What happens to the triangular one-day series between India, South Africa and Australia in South Africa if the stand-off between Cricket Australia (CA) and Australian Cricket Players Union is not settled in time? That could be a depressing thought.
The BCCI, meanwhile, has chosen a 16-man India A squad led by Manish Pandey for the tri-series with Rahul Dravid in charge as coach. The India A team will play Australia A in their opener at Pretoria on 26 July. However, if the pay dispute between the 200-odd Aussie players and their board is not settled, would CA send a team?
This apart, the interesting aspect from the Indian cricket fan’s point of view is twofold. Karun Nair, the right-hand batsman who made waves with his maiden Test match triple ton, is in the ODI team and the two four-day ‘Tests’ against South Africa as captain. This would seem to effectively rule him out of the main Indian team’s tour of Sri Lanka as the dates overlap. Alternately, the selectors might want him to be match sharp and thus in shape to be eased into the team if required.
The second is the appointment of Rahul Dravid as coach. Importantly, he has been given 12-month contracts as against the 10-month ones he held in earlier years. The 10-month contract had allowed him to undertake Indian Premier League (IPL) assignments, but in the process also raised conflict of interest issues.
However, some felt that separate 10-month and two-month contracts respectively absolved him of any conflict of interest issue. But others, like former COA member Ramachandra Guha, felt there was a conflict.
All that now seems to be in the past as the Board and Dravid have moved to a 12-month contract because of which he will not be able to take up IPL work. Reports suggest that Dravid will be compensated handsomely and sums like Rs 6 crore per year are floating around.
The nitty-gritty of the contract apart, the belief that Dravid would stay focused on the India junior team job is heartening. Hopefully, it will also include a bit of talent scouting, especially as there is so much talent in the hinterlands and the Board’s Talent Resources Development wing could do with help from the former skipper to spot nascent talent in the far-flung reaches of the country.
Certainly a cricketer of Dravid’s undoubted ability and temperament would have much to offer to this India A team which boasts of a number of exciting talents: Aniket Choudhry, a left-arm pacer from Rajasthan; the tall and fast Ankit Rajpoot of Uttar Pradesh; Hyderabad’s raw Mohammed Siraj and Kerala’s Basil Thapi.
Of course, there are not too many matches for the 16-man ODI squad or the 15-man four-day match squad. There are a few common names. But generally this should be a good exposure trip for many of the younger elements in the team.
Other than that the best part of Dravid’s engagement with the juniors is that his contract would run for two years. He has already been handling the juniors for a while and at the end of the next two years would have gained enormous experience in dealing with talent and in the role of a coach.
The Board would do well to bank on that sort of rare experience and take it to the next level by making him the national coach in, say, two years’ time.
This way his experience with the juniors would come in handy as he would progress with them and at the same time be familiar with their response to demanding situations. This would set in motion process that could be tweaked and set as template.
Of course, Dravid was an outstanding cricketer who played his heart out for India. But coaching young talent is a different profession altogether. Having done a bit of that he is no longer a beginner in coaching. Yet there would be responses that need to be fine-tuned, man-managing skills that need to be explored and communicating with boys from different backgrounds and parts of India that need to be perfected.
Dravid is earnest and knows that the faster he learns on the job the better for the boys and himself. He probably knows enough about cricket. It is the other skills that need to be honed. The best place to start is probably with the India juniors.
Who knows, Dravid could be just the ideal coach that famous American author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia likened to a bridge: "Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges, over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse."
This could just be the next chapter in the making of another legend!