After his stint as a player with Rajasthan Royals, the legend, the Wall, Rahul Dravid turned towards mentoring the team in 2014. Young Royals like Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda, Karun Nair to name a few, learned a lot from the stalwart’s experience and wisdom.
The ever-humble Dravid was then appointed coach of the India U-19 and India A squads in 2015. At the same point he was mentoring a young Delhi Daredevils squad. He eventually gave up the post to concentrate on grooming young cricketers to make it big at the international level.
India A tasted success during Dravid’s maiden assignment as the team’s coach – a triangular series between Australia A, South Africa A & India A. The Unmukt Chand led squad beat Australia in the final to clinch the series.
Ask most of the players who were coached or mentored by Dravid, and you will hear a common answer about how he instilled confidence in each of them. Dravid’s policy of rotating the players in a squad won him plenty of accolades. He believed that a player’s confidence can receive a massive dent if he was on the bench for lengthy periods. Most of the youngsters who were coached by him got their chances from time to time.
When Dravid took charge of the U-19 team, it had the likes of Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, Khaleel Ahmed and Ishan Kishan. The team enjoyed massive success in all their campaigns before the ICC U-19 World Cup in early 2016.
The India U-19 team had a wonderful run during the World Cup, making it to the final. There were excellent performances by Rishabh Pant, who scored the fastest U-19 fifty in a 50-overs game. India made it to the final and Dravid didn’t want to take any credit for it either. “I believe it’s a player’s team, and not really a coach’s team. I have been a player long enough to know that a coach can only have a certain amount of impact on a team. It is really up to the players. It is their World Cup, their performances and theirs to win and lose.”
India lost to West Indies in the final, their first defeat in a Youth ODI since 2014. The players were obviously disappointed with the loss, but Dravid stepped in with his wise words. “You are the champions for me.” When a coach believes in a team with a lot of conviction, it is bound to bring out the best from the players. The team won the U-19 Asia Cup later that year.
A little over a year later, India’s U-19 team lifted the World Cup in Australia with a different set of talented players. Riyan Parag was part of the squad too, but injury kept him from playing in a majority of the tournament. He has always been all praises for Dravid.
Cut to 2019, Rahul Dravid has been named Head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) – the breeding ground for all young cricketers in India. BCCI’s release mentions that Dravid will oversee all cricket-related activities at the NCA and will be involved in mentoring, coaching, training and motivating players, coaches and support staff at the NCA. Grassroot level cricket is in the safe hands of Rahul Dravid and the Wall can prove to be the foundation of a formidable fortress in men and women’s cricket in India.