Former India captain Rahul Dravid has been the coach of India ‘A’ and U-19 teams for the past two years. As players from the two teams have gone on to represent India at the senior level, this has paid rich dividends for India. Not just the national team but many of Dravid’s players have got contracts in the Indian Premier League as well. But, Dravid says he is trying to make the players not just better cricketers but better human beings as well.
The 44-year-old admitted that playing cricket and coaching cricketers are two different things and it is no guarantee that if someone was a good cricketer, he will go on to become a good coach as well.
“I have really enjoyed coaching since the past two years and it has been a great learning experience. However, just because I played cricket for a long time wasn’t enough to qualify as a good coach. Playing is one thing and managing people is actually a different ball game altogether, but that is the beauty of coaching. One of my big focuses in trying to coach teams is that I don’t try to put an effort into coaching cricketers, but try to coach people as well. Since I have been through the journey of playing U19 cricket before, I do understand that they are under a lot of pressure and which is why I try to create a good team environment. My aim is to create such an environment where they can get the best out of their ability,” Dravid said.
Since taking the job of India U-19 coach, Dravid has taken various steps to help young cricketers secure opportunities at the senior level and also let them free up space for more cricketers. Dravid said that he did not any player to play more than one U-19 World Cup.
“When I took over the U-19 coach, one of the things I felt was that people stay on and play too much of U-19 cricket. Which I think is very dangerous so we took a decision of not allowing anyone to play more than one World Cup. Which actually meant that five of the players of the last World Cup who were eligible for this year this World Cup in January are not playing. Guys like Washington Sundar, Zeeshan Ansari, Mahipal Lomror have all been picked in their respective Ranji Trophy teams. Even the state associations are looking ahead and not forcing them to keep playing in U-19. Their mindset and horizon are increasing. I think age group cricket has a purpose to solve but it is a limited purpose and from then on you have to play men’s cricket,” he said.
Pant is the biggest example of youngsters getting more opportunities in the senior team after he was picked in the Indian squad after the IPL this year. Dravid said Pant and Iyer are players who are getting recognition from the selectors.
“A lot of these young guys are being given opportunities. Their performances are being recognized by the selectors. We are having more A team matches to bridge that gap between domestic cricket and international cricket. Hence a lot of these youngsters are performing and doing well. We have already seen four of our boys from the team have got into the national side, which is a great thing. But sometimes it is hard to break into such a successful team (like the present Indian squad) and they need to wait for their opportunities,” he said.
Dravid also spoke about the new league system that the ICC is planning for ODI and Test cricket. He said that with league system coming, bilateral system will have context, which is currently missing in some of the series.
“I think having the context to especially ODI cricket and series is really important and sometimes in tri-series and bilateral series it can get a bit difficult to generate that level of context. But if you are having that sort of context towards a particular end goal in mind then surely something good can come out of it. If it creates that level of interest and context in bilateral series it will be a good thing,” he said.
But, Dravid did say that the impact of new rules including the restrictions on bat sizes can be assessed only after some time. He said that it will impact cricket and the results in the game.
“A change in the size will have an impact and the results of the games will show the effect. Though the change won’t be too drastic as only a few players use such bats. However, it is also about the nature of the pitch and the size of the boundary that matter.”
Captain of India women’s cricket team Mithali Raj and fast bowler Jhulan Goswami also joined Dravid for an event in the capital and Dravid said that both of them have been pioneers for women’s cricket in India before adding that cricket for women is going in the right directions.
“It is great to see just the direction in which it is going. It is fantastic to see that kind of energy being built up about women sports and it has come about because of women like Mithali and Jhulan, who have been the inspiration for this generation. Young girls coming through now have the role models and they don’t need to look up to Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar anymore. They can look up to these girls as their idols .”