It’s probably the second-most top-priority job in our country. With maybe the burden of pleasing more people than even the prime minister has to do.
So, when the Indian cricket team’s coaching job is offered to one of India’s most beloved cricketing souls, there will obviously be expectations of high octane. Ever since speculations started to roam around the media that the BCCI’s advisory committee members Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, had already approached the fourth member of the iconic Fab Four, 43-year-old Rahul Dravid for the job, it has not only got the fans but also a handful of cricketing legends talking.
Like Sunil Gavaskar told in a recent interview that Rahul Dravid has well served his “cooling period” after his retirement from all formats in 2013. “My honest advice to [the] BCCI is that in case they are looking for a change, there is no one better than Rahul Dravid.” Meanwhile, Ricky Ponting said, “I don’t think [the] BCCI will find many better candidates than someone like him. If he’s interested in doing the job, he will do a good job. He’s got a lot of knowledge, is very experienced and understands all three formats because he has worked in IPL.”
Not a novice
Frankly speaking, Rahul Dravid’s name hasn’t just emerged out of the blue. Back in June 2015, in a decision that was welcomed by Indian cricket fans, the BCCI handed him the coaching job of India’s Under-19 and ‘A’ teams. Really who better to be given the charge of the next generation of Indian cricket than one of the most technically gifted and reliable batsmen this country has witnessed?
Dravid had worked as a mentor of the now-defunct Rajasthan Royals IPL squad for two successive seasons, so he had the experience needed to groom youngsters like Sanju Samson and Karun Nair. He had also served as batting consultant to the Indian team ahead of their England tour in 2014, and several players talked highly of their fruitful interactions with “The Wall” of Indian cricket.
And Rahul Dravid didn’t disappoint. Under his brilliant stewardship, the next generation of Team India went unbeaten right up to the final of the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year, but they had to suffer a shock defeat at the hands of West Indies. It was around this time that the rumour mill started to wind over his possible appointment as the next coach of the senior team.
The Indian team is without a head coach for over a year now after Duncan Fletcher’s contract expired at the end of the 2015 World Cup. Ravi Shastri was temporarily appointed as the team director, but that contract ended after the 2016 World Twenty20. At point BCCI’s advisory committee might have suggested handing out Rahul Dravid a long-term contract to coach the senior team, with the possibility to extend the stint till the 2019 World Cup.
With India scheduled to play 18 Test matches between June 2016 and March 2017, against teams like New Zealand, England, and Australia, Captain Kohli needs a head coach as soon as possible. And while Dravid is believed to be considering the offer, claiming he will take the challenge only if he has the “bandwidth” for the job, former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist got it spot-on when he suggested, “It is just a question of if and when the time is right for him.”
There are several factors which actually support the idea of Dravid appointed as the next India coach. But there is also a counter-view that needs to be checked thoroughly – you can’t ignore his lack of coaching experience. Yes, the players he has coached and mentored have shown high regards for him, but if you think deep his record has not been spotless. With both the IPL squads, he has mentored, Dravid has been criticised for tinkering with and playing with the team combination far too often, with none-too-successful outcomes.
Last season, the Rajasthan Royals looked to be going all guns blazing at the beginning, picking up back to back five wins, before a late slump saw them struggling to qualify for the playoffs. They were hammered by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the eliminator by 71 runs.
This season, Dravid’s Delhi Daredevils seemed to be cruising into the playoffs in the first half of the competition, only for a late slump to waste their chances. Players like JP Duminy and Chris Morris, who are known to cause carnage with their bat, are being pushed back in low down the order while the T20 World Cup final hero Brathwaite was hardly being used.
Becoming India’s head coach will obviously followed by more than a fair share of scrutiny, and even someone with such an exemplary reputation like Dravid’s will not be left alone if the team doesn’t perform well.
There will be gigantic expectations as per his stature in this country, and the fans will be looking for results straight away. Some have raised concerns over Dravid’s defensive instincts, at least as a player, are not at the same level with the aggressive nature of India’s current Test captain, Virat Kohli.
Maybe it would be better for Dravid to spend minimum a year or two with the Indian senior team as a mentor or a consultant working under another head coach before he accepts the offer for the top post. It will give him enough opportunity to gauge how the players function, both individually and as a unit, and make him better prepared before taking over the reins.
The only argument which counters the suggestion of delaying Dravid’s appointment is; if the BCCI really sees him at the helm for the 2019 World Cup, then the delay means he will lose some precious time in building and shaping his team for the sport’s biggest tournament. Giving him the charge three years before the World Cup is certainly smarter than doing it just one year before the World Cup.
BCCI also may learn from the example of one of its former employees, Gary Kirsten, who was appointed as Indian team’s coach in 2008 with very little prior coaching experience. The former South African batsman that time had only worked as a batting consultant for local teams and was running his own cricket academy in Cape Town when the BCCI’s offer was up for grab. He would go on to lead India to their second World Cup triumph three years later.
What Kirsten did was he had taken his time to reply to BCCI and so should Rahul Dravid. If he believes he is up to the challenge, no one can stop him from taking the charge, and rightly so.
But with only one year of proper international coaching experience, he will definitely need to learn quicker than he used to score at No. 3 because things have changed.