@thisismccann 15 minute read
In a wisden.com exclusive, batting legend Rahul Dravid, head coach of India’s under 19 and A side, has expressed sympathy for the country’s emerging stars, insisting “it’s not easy being on the cusp”, but believes Indian cricket is in an “enviable position” as the nation gears up for the Cricket World Cup.
Dravid is excited about the depth of the current talent pool, with cricketers being exposed to big crowds and high-pressure environments from an early age. His India A side toured New Zealand in November and December last year, drawing all three unofficial Tests and winning all three unofficial ODIs. He does confess, however, that “managing this talent can sometimes be difficult”.
He adds: “There are so many good players who play at the A-level, that a certain level of frustration can build in. Sometimes the opportunities don’t come as quickly as people would like – you have to manage the mental side of that. It’s not easy always being on the cusp and always being on trial. I’ve been in that position as a player so I feel for some of these boys.”
Dravid acknowledges that the outside influences and pressures facing players have augmented since his playing days but that players must respect the power they hold as role-models for a cricket-loving nation. “If you want that money to develop the game and make players financially secure, then there are some responsibilities as well,” he says. “You have to learn to accept those, deal with them, and not complain about them.”
The social media frenzy surrounding the inappropriate comments made by Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul on an episode of Koffee with Karan in January was a case in point, with both receiving suspensions for their actions.
The India A series against the England Lions provided a chance for Rahul to return to cricket, where he hit 89 and 81 in the two four-day games before being handed a ticket to this summer’s flagship one-day tournament, which commences from May 30 in England. “Rahul was quite relaxed around the group, he’s a good kid and a very talented young player,” Dravid says. “I’m sure that they’ll learn from it [the Koffee with Karan controversy], and hopefully be better for it.”
The 46-year-old, affectionately known as “The Wall” during his playing days, due to his sound defensive technique, believes India are well-placed to compete for their third World Cup trophy and has paid tribute to the domestic set-up in India. “Indian cricket is in a very enviable position – we’ve got some really good talent coming through,” he says. “The facilities are getting better and better in a lot of our cities, allowing more people to get an opportunity to showcase their skills.”
In January, India A defeated the England Lions 4-1 in five unofficial ODI’s before winning the second unofficial Test by an innings and 68 runs to secure the series at 1-0. There was no shortage of international experience, with Ajinkya Rahane, Krunal Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari involved.
“We tried to use the A-team series for a couple of reasons,” he says. “Obviously the selectors have used it as auditioning spots for the World Cup team. The selectors wanted to look at what they had available and give themselves the most options in very different conditions across a summer in England. At this level it’s not so much about the results, but more about the development of our players and how we can bring them through to the international team.”
That need for options is what ultimately secured all-rounder Vijay Shankar not just a spot on the plane but an opportunity to stake a claim for the No.4 spot, with captain Virat Kohli also praising his bowling and fielding capabilities. The 28-year-old is one of four all-rounders alongside Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya. Pacers Navdeep Saini, Avesh Kahn, Khaleel Ahmed and Deepak Chahar will all be in the UK to help the Indian team prepare, with all of them having benefited extensively from Dravid’s guidance with India A or India under 19s.
Dravid will be watching on with interest as India launch their 2019 Cricket World Cup campaign against South Africa on June 5 at the Ageas Bowl.