The T20 World Cup debacle, however, rocked the boat. Now, Dravid is in front of the wheel and has a tough task to steer the team out of choppy waters as the head coach.
Dravid the coach has often been conveniently equated with Dravid the player — the work ethics, the unassuming demeanour and the understated approach to his cricket.
When Dravid had returned from his first U-19 World Cup as coach in 2016, he had told TOI: “As a coach, I realise I can’t coach them as I was coached. I have to change and that’s the exciting part. I need to challenge my own thinking.”
A day after Siraj knocked over England to win a Test at Lord’s this August, Dravid’s trusted lieutenant and now Team India bowling coach, Paras Mhambrey, claimed: “It’s extremely satisfying to know we have been on the right path with our processes for different players. We wanted them to graduate to first class cricket, establish themselves and then move to international cricket.”
‘Process’ has been perhaps the most overused cliché in Indian cricket in the last two decades. But Dravid has worked intently on developing one that is likely to keep the supply line healthy.
It’s not just the technique, work ethics and understanding of the game. With the new regime will come a more academic approach to groom a team. Decoding numbers and the minds of the players will be weighed equally.
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“What we have done at NCA, India ‘A’ and U-19 is we educate players with their data and statistics alongside strength and conditioning. Clarity is absolutely necessary. Rahul would sit with players and let them know why a certain thing has been decided for them.
Talk to them about their stats. It’s not about the number of matches or overs, it’s also about the number of balls a bowler has bowled or a batter has played in practice. There have been many instances where in-form players have pulled out of India ‘A’ games to preserve them,” Mhambrey had explained to TOI in August.
“It’s important to win the trust of the players,” Mhambrey asserted. “So, we focused more on casual chats. They were not just cricket but a little bit about families and background. Understanding their mind space and the circumstances they are in. What we need to do so that our message gets across. To know what will work on him. Give them options. The players will arrive at one right option.”
Dravid had already got down to understanding the mental space of the players a day after he was appointed the head coach. He had called up the players, talked to them, shared his vision and then got down to forming a team for his first assignment which starts with the T20I series in Jaipur
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Planning transition of pacers
There’s already a plan to carry out the transition of pacers.
“It’s important to assess how long seniors like Ishant and Shami can continue. How much time the younger guys need to get experience. Siraj and Shardul have got some exposure. There’s Avesh, Saini, Deepak Chahar. We need to look at combinations in every series to make sure a young bowler is playing with senior guys so that they gain experience.”
Trust of all-rounders
Indian cricket has been forever hunting fast-bowling all-rounders since Kapil Dev. Hardik Pandya’s struggles to evolve as one has led to some sort of desperation.
“It’s always going to be a hunt,” Mhambrey reckoned. “It’s such a sweet spot when it comes to the balance of the team. But it’s up to the individuals. Doing both — bat and bowl — may not give enough opportunities to have numbers. Then there’s fear of injuries. But you got to gain their trust and tell them they will be well taken care of and make them understand the massive rewards of being a fast-bowling all-rounder,” he claimed.
In these challenging times, Dravid and Mhambrey would love to challenge themselves and hope their ‘process’ pays off.