Dravid Signs Off with World Cup High as India Coach”

Dravid Signs Off with World Cup High as India Coach”

The triumphant T20 World Cup here marked the grand finale to Rahul Dravid’s career as India’s head coach, and his style of being simultaneously majestic and modest will serve as a model for contemporary cricket coaches.

However, when emotions took over following an 11-year title drought, even “The Wall” collapsed.

After touching the trophy, which was ceremoniously presented to him by player of the match Virat Kohli, Dravid let out a shout so loud it appeared as though he was finally releasing the feelings he has been trying so hard to suppress when he is in public.

It was a very different Dravid from him, who rarely offered a comment that would spark the attention of the headline editor and instead showed a fairly Gary Kirsten-like dedication to his work.

But that minimalism can never mask the challenges Dravid had to tame during his draining, overwhelming close to three years shepherding the most followed cricket team on this planet.
Actually, Dravid was under investigation even before he was named head coach. While leading India through a brief white ball series against Sri Lanka in the middle of 2021, he was heralded as the “Next One.”

Before he was hired on a full-time basis in November of that year, it served as his audition—a real-time interview to determine how he would handle the demands of a high-pressure position.
From the outset, Dravid — fair or unfair — had to match up to the lofty legacy of his predecessor Ravi Shastri, under whom India had a fine run including back-to-back away series win in Australia, the Holy Grail of Test cricket for teams from the sub-continent.

Dravid tamed the Antipodeans at home in various formats, despite never having the opportunity to travel to Australia as a coach.

However, Dravid will be displeased with a loss and a tied Test series versus a “weaker” South African team, as winning away from home has always been the ultimate goal.

These are the everyday challenges that every coach faces. However, Dravid was put to more difficult challenges that were specific to the cricketing culture in India.

He was in charge of a superstar-filled changing room, which he was accustomed to from his playing days.

And he knew full well that the smallest argument would be exaggerated to absurdity.

Go back to the story of Anil Kumble’s resignation and departure from his position.

But Dravid was able to use his priceless ability to judge people and situations to his coaching position.

He implemented his ideas without attempting to undermine the current structure, fostering an environment of balance with captain Rohit Sharma that allowed players to reach their full potential.

The case of Mohammed Siraj is instructive. The pacer started his career under Shastri’s leadership, but with Dravid’s guidance, he blossomed into an all-format bowler.

However, he did not always have calm seas to navigate.

Initially, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, and Cheteshwar Pujara—three elite batsmen—were progressively withdrawing from the hot zone.

While Dravid’s task was made easier by Kohli, who was always going to have the longer end of the rope, and who was able to score runs again, the other two best batsmen had reached the end of their careers.

Their march towards the departure gate was accelerated by their inability to perform well against Australia in the World Test Championship final in London last year.

However, Rahane and Pujara supported the Indian middle class for a considerable amount of time, therefore handling the transition process carefully was necessary.

During the ‘A’ tours and other developmental phases, Dravid drew heavily on his vast expertise of working with players.

Early on in his maiden Test series as coach, Dravid gave Shreyas Iyer a debut against New Zealand at home after realizing the magnitude of his assignment.

Iyer too did not let him down, scoring a hundred. Strangely, Iyer and Ishan Kishan—two cricket players in whom Dravid made significant investments—were caught in the center of a tempest at a later time, which ultimately prevented them from winning a central contract with the BCCI.

Despite the oddities, Dravid’s approach was sound, and he carried it over to the ODIs as well, concentrating on developing a larger pool of young players.

During his time as captain of Bengaluru, Dravid acquired this quality from coach Greg Chappell, who had experimented with a number of young players, including Suresh Raina, Y Venugopala Rao, and Rudra Pratap Singh, with differing degrees of success.

Dravid adopted a similar strategy alongside Rohit, pushing forward talents like Shubman Gill, Kishan, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Siraj and Suryakumar Yadav, who had to wait for consistent chances under the previous dispensation.

They vindicated the faith placed on them while carrying India to the Asia Cup title in Sri Lanka last year, where Gill and Siraj topped India’s batting and bowling charts respectively.
However, in the deepest corners of his mind Dravid will rue the missed chance of winning the 50-over World Cup at home after his side succumbed to Australia in the final.
While the World Cup victory in Barbados may have lessened the sting somewhat, it was unexpected that Dravid, in stark contrast to his usual demeanor, chose to mostly follow the traditional route.

This is not to argue that, as he showed on Saturday, Dravid was out of step with this format.
What kind of legacy will Dravid’s time as a coach have?

Undoubtedly, the World Cup triumph will take up a significant portion of the collective consciousness.

However, above that, the flawless handling of a team of high-profile individuals will be the legacy for his successor to live up to. It’s daunting too.

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