(File photo) Rahul Dravid has been a World Cup-winning India under-19 coach, an India ‘A’ coach and head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) over the last five years - all of which would have been considered ahead of his appointment as the Indian men's cricket team coach.
“I need to be retired a bit longer to spend that much time away from home,” Rahul Dravid told this correspondent during an interview in March 2016 at the ITC Maratha hotel in Mumbai.
Dravid’s bat had been in the attic just four years then. He said he had not taken up golf, the rebound romance of many retired athletes, as it took too long. More time at home was a new luxury for him. So he’d rather be at his casa, his Labrador Sheeba waddling about, than on the course.
Five years on, Dravid is willing to get on the road again. Reportedly, the former Indian captain has been convinced by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah to take up the job of India coach.
It was inevitable this would happen. No figure in Indian cricket has Dravid’s mix of cricketing greatness and goodwill. Everybody loved Raymond. Everybody loves Rahul (except when they call him ‘The Wall’).
The third factor in Dravid’s appointment has been the mentoring hits he has notched up in a matter of just about five years. He has been a World Cup-winning India under-19 coach, an India ‘A’ coach and the head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA).
If one had to think of a corporate equivalent of Dravid, the correct and polished Anand Mahindra comes to mind. But nobody likes to be Mr Nice all the time. "Bad is bad but badass is good,” as the Finnish comedian Ismo said while recounting his struggle with the English language. And Dravid has suggested, if jokingly, that he would like to be badass too.
“That’s the image I want, that I’m human, I make mistakes, so don’t blame me when I make mistakes,” he asserted with a laugh on the show ‘Breakfast with Champions’ in 2019, referring to the instance when he threw his cap in frustration after losing an IPL game.
Dravid will need to be badass if he is going to manage a dressing room full of superstars. Indiranagar ka gunda will occasionally have to become dressing room ka gangster.
An interesting subplot of Dravid’s tenure will be his dynamic with Virat Kohli, the Indian team’s Test and ODI captain (so far), and in several ways his opposite. Dravid is from the sensible South, Kohli from the swaggering North. Dravid was quiet grace, Kohli has been in-your-face brashness. This may be stating the obvious, but it is truth.
Kohli is India’s premier batsman, and therefore his relationship with Dravid will be key even if he is the captain. How they function together will be watched with interest also because the previous Indian coach with Dravid-like stature and code, Anil Kumble, did not gel with Kohli. Like Dravid, Kumble came from the Southern school of the '80s and '90s that valued substance over style. But the new dressing room deemed him authoritative. Perhaps Bachchan-like in his sternness, Kumble made way for the return of Shastri, also a fine cricketer and a more serious man than people give him credit for, but, equally, an approachable Jackie Shroff Bindaas type as well.
Dravid is likely to be somewhere in-between. You can be sure that in his first address he will tell players that he is not there to police or lecture them, and that his only mission is to guide the team to victories. If he settles in his role, it might lead to the same rich vein of form for India’s batsmen and bowlers as happened when Gary Kirsten reinvigorated the team after the Greg Chappell years.
Twenty-five years ago, Ganguly and Dravid scored 131 and 95 on debut at Lord’s, respectively, to herald a new era for Indian cricket. Now they are on the pitch again.