Rahul Dravid (R) with Tom Moody during U-19 World Cup 2018    Getty Images
Rahul Dravid (R) with Tom Moody during U-19 World Cup 2018 Getty Images

It is a fact that World Cup trophy has eluded some of the big names of the game. Rahul Dravid, arguably one of India’s finest batsman, was one such unlucky player who couldn’t lift a World Cup in his illustrious career. Nonetheless, the cricketer got what he deserved as the coach of India U-19 team during their World Cup title in New Zealand. Dravid, in an exclusive interview with ESPNCricinfo, revealed the vital information shared in the dressing room, giving ample space to young cricketers and how satisfied he is to see a proper ‘process’ being fulfilled in the run-up to the coveted trophy.

Because when (MS) Dhoni says ‘process’, it means a lot

Reminder: Dravid was the head honcho of the Indian team in the 2016 edition as well. There must have been such stark difference, this time around as India went the distance, contrary to falling apart against eventual champions, West Indies, in a close final two years back.

“The whole process has been satisfying. In 2016, I was appointed just two-three months before the tournament. There wasn’t any time to put a process in place. I saw probably about 15-16 boys before we played that tournament, where we went all the way and lost to West Indies in a close final. This time I was determined to put a process in place, not so much looking at the end result being trying to win the tournament – yes, it is nice we have won it, but that wasn’t the idea.

It was about seeing if we could give more opportunities to a lot more players than just 15, 16 or 20 players, give more people an opportunity to come into the India Under-19 fold and give them a chance to experience what it is like to play for an India Under-19 team. Not all of them are here at the World Cup. Even those who missed this tournament have the potential to go on and play for India. Some of them might and some of the boys from this team might not. That happens a lot at the Under-19 level because the boys are at different stages of development in their careers and just in their growth as players and people,” told Dravid.

Dravid is a man of few words. So it becomes all the more exciting to know his process of working as coach. From the horse’s mouth…

“One of the things I like to do is to work with them and to see what they need, rather than imposing my preparation on them. Sure, there are times where we insist on certain things they have to do, but there are other times where we give them a lot of freedom to make their own choices.

A couple of the guys don’t like batting too much in the lead-up to the game; they prefer knocking or hitting a few balls. Cricketers at this age are also figuring out what their right routines are, what makes them tick, and you have to give them that opportunity. If you just keep telling them what to do all the time, they are not going to learn what their own routines are and what makes them click.

We have tried to do that as far as possible with these boys, especially the day before the game. The way they prepared was in large parts driven by them, and not by us as a coaching team. If they wanted extra batting, we gave that. Some boys don’t like to bat and they feel comfortable about it, and we were happy to allow them that request. This is also a learning for them as to figuring out what gets them going on match day,” opined the 45-year-old.

Pearls of wisdom

Cricket is a lot about decision-making, and I think you have to practise that. We give them (U-19 players) that responsibility. We give them freedom in many ways, but there are certain boundaries they know they should not cross. They represent India, their families, the BCCI, when they come here. Within the boundaries, we have been flexible and we try and give the onus and responsibility to them. That is the only way you grow. The real challenges for them start now. At this level, a lot of them are talented and very good. They are slightly better than [other] people of their age, so they are competing against people whom they have a slight edge over. Suddenly they leave this level and go into Under-23 or Ranji Trophy level and start competing with people with more experience, against guys who are better professionals, and sometimes it takes some adjustment. It can be a bit of a shock that you suddenly move from being a big fish in a small pond into the ocean, and suddenly they realise it is a completely different environment from the one they are used to. That adjustment sometimes takes a while, especially for them to overcome that shock.

We talk to them a lot about it, we constantly mention to them the habits they will need to inculcate when they go on from here. They are quite protected at the Under-19 level, but when that protection is taken away, you have to do a lot of things on your own, and as you should as young men. That is part of growing up, which they need to learn. The guys who adapt quicker are the ones who end up succeeding in first-class cricket,”stated the former India skipper.

Now Dravid is not a man known to take credit, he points out how the team management (especially physio) took the onus when required

“Their (U-19 players) health and well-being came first, and we wanted them to be a part of the experience and play the World Cup. For them to have the confidence that we would genuinely go out of our way to make it possible made a difference. Full credit to Yogesh Parmar (physio), Anand Date (trainer), the guys at the National Cricket Academy, for the efforts that they have put in over the last year. We have had a few injuries right through the year, and the way they have been handled has been absolutely professional.

I have been around and have seen the way professional athletes are managed, and these Under-19 boys got the best professional help. [The NCA] is much-maligned unfortunately, but when you see Kamlesh Nagarkoti or Shivam Mavi bowl, when we congratulate ourselves, we must also raise a glass to the NCA. A lot of this is team effort and not just about what I do but also the contribution of the support staff and the NCA,” concluded Dravid.