Dravid’s appointment isn’t a case of entitlement; he is the best person to take Indian cricket forward as it finds itself on the cusp of transition.
Despite the ‘professionalism’ that has seeped into its culture, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) still exists in a time warp. It has cocooned itself in an archaic, ‘I’m-always-right-no-matter-what’ ideology, oftentimes violating the rules – its own rules, for heaven’s sake – with nary a thought about the consequences.
Yet, whether by design or accident, it does get many things right. There might be little logic in an email sent at 8.43 pm to announce the appointment of Rahul Dravid as the next head coach of the national team, but there was no questioning the wisdom of that decision. There is no clarity on how the two-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) of Sulakshana Naik and RP Singh – recent chairperson Madan Lal, now past 70, was ineligible to be a part of that panel – ‘unanimously’ appointed Dravid or whether they followed outlined protocols, but there is little doubt that they picked the right man. The BCCI is the perfect example of the ends justifying the means.
Irrespective of, the worst-kept secret in Indian cricket is finally out. Officially. For the last two and a half weeks, from the time BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah convinced the former India captain to throw his hat in the head coach ring, there was always going to be only one winner. Dravid’s appointment isn’t a case of entitlement; he is the best person to take Indian cricket forward as it finds itself on the cusp of transition.
During his playing days, Ganguly orchestrated many a stirring triumph, even if he might not have had a direct say in the final outcome. His greatest accomplishment was the conquest of Steve Waugh’s Australia at home in 2001, a conquest stemming from the incandescence of VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Dravid himself. If that was among his most storied on-field contributions, then getting Dravid to align himself with the board’s vision of him succeeding Ravi Shastri as the head coach at the end of the T20 World Cup has to be his biggest administrative coup.
That Dravid is the right man for the job is without question. His elevation to the head coach of the national team is a natural progression, given his tryst with the India ‘A’ and Under-19 squads for four years between 2015 and 2019, and his subsequent two-year stint as the Head (Cricket) at the National Cricket Academy. Dravid himself was initially reluctant to make the step up, with good reason. He has a young family – the older of his two boys is 16 and well on his way to making a career for himself in cricket – which he felt needed greater attention than his extended family that is the Indian cricket team.
Ganguly and Shah’s persuasive charms brought Dravid around to accepting that his extended family needed him just as much, though in the end, it had to be Dravid’s decision alone because he isn’t easily swayed by external factors. At the risk of sounding pompous, his credentials are impeccable. His integrity and intentions are unquestionable; that he is no go-getter interested in landing plum positions is evident from his investment as coach at the grassroots level, be it in the IPL or with the developmental India squads just below the national side.
He has the great advantage of having played alongside and/or against established members of the senior side. He has captained white-ball skipper-in-waiting Rohit Sharma in international cricket and Test captain Virat Kohli in franchise cricket, apart from sharing dressing-rooms with the likes of Ishant Sharma, R Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Crucially, he has been directly involved, as Under-19 and ‘A’ coach, in the evolution of a plethora of established or potential stars including KL Rahul, Hanuma Vihari, Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Mayank Agarwal. He is senior enough to warrant respect and admiration, yet contemporary in his thinking, understanding and analysis of the game as it exists.
Dravid is a great believer in data, evidenced by his insistence on collation and analysis of the same at the NCA, and well versed in modern trends and methodologies. He isn’t unafraid of taking tough decisions – do they come any tougher than declaring the innings closed with Sachin Tendulkar on 194 in a Test match in Pakistan? – and can be disarmingly but brutally straightforward when the need arises. India couldn’t have asked for a more steadying hand on the wheel as they head towards choppy waters that invariably accompany a shake-up.
Several of the Test ‘veterans’ will perhaps be out of commission in the next 18 months. How fortuitous then that those who will take their places will do so secure in the knowledge that they will walk into a dressing-room where their already-mentor and life coach is the main man.
That being said, Dravid will be tested severely, starting with the home series against New Zealand in less than a fortnight’s time. India’s T20 approach needs a significant, if not complete, revamp because clearly, they are some way behind the big boys in how they construct innings. Where, with the ‘A’ and Under-19 sides, his focus was less on stacking up trophies and more on keeping the supply line to the senior team fertile and abundant, he will be judged in his new avatar solely on results. His first away tour will be to the only land where India haven’t won a Test series yet — South Africa. Dravid the captain orchestrated India’s first Test win there, in Johannesburg in 2006. Dravid the coach will be hoping to go one better.
His initial two-year term encompasses one World Cup each in the 20-over (in Australia, 2022) and 50-over (at home, 2023) versions. India’s last World Cup success was a decade back, they haven’t won a global title since 2013. The BCCI is seized of the need to correct those anomalies. Dravid may not have the magic wand at the wave of which the cabinet will be flooded with silverware, but he has way too many attributes to not facilitate that endeavour.
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