It was 6:00 in the morning and some of India's under-19 cricketers were just trooping into the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. They were still groggy eyed, a little unsteady even but the sight of Rahul Dravid stretching and getting ready for the practice session quickly brought them back to life.
The year was 2011. Dravid was still an integral part of the Indian team and all these boys would have lined up to bowl at him in the nets. He only needed to ask.
But instead, he did the hard yards with them. He went through the entire warm-up routine with them, he exercised, he took fielding practice and then, after waiting for a while, he got his turn to bat.
This wasn't a prima donna who by virtue of playing for India could demand special privileges. Instead this was Dravid being one of the group; one of the boys. He sat and chatted with them, passing a few tips, shared stories and basically talked cricket.
In a nutshell, this is why having Dravid as India's under-19 and 'A' team coach is one of the best things that could happen to Indian cricket.
During his Dilip Sardesai lecture in 2014, Dravid talked about train journeys that the Karnataka team would take during the Ranji season. It took a while before the gathered crowd figured where the 42-year-old was going but when they did, they all nodded in unison.
"We would travel 48 hours to go and play at Eden. We didn't have portable PlayStations or iPods or mobile phones to block ourselves out from our surroundings. We had dumb-charades, singing and anecdotes passed from seniors to juniors. What is missing currently in Indian cricket is the spoken word — the lack of historic knowledge that cricketers have," Dravid said.
It seems like a simple enough thing but few realise that for the team to think as a unit, they need to spend time with each other and that one commodity is in short supply these days. Between PlayStations, mobiles, whatsapp and agents rarely do players really sit down and talk. With Dravid around, that can all be expected to change... for the better.
Some might turn and wonder what importance stories have in this day and age when everything we need is available at our fingertips but not only do these tales connect you with the past but also often include the lessons you need.
In 2013, Dravid turned up to play in a KSCA Division II League game between Bangalore United Cricket Club and Friends Union Cricket Club, two of the oldest clubs in Bangalore. Only the top two teams in the league get promoted and BUCC -- Dravid's club -- were second but another club was close behind. A win was vital.
So he decided to turn up, got his pants dirty, dived around in the slips, fielded 82 overs, scored a century and helped his team win promotion. That is a story worth sharing. But the larger message of staying true to one's roots is just as important.
Anyone with proper certification can teach a youngster how to bat and bowl but cricket and sport in general is also about building one's character and there is no doubt Dravid will do that. Perhaps more gratifyingly, he wants to do that.
He will also prepare well. He has always been meticulous about his preparations and that will be another lesson that will get passed on. He was asked what he tells the Rajasthan Royals players just before they step on the field and his answer revealed more about his nature.
"If you try telling people something at the last moment, you know you have lost them. Last moment is not meant to say anything, but to just keep quiet and let them do what they want. A lot of the preparation happens a lot before. On the day of the game, honestly, we don’t do much. We just let people be and let them play their game. There is not much to tell," he told the official IPL website.
"If they have prepared well and practiced well and if they feel confident about their game and they have got clear plans, clear roles and clear strategies, they will go out there and be able express themselves. You can’t give pep talks. I personally don’t believe in pep talks and speeches and those things. We don’t do any of that here. If anyone needs a pep talk and speech at the last minute, well then he is at the wrong place."
At the India 'A' level or even the under-19 level, players don't need hand holding. Rather, they need to be empowered. They need to be taught how to ask questions and how to find answers on their own and Dravid will help them help themselves.
Coaching, at a certain level, is about showing a player a side that he didn't know existed and for the moment, that is all Dravid has on his mind. He wants to use his experience to set players on the right path.
Maybe, just maybe, in time, this too will be a story we'll all want to share. Hopefully, Dravid's journey as coach will be just as special as his journey as a player.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Updated Date: Jun 09, 2015 08:56:36 IST