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Rahul Dravid: IPL has been an educative process for me

Rahul Dravid has played as a cricketer, worked as a mentor, coach and a strategist as well over the last few years in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Rahul Dravid worked as a mentor for Delhi Daredevils in IPL 2016  © PTI
Rahul Dravid worked as a mentor for Delhi Daredevils in IPL 2016 © PTI

T20 Cricket and especially the Indian Premier League has changed the dynamics of the game in the last few years. Former India captain Rahul Dravid has seen the revolution come about right in front of his eyes. Dravid has played as player in the T20 format, has been a coach, a mentor and a strategist as well in the cash-rich IPL tournament over the years. In short Dravid by virtue of his gained experience in the format has now become a ‘T20 Professional’. In an interview with Gaurav Kalra on Talking Cricket for EspnCricInfo, Dravid talks about how the IPL and its auctions have brought about a change in the attitude towards the shortest format of the game. READ: Rahul Dravid says cricketers understand T20 more than experts

When asked about his road in the IPL in the last few years, which has made him a sort of a professional T20 expert, and whether he thinks as one, Dravid said – “I have been involved in every single IPL so far in different capacities, as a captain and then a player, then captain again for a different franchise, then being a mentor for a couple of franchises as well. So I have actually seen quite a lot of it and in different kinds of environments and different kinds of situations. It’s been an educative process for me as well, it’s a constant learning process and it’s fascinating for me to see how much it’s changed and grown. I just keep learning every single time I go into an IPL.”

When asked about his opinion on the argument of whether T20 cricket is an absolutely different sport altogether, Dravid said- “You can theorise it in any which way you want. T20 cricket is still played with 11 players, with bat and ball. For the players actually playing the game, they recognise that it is very, very different. It is different to Test cricket, it is different even to one-day cricket. A lot of things that happen in T20 cricket, you can’t easily correlate and say this is related to one-day cricket. Players who do well in Test cricket or one-day cricket don’t necessarily do well in T20 cricket and vice versa. You’ll have people who will have crossovers as well. People are realising that it is unique. It’s something different, but to go so far as to say it’s a completely different game, you know, I wouldn’t go so far as that.” READ: Rahul Dravid: Cap on player participation in ICC U-19 World Cup will help curb age fudging

Dravid who was part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team in the first edition of the IPL was also asked about whether he would have picked a different team then. But then Dravid who is not a man who ponders much about ifs and buts in the game of cricket said – “You can look at every single auction and say that I wish I could have done this and wish I could have done that. One of the lessons that I have learned over nine IPLs is actually not to do that. All you can do is hope to be as well prepared as you possibly can, have a basic strategy and ideas about what kind of team you want and the conditions that you want to play in and then have a certain amount of flexibility about it. You can’t be rigid about who you are going to get and who you are not going to get.” READ:Rahul Dravid: Experiment with pink ball needs suitable conditions

He added, “With the first RCB team, I know we got a lot of criticism for the team that was picked. But look at the players we had in that team and the kind of T20 careers they went on to have – Jacques Kallis, who went on to be a pretty successful T20 player, much sought after by a lot of IPL teams, Zaheer Khan, Ross Taylor, Cameron White, Dale Steyn. There was Virat Kohli on that team, how can I forget?”

When asked about how different the ODI cricket and T20 cricket are when approached tactically Dravid explained analytically, “I think they are very different when approached tactically. There is a rhythm and a tempo to a one-day game that’s very different to that of a T20 game. Just the mindset and the thinking around the T20 game is very different to a one-day game, where you have time to build an innings. But in T20 cricket, sometimes each over is important, but you can lose two or three overs in a game and actually lose a game. You don’t have as much time in T20 cricket to get things wrong and bounce back.”

He further added, “As a batsman your strategy and mindset around the T20 game is that you have only 20 overs to bat out, so you have an opportunity to take a lot more risks. As a bowler, you just have 24 balls to bowl and every one of those 24 balls actually matters. There is not so much time in T20 cricket to set up the batsman. You are more bowling to restrict. We always talk about taking wickets in T20 cricket, but you know that the value of a good economical over at a certain stage in the game could lead to wickets later on. It’s just finding that balance, but they are two different games tactically, and I think auctions are quite dynamic and they sort of vary all the time. Everyone goes in with a strategy, tactics and certain ideas.” READ: Rahul Dravid only Indian in Kumar Sangakkara’s all time XI

Meanwhile, auction strategy has become an important part of the IPL and Dravid feels the amount of money and its careful spending keeping in mind the talent of the domestic players is crucial. He said, ” I think the uniqueness about the auction is the limited amount of purse that you have. The fact that you can only play four overseas players [in the XI] and you have got seven Indian players to fill. The good rule that came in two or three years ago, which meant that all Indian domestic players go in to the auction, has actually changed things. Suddenly everyone has access to a lot of these young Indian domestic talents and it does become important and you can see how teams are taking it a lot more seriously now. Teams know the kind of players they want. It’s very rare to find young Indian talents who are unheard of and you can pick out of nowhere for really cheap. You might find the odd outlier – take the case of Krunal Pandya, or M Ashwin. There are no cheap buys anymore. There is a lot more knowledge about young Indian domestic talent than there was three or four years ago.”

Dravid who worked as a mentor for the Delhi Daredevils franchise in IPL 2016 was then asked about what is the idea behind players like Pawan Negi, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Morris and other players bagging high prices as on the outside there is not as much understanding for these moves. In reply he said, “I wouldn’t say there is no knowledge outside but there is not as much knowledge. There are people who’ll make comments like, why is he doing this, why is he doing that, without actually understanding the actual dynamics of why it happens. These conversations are not happening outside. They are not happening in television studios, as I have been in television studios. The depth of conversation that’s happening about the T20 game within a team and within that environment is not happening anywhere else, which is what makes the T20 game unique.”

Dravid was also asked if he had faced difficulties in situations where certain players felt that they deserve more value as against to what they wre fetched for in the auctions. He said,” I can’t say that there has been so much of an issue around money. You might go to the CEO or they might go somewhere else and have that conversation. One of the big challenges around the IPL are that you have squads of 23-25 and only 11 can play. You have only four foreigners who can play at any given point of time. So that has more of an effect on a team rather than just money. I think after some time, at least to the coaches and to the mentors, I don’t think people bring up the money issue so much. At least that’s my experience.”

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