofficial), you must have some done something right to play under him.
Sportstar reached the Platinum Oval at Alur (Bengaluru) in the second week of August to catch the four-day game between India ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’.
Amid the Hanuma Vihari century and Duanne Olivier six-for, what left us flabbergasted is Rahul Dravid’s grit. He may have retired six years ago, but his fitness levels didn’t. The man takes his cardio seriously, and while he is at it, he would quietly note your poor run call, an artistic cover drive or a word you used to flare up the opponent.
That’s not all, the India ‘A’ and Under-19 coach is also the first to come out of the dressing room with gears. He would start with the regular throwdowns, have a word or two with the net bowlers and then start the slip-catching exercise.
Dravid is a man of few words, but every alphabet of his would have a price tag.
“He won’t talk much. The few words he would speak would be powerful. For me, personally, Rahul sir has been a huge support. I started last year in the South Africa tour and in a year, I have improved a lot as a batsman.
“Having someone like him is a big thing. We get to learn from him everyday,” says Ankit Bawne, who showcased glimpses of ‘The Wall’ education, occupying the crease for a 177 run-stand with Hanuma Vihari to bail India ‘A’ out of a tricky situation on the first day of the Test.
Fair to every player
Dravid believes in testing the temperament of all the players at his disposal. Nobody warms the bench for long.
“In India ‘A’, you don’t get one or two games, you tend to get six-seven games if you are doing well in the domestic circuit. All of us have been playing together since the last tour. Rahul sir says there is no best XI; every one of us can be a part of the XI,” says Vihari, adding, “He says that learning is everything in India ‘A’. Even if one player scores a hundred, he may be rested in the next game.”
A rotation policy is common in cricket. Under Dravid, the players back each other. There is no room for jealousy. “It is impossible. All his talks are positive, that’s the best thing about him. He keeps emphasising on the good things that you are doing,” feels opening batsman Mayank Agarwal.
“It is helping. Each of us are contributing in different games. That’s one good thing under him,” Vihari agrees.
“He passes all his knowledge. If there is anything you want to chat about, he is an open person. We talk about our game, and if there is something troubling our mindset.
“If he remains coach for a long time, it will be helpful as we are developing a rapport. He will understand us, and our game better with time,” adds Agarwal.
Talks and strategies
As captain, Dravid was perhaps unlucky to not have tasted the success he deserved. But as coach, he has created a new job profile — that of a mentor who will function as a teammate.
Dravid prefers strengthening minds to pointing out flaws.
“To him, every batsman [and bowler] is different. He won’t talk about technique unless you have any major flaw. It is a good thing as we tend to think more on the mental aspect of the game. In the team meetings, he talks about the mindset and conditions. He talks about oppositions and what could be their plans,” says Vihari, who was asked to trust his skills and not ponder on failures.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal — who joined the A squad [from the senior limited overs-team] to brush up on his red-ball skills — turned to him for field set-up guidance. “We keep talking. I ask him about the wickets, how he thinks as a batsman, about the conditions or what should be the nature of the wicket and how a batsman would perform in such wickets,” he says.
In his three years of service, Dravid has pushed the India U-19 side to two World Cup finals. The colts lost the summit clash in 2016.
But this February in Mount Maunganui, Prithvi Shaw — the second opener in the ‘A’ squad now — fulfilled Dravid’s World Cup dream.
The victory perhaps made his intent stronger to bring out more jewels from the junior cricket sphere.
Outside cricket, he still remains the quiet and down-to-earth ‘Jammy’.