Rahul Dravid’s probation as coach begins now, in Sri Lanka

New Delhi: Rahul Dravid has already taken meaningful steps as a cricket coach and his probation begins with his first assignment with a ‘senior India team that is touring Sri Lanka.

So far, the former India captain has coached the India ‘A’ and national Under-19 teams, and is working as the Head of Cricket at the Bengaluru-based National Cricket Academy (NCA) of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Dravid, 48, has come through apprenticeship with flying colours as a coach, a vocation he took up after his retirement, after having tried his hand at TV commentary.

His achievements as a coach include an Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2018, and another final that India lost to the West Indies in 2016 in Dhaka. Besides, he has guided the Indian junior teams to bilateral and multilateral series wins, both in India and abroad.

Dravid’s real test begins now as he accompanies a second string India team to Sri Lanka for a short limited-over series starting next month; the senior team is in England for the upcoming Test series.

This Sri Lanka tour is believed to be his first big step towards taking over the reins of the senior India team when the term of Ravi Shastri ends.

Dravid, with his vast experience as a premier batsman of his generation, as India captain, and as an balanced and articulate individual, is primed to become the senior India coach sooner rather than later.

He has varied experience, both as a cricketer and as a coach. His taking over as the junior India coach was quite smooth and natural, once he showed his inclination towards coaching. Then, he was appointed the Head of Cricket at the NCA in July 2019. In that role, he was involved in “mentoring, coaching, training, and motivating players, coaches and support staff at the NCA”, besides working “closely with the national men’s and women’s head coaches and cricket coaches for India developmental teams, including India ‘A’, India Under-19, India Under-23 teams, in identification of key training and development objectives”.

So, Dravid has crucial experience as an administrator as well. Besides the junior teams, he as coach has also been in touch with the players in the senior team.

In 2017, the BCCI bestowed on him a unique designation — ‘Overseas Batting Consultant (Test cricket) for the Indian cricket team’.

“As the Indian team is to play Test cricket overseas in the next two years, Dravid’s expertise as batting consultant will be immensely helpful for youngsters,” the BCCI had said.

This amply shows that Dravid has been looked at favourably, and as a natural successor to Shastri as India coach.

The team that Dravid is accompanying to Sri Lanka has only three players from the 2018 India Under-19 team that won the World Cup. But that does not matter. They are batsman Prithvi Shaw, who captained the World Cup-winning Indian team in New Zealand three years ago, and standby pacers Ishan Porel and Arshdeep Singh.

Having groomed them, Dravid would probably be more at ease interacting with the three World Cuppers than the others. But that is also not an issue.

There is no questioning the credentials of Dravid the player as well as the coach. Having proved his coaching ability at a certain level until now, and with success, the result of the six-match limited-over series in Sri Lanka should also not affect his prospects when his turn comes to apply for the top job with the senior team.

Shastri’s term finishes at the end of the T20 World Cup this October-November.

Dravid has all the hallmarks of a coach — superb record as a player, tall stature, excellent temperament, vast knowledge of the game, commends respect of players, well versed with the changing face of cricket, and technological advancement in coaching etc.

Of course, to have the credentials is one thing and to prove to be a successful coach is completely another. So, like others, Dravid too will have to prove that he belongs there with the help of results which, fortunately or unfortunately, seems to be the sole yardstick to judge a coach. One big advantage of having him at the top will be that he is a non-controversial personality.

Dravid has always been — and remains — focused on whatever he does. When he was playing he was more focused than the others in the India team, with due respect to his contemporaries.

Many years ago, when someone had asked then New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, after an international match in Mohali, to pick one India player he would love to have in his team, he had said without batting an eyelid: “Rahul Dravid.”

When elevated to the senior coach’s post, Dravid would be expected to bring the same seriousness to the India team, something that Anil Kumble tried to inculcate during his brief stint with the national side.

Dravid will remain an asset when the results don’t go as desired, and that is bound to happen with any team. When under his coaching the India Under-19 team lost to the West Indies in the final of the 2016 World Cup in Dhaka, he showed the boys how to take defeat in their strides.

He spoke to the players individually as well as collectively, and told them to look at life at large, and not be disappointed by one loss.

“He told me that this [defeat] is not the end of the world and that there are a lot of things a person has to do in future. He told me, ‘it is necessary to face failure in life. You don’t realise the importance of achievement without failure. It’s fine that you lost this time, but be ready and cautious in the next opportunity’,” captain Ishan Kishan had revealed at the time.

Kishan would perhaps remember these golden words throughout his life.

During his playing days, Dravid reinvented himself as a batsman when it was becoming difficult for people to find a place for him in the ODI team. He successfully transformed his game, and ended up playing 344 ODIs, scoring 10,889 runs with 12 centuries.

When Dravid is formally installed as the senior national coach, and when he will narrate to his boys how he overcame odds to motivate them, that will have a positive effect on them — and it would hopefully reflect in their on-field performances.

That day would probably come sooner than later.