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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Rahul Dravid potential coach for Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team? Think twice

Mild-mannered Dravid may be yin to aggressive Kohli's yang, but former captain may be more useful to Indian cricket by staying on as coach of junior teams

Rahul Dravid, head in front of the Indian flag at the back, is inconspicuous in this photo. That is how he likes it. Marty Melville / AFP
Rahul Dravid, head in front of the Indian flag at the back, is inconspicuous in this photo. That is how he likes it. Marty Melville / AFP

Not long after Greg Chappell was appointed the Indian cricket team coach in 2005, he spoke at length about how he approached the job.

He made several interesting points, but chief among them was what kind of relationship a coach should have with his players. "There is a definite limit to how much a coach can teach a player, but there is no limit to how much a player can learn from a coach," the former Australia captain said in his 2006 interview to ESPNCricinfo.

Either Chappell did not apply this philosophy during his tenure at all, or he did so in the early days and failed, because he was constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons. He fell out badly with then captain Sourav Ganguly. His alleged "my way, or the highway" attitude polarised the rest of the team, and it ended with India's ignominious exit from the 2007 World Cup.

One man in the thick of it all was Rahul Dravid. Elevated to the position of captain after Ganguly was dismissed and subsequently dropped, Dravid supposedly struggled to keep the flock together and faced criticism for not standing up to Chappell. It marked a low point in an otherwise illustrious career.

But with Dravid being a good student of the game and life in general, lessons must have been learnt. Three years after his retirement in 2012, he was named coach of India's junior teams – the 'A' side as well as the Under 19 unit – and he laid out a blueprint for how best to mould the juniors and prepare them for their transition to the senior team.

Despite being a former superstar in a cricket-mad country, Dravid went about his task with minimum fuss or focus on himself. And on Saturday, he guided the U19s to a fourth World Cup in New Zealand.

When asked to take stock of the win, he responded in a typically restrained manner. “The victory is just a part of the process we went through over the last 14-16 months,” he said in quotes that appeared on the Wisden India website.

Presumably the type of person who views life as a journey rather than a destination, Dravid took as little time as possible to shift his focus to the youngsters' future when he said: "I don’t believe they should be hanging around playing U19 cricket for too long."

Questions will inevitably be asked as to whether he himself should hang around U19 cricket for too long. On paper he would be the ideal candidate to eventually replace Ravi Shastri as the senior team coach, especially given that in a few years' time some of the boys he worked with would have graduated to the first XI.

However, he may be wary of applying for the job – when the time comes – having perhaps been left a little burnt by the Chappell episode from a decade ago. He will also remember the controversial resignation of his dear friend and longtime teammate Anil Kumble as India coach last year.

Like in Chappell's case Kumble was supposedly strong-willed, with some players comparing him to a school headmaster. But while Ganguly lost a politically-charged battle to Chappell, Virat Kohli won his against the former India leg-spinner.

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The role of Virat Kohli, right, is more crucial to India's success than that of coach Ravi Shastri, centre. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
The role of Virat Kohli, right, is more crucial to India's success than that of coach Ravi Shastri, centre. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

It is worth arguing that Dravid, who we are led to believe is more hand-holder than arm-twister, may complement Kohli's more aggressive and sometimes boisterous nature. He could be the yin to the captain's yang. He will certainly have a calming effect on the players and provide the support a coach should give at that level, rather than try to lead them. It also will not hurt that Dravid and Kohli know each other well, having been teammates for India and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Having said that, Chappell's older brother – former Australia captain Ian – has often written and spoken about the overemphasis on coaching at the senior level.

"Unlike the various codes of football where much of the strategy is decided [by the coaching staff] prior to kick-off, tactics on the field are constantly changing in a cricket match and depend a lot on the gut-feel and instincts of the captain," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph in 2015.

Dravid may not enjoy the spotlight, not to mention being away from his young family over long periods of time. Besides, with Kohli seemingly set for a long stint as the leader of an experienced side, it is a wonder if he would find himself useful were he to succeed Shastri. For instance, would he really be able to help the likes of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan turn around their Test careers?

Ever the mentor, would he not make a bigger impact on Indian cricket by continuing to guide youngsters with potential than having to deal with finished products running out of shelf life?

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