Rahul Dravid is back at the venue where he played his last competitive game of any standing, the final of the 2013 Champions League. Seven months on Dravid has ditched the cricket gear for a set of colourful markers and a white board. The former Rajasthan Royals skipper is now the mentor of the side and while his role in the team has changed the 41-year-old remains a stickler for detail and meticulous planning.
With Dravid orchestrating the Rajasthan practice session like a conductor, there is an unmistakable sense of purpose the players carried with them at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Similar to their first practice session on Thursday, Rajasthan wasted little time on Friday, the eve of their first match in India this season — against Delhi Daredevils.
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Dravid was one of the early birds. While the players engaged in stretching, Dravid chalked out what could be called the plan for the day. On the board, which was placed upright against a plastic chair, were simple but precise instructions on the player rota in each of the four nets. Bowlers — spinners, medium pacers and new-ball bowlers — were also assigned for duty for each of the practice strips.
Brevity was the theme of the briefing at the start of the three-hour practice session.
From what could be observed, the Royals were trying to crack the code when it came to an opening partner for Ajinkya Rahane.
They have so far tried Abhishek Nayar and Karun Nair up front with Rahane, but both of them have failed to make an impression. Dravid and Rahane formed a well-oiled opening unit for Rajasthan before the senior partner called it a day last year.
With hands resting on his waist, Dravid astutely observed Unmukt Chand, who was the first one to take guard. While facing the likes of Kane Richardson, Tim Southee and Pravin Tambe, Chand was tentative to start with, especially to deliveries that moved away from the off-stump line. Dravid walked up to him and had a lengthy discussion before Chand resumed batting again.
When Chand displayed textbook-like technique — head over the ball, weight forward and a perfect follow through — Dravid nodded. Nair and Rahane also underwent drills, both closely watched by the former India skipper. Dravid was generous with his feedback but like his batting the passing on of knowledge gained over the years was done in an understated manner. The only time Rajasthan’s practice session looked like it would have to deviate from the original plan was when weather threatened to interrupt.
A short burst of dusty wind almost disrupted the the practice session. Temporary tents were in danger of being dislodged, advertisement boards were blown away and workers ran to take cover.
The Rajasthan players only briefly paused till the passing dust storm subsided before getting back to their well-planned drill. Dravid will tell you that even the best-laid plans can go awry in the middle. But he and his team are leaving nothing to chance.