By Devarchit Varma
In a recent interaction with the Indian media, Simon Willis, the high performance director of Kent CCC, revealed that the time Rahul Dravid spent with the club not only helped him grow as a cricketer but also helped him improving his game in English conditions.
Looking back at what Dravid did almost a decade ago, and the way he performed in the recently-concluded Test series, one would agree with Willis that Dravid’s decision to play county cricket was a wise long-term investment that offered rich dividends in international cricket.
Willis said, “It is great to see him do well and succeed in England because I know he valued his time with us in Kent. It was something we were talking about today. Rahul had identified that Indians had struggled overseas and he wanted to make sure it didn't happen with him. It is no surprise to me that he adapted the best to the English conditions despite form. Class and experience counts for a lot and he was aware of the conditions here from playing county cricket in 2002 and 2007."
In 13 Test matches in England since his debut in 1996, Dravid has scored more than 1300 runs at an average of almost 69! And every student of cricket will tell you that touring England is the toughest for any cricketer because of the various challenges.
Back in 2000, “The Wall” - still under construction - made sure that he doesn’t fall into the label of ‘poor traveler’ – a label that the Indian team carried.
When Dravid made his international debut, he too was under immense pressure. He had scored heaps of runs in domestic cricket, but getting the Test cap wasn’t easy. Now, in 2011, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Manoj Tiwary find themselves in a similar situation.
With legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid and VVS Laxman coming to the very end of their international careers, the future of Indian cricket depends very much on youngsters like Kohi, Rohit, Pujara and Tiwari. All of them have done extremely well in the Indian domestic circuit, but it will do them and Indian cricket a world of good if they allowed themselves the exposure of county cricket in England where batting skills will be put to severe Test when the ball is waltzing around. The confidence they will derive from batting day in and day out will put them in a comfort zone when they tour England with the Indian team.
It’s not just the bowlers who grow in stature as an international class player. Zaheer Khan, who was perilously close to being dropped a few years ago, saw a dramatic transformation in him as a bowler after a one year stint with Worcestershire in 2006 – a season which fetched him 78 wickets. He learnt lot of new skills, and returned back home fitter and wiser. And thanks largely to Zaheer, India beat England in 2007.
If the likes of Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Jaidev Unadkat, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron go and play even one season of county cricket, they will come back as high quality bowlers from the professional English set-up.
If there is one lesson Indian cricketers can learn from the debacle in India, it’s the importance of gaining experience in county cricket. And there is no bigger proof of the value than Dravid and Zaheer.
(Devarchit Varma is a cricket fanatic who finds nothing more exciting to do than to write, watch or play cricket. An ardent Test cricket fan, he often goes alone to see his favourite players in action.)