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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Weekly Sports Newsletter: RP Singh interviewing Dravid for head coach job…Does it sound right?

There was one more layer of absurdity - Dravid was the only applicant. The world knew Dravid's stature in Indian cricket, no one dared to apply, or judge him.

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi |
Updated: November 9, 2021 3:48:25 pm
Rahul Dravid, RP Singh, Sports newsletter21-year-old RP Singh made his debut when Rahul Dravid was Indian captain. (FILE)

Dear Readers,

It would be safe to say that RP Singh would have been embarrassed to interview Rahul Dravid. And safer to assume that the modest to the fault Dravid would have done his best to make RP comfortable.

Circumstance had put the one-time team mates in a situation which bordered on being a farce. RP was part of the two-member Cricket Advisory Committee, women’s international Sulakshana Naik being the other, that was to pick India’s head coach. There was one more layer of absurdity – Dravid was the only applicant. The world knew Dravid’s stature in Indian cricket, no one dared to apply, or judge him.

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Dravid gave an online Powerpoint presentation about the role of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in the future and how it should coordinate with the national team. (File)

Surely not RP. When he was a 21-year-old rookie from Rae Bareli playing his first Test against Pakistan in 2006, Dravid was the Indian captain. Next year, under the same leadership, he had his best Test outing. RP’s mind-bending inswinger to KP on that England tour will remain in the collective memory of Indian cricket fans. His worst too came when Dravid was still around, though not as a captain.

In 2011, skipper MS Dhoni would call the out-of-shape and rusty RP from vacation to open India’s attack at The Oval. Friendly pace, amateurish indiscipline and a first ball that bounced twice before reaching the wicket-keeper. On that sun-drenched morning at the famous London venue, the Indian fans were seen hiding their newspapers. Tongues would wag about the pacer’s proximity to the skipper, RP was one of the few who attended Dhoni’s wedding.

RP’s Test career lasted 5 years where he played 14 Tests, Dravid’s played 164 Tests in 16 years. That Oval Test was his last. He was 26 then. In the series where RP was the poster boy of India’s abject surrender, Dravid, at 38, played the boy on the burning deck. He scored 3 hundreds in 4 Tests. That summer in England, covering Dravid’s tons at Lord’s, Nottingham and Oval, you would meet the Test romantics – aging men and women with scorebooks and tour programmes for autographs – who would rather cautiously whisper a query: “Don’t you think, Dravid’s better than Tendulkar?”. These comments were certainly more eulogistic than the ones directed to RP at Oval. The bowler with a double chin inspired a few nasty ditties that day.

During that English August who would have imagined that one day Dravid will be making a powerpoint presentation about his cricketing credentials and RP would sit in judgement a decade later.

Trust The Indian Express to be the fly on the wall at these intriguing BCCI meetings. Devendra Pandey‘s scoop that day had the headline about Dravid backing Rohit Sharma, followed by KL Rahul, as the next white-ball captain. But there were more important bullet points in the slides on Dravid’s computer. Players’ workload, nurturing bench strength and monitoring fringe players.

There was another coach story last week that the organised among us would store in the “heart-warming” folder of their desktops. A 39-year-old physical education teacher, Hanuman Singh, turned an abandoned poultry farm into a nursery of javelin throwing champions. Andrew Amsan didn’t just travel the extra mile but drove for five hours to be at the back of beyond Haryana village of Bangaon that now boasts of several junior national champs.

The headline writer would dub the hamlet Haryana’s Finland, the country that over the years has consistently medaled at Olympics and World Championships javelin events. The story would catch the attention of the Finnish diplomat and ambassador to India Ritva Koukku-Ronde. She would tweet her intention of visiting the village. It’s that kind of a week, who thought, Bangaon would go global.

Another story from Haryana and another one with a potential to join Bangaon in the “heart-warming” folder. In September, boxer Akash Kumar won the Nationals in the 54 kg category and headed home all excited. He was waiting to place the gold medal in the hand of his biggest motivator – his mother. Reaching his village, Paluwas, the family would inform the 20-year-old that his ailing mother was no more and they had avoided sharing the bad news as it would have impacted his performance. Akash wouldn’t break down, he would gather himself to pursue the path that his mother wanted him to take. This week Akash won a World Championship bronze. Some young boys break down when they face adversity, those like Akash turn into men.

There’s nothing common between Rahul Dravid and Hanuman Singh or Akash Kumar but in the first week of November they all featured on the Express sports pages as messengers of hope.

Sandeep Dwivedi
National Sports Editor

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