Rahul Dravid: A man who has contributed to Indian cricket immensely, with a smile not as big © Getty Images
Rahul Dravid: A man who has contributed to Indian cricket immensely, with a smile not as big © Getty Images

On Sunday, September 4, 2016, when Cameron Boyce, Australia A’s No. 10 batsman, in search of a six, went for a big slog sweep off the leg-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal, and was caught at deep mid-wicket by Shreyas Iyer.  India A clinched the Quadrangular ODI series, winning the final by a 57-run margin. While, not many follow List A cricket, a well-contested series that saw South Africa A, Australia A, India A and Cricket Australia’s National Performance Squad (NPS) compete in a round-robin format, was eventually won by the Manish Pandey-led men-in-blue. Yes, the news wasn’t big. But was satisfying; pleasing to the senses. Not just for Pandey and co, (Of course they had deserved the win) but for someone who probably, works tirelessly, behind the scenes, (as he always has) — Rahul Dravid. ALSO READ: India A clinch Quadrangular A Series, beat Australia A by 57 runs

Appointed as coach of the India A and Under-19 team in early June 2015, Dravid was perhaps the most perfect choice that the BCCI could have made. A career of class, Dravid has since his arrival in Indian cricket, been the go-to-man in case of any difficulty, or no difficulty. A person who loves to work with youngsters, Dravid has had his share of ups and downs while mentoring both the teams. READ: Anil Kumble, BCCI congratulate India A on their Quadrangular A Series victory

When India despite having an unbeaten run in the tournament, failed to win the final of the Under-19 World Cup 2016, losing to West Indies by five wickets, Dravid was gracious in defeat. “I am disappointed for them. It’s tough for a lot of these young kids but it’s hopefully a start of the journey for them. We’ve tasted a lot of success as a team, it’s only the first match we’ve lost and unfortunately, for us it was the biggest game. This is a learning. If we can learn some lessons from it and if they can go on to become better cricketers and better people, that’s really the purpose of the tournament,” he said. You could hear a a guru speaking, on his shishyas. READ: Dear Rahul Dravid, you don’t need a World Cup!

Time passed, and it was now the senior team, that was in need of a coach. After Ravi Shastri’s tenure as Team Director ended with the T20 World Cup 2016, the voices had gathered more frequency. The BCCI’s advertisement for the position, received 57 applications. On advice on the Advisory Committee that comprised of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI appointed Anil Kumble as head coach.

But BCCI chief Anurag Thakur, later revealed that Kumble was not the first choice. It was Dravid. “I requested Rahul Dravid to coach the Indian team. He didn’t say no, but said that he will work for the junior team,” Thakur said. He further went on to praise him as well. “That is the good thing about Dravid. He didn’t go for the senior team post, big money and all. He wanted to work for the junior cricketers and not the senior team,” Thakur exclaimed.

The hype that was built around the appointment of India’s head coach, was over. And so, the time for laying out the action plan for Indian cricket to move forward, in the right direction. Soon, a ‘road map meeting’ was organised. The intention was to discuss about the integration of the U-19, A and senior teams wherein the supply line for the main team would be strengthened. MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Kumble and Dravid were part of it. And in a few weeks, everyone was back to work. So was Dravid.

The India A team’s next assignment was the tour to Australia, where the Quadrangular series would be played. The squad had to attend a strength and conditioning fitness camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, with a purpose of training before they head to Australia. Dravid, could have skipped the camp, if he wasn’t Dravid. He paid a visit on the very first day. “Rahul sir came today (First day of the six-day camp) and gave us all a pep talk regarding the tour and fitness. He assured (that) ‘if you want to talk to me, you’re free to call anytime,” said Iyer.

Two days later, it was reported that Dravid’s ‘maximum exposure to the colts‘ idea, would be applied for the Under-19 team. Over the years, Under-19 tours have been scheduled only when the Under-19 World Cup, held every year, is approaching. Although, Dravid’s view was that they should have more tours and therefore the U-19 team might now have a busy calendar to look forward to. The plan sounds good and might even see the U-19 team, as busy as the senior team. The way Dravid manages both the teams and floats in a suggestion or two, has been a notable aspect of his tenure so far.

Anyway, come India A’s first match in the Quadrangular series against hosts Australia A, calamity struck, as the visitors were bowled out for just 55, not even being able to survive 16 overs. The result, an 8-wicket loss. The road to a series win therefore, wasn’t an easy one. But since then, the turn of fortunes was just brilliant. A couple of fine bowling performances, saw Dhawal Kulkarni and the others shine. The batting too stepped up. Pandey’s love for Australia, was evident in his first hundred of the series. And it was all starting to fall in place. Some close finishes and some clinical ones, Dravid’s men were looking good. And then came a 1-run loss against Australia A, that would have definitely hurt Dravid and the team, it obviously gave the hosts a psychological advantage going into the final.

Smiling faces, a wicket in hand, and a trophy in front, convey the story. (Photo Courtesy: Sahrdul Thakur's Twitter account)
Smiling faces, a wicket in hand, and a trophy in front, convey the story. (Photo Courtesy: Shardul Thakur’s Twitter account)

Mandeep Singh’s 95-run knock could not have come at a better time, for the hosts. With a 267-run target, came the added pressure of chasing in a final. That and Chahal’s 4 for 34, were more than enough to for India’s young guns, to seal the deal. But they aren’t just India’s young guns, they are after all, — Dravid’s disciples.

For a career in cricket and life post-retirement, Dravid’s contribution to Indian cricket can never be measured. You can though, sit back and ponder over his motto in life. It’s based on 3 S’s — selflessness, sacrifice and service. As always, Dravid hasn’t grabbed the spotlight, but quietly, he has added another feather to his cap.

(Karan Dewana reporter with CricketCountry, loves following and playing sports. He is a Team India fan and loves winning. Follow him on his twitter handle @karan13dewan)