He was the captain when India made an early exit from the 2007 World Cup; but in 2023 with Dravid as head coach, their true potential is unlocked
Players affected by trolling, social-media abuse and paid-to-trend hashtags may feel that their predecessors have it easier, but they have their own share of fanaticism troubles. They could even argue that it was more hardcore back then. Or even as recently as 2007, when India had just been knocked out of the World Cup in the first round.
Effigies were burned, stones were thrown at players’ homes, and they were forced to change travel plans at the last minute to escape the angry fans who awaited them in their hometowns and in their hometowns. town Irfan Pathan remembers being physically pushed and swore at by someone he was with in an airport queue. MS Dhoni did not go to Ranchi for days after returning to avoid any incident.
Rahul Dravid, if you believe what the media is saying and implying, is just a meek yes-man-captain, who allowed bad coach Greg Chappell to run the team into the ground. There are two assumptions here: whatever happened under his captaincy was bad, and that he was incapable of being bad. His effigy is burned but he’s still the good kid we can forgive once the villainous Chappell is gone. A great soldier who should never have been a leader.
On the day India was kicked out of the World Cup, Dravid sat through a tense press conference where he was actually asked if he was worried about the security situation at home. It could be argued that you can ignore memes today or get off social media to stop cyber bullying, but how do you ignore physical threats to your physical well-being and that of your family?
Memes don’t always have to be harmful, though. They can also be clever storytellers, it seems this latest involving Dravid is the. It has all the ingredients to go viral. Emotions, redemption arc, cricket, and the king of Bollywood. The meme has similarities between Shah Rukh Khan’s character Indian Chak and Dravid. Both were “disgraced” as captains but redeemed themselves as coaches with world titles. None of them had immediate success or acceptance as a coach.
If you show this to Dravid, he will probably get upset with the coach’s over focus. He might joke about his looks compared to Shah Rukh. If in a feisty mood, he can also point to a Test series win over the West Indies when they are strong, a first Test win over South Africa and a Test series win over England under his belt. being a captain. That’s why there is no accident.
Memes, however, don’t have to be literal. In fact, neither Dravid is joining a no-man team nor is he doing it for redemption. He had long since forgotten that he was a player. He is a professional coach who does not even believe that only cricketers can help his teams. And he took a successful team full of some of the best and most competitive professionals in the world.
Indeed, Dravid’s was the unenviable job of being the man who came after India won the magical Test series without half of their first-choice Australian players and held a 2-1 lead in a Test series in England. The team is in transition under Dravid, and constant injuries are only going to make things worse.
Those who know more than the results say that Dravid and Rohit Sharma’s leadership has brought about proper processes when it comes to preparation and performance review, not in terms of results but execution. They bring a sophisticated and prepared approach: from data to pitches to techniques, everything is worked on. They bring a level of comfort through proper communication. The players know better where they stand, what their roles are, how they can improve.
You might feel that this makes people too comfortable, that the Indiranagar ka Gunda meme is not completely fictional. He may not be the streetwise madman as portrayed in the commercial, but he’s no mollycoddling comforter either. If Dravid needs to be strict, you are not mistaken. Ask some of the players who have worked with Dravid at Under-19 and India A level, and you will know how colorful his language is. He also does not refuse to play or push the line to push the advantage to his side; remember he was fined for ball-tampering once.
Many of the players Dravid has worked with as India’s coach have passed him through the developmental stage. Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, even Kuldeep Yadav when he was out and about, all worked with him in the Under-19 or India A teams. That’s where Dravid really helped lay the foundation of a pipeline of talent for the national team.
Others felt that might be the best place for him. One of Dravid’s failings as captain is considered to be his inability to convince Sachin Tendulkar that his batting at No. 4 is the best for the team. Or his inability to turn off the tap on the incessant media leaks allegedly through Chappell, who was also shooting a documentary on the side while he was coaching India. Or the management of dropping Sourav Ganguly, as it was called at that time.
You see the pattern there: big names, either disgruntled players or the offending coach no matter how noble his intentions. Dravid is felt to be better at developing players before they become superstars.
Half of Dravid’s stint was without a proper captain due to injuries. He didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. With the nod of the former team management, he continued to play with four fast bowlers in Tests abroad.
From the time when Rohit was always available as captain, Dravid went on to make his greatest contribution to this team, dragging their cause into the modern era. It takes some convincing that even if there are breakdowns while going for above-par totals they rarely end in a complete blowout. The superstars he has worked with are no less than Tendulkar or Ganguly.
The results of this revolution, bought by Rohit and then leading the rest of the side, were perhaps most visible in the semi-final of the World Cup. It is not difficult to imagine an Indian team not long ago settling for 325 in those circumstances. It is the extra goal that gives India the cushion of calm when Daryl Mitchell and Kane Williamson go.
There’s also a bit of us-against-the-world edginess in this team. Dravid is not averse to bringing in support from outside the game. Virat Kohli recently credited the time he spent with mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who was brought in during the last T20 World Cup but stood down as India failed to win the title, for the role it played in his revival.
Throughout the World Cup, perhaps the first time they were at full strength in the Dravid era, India looked like a team whose true potential had been unlocked. If they continue to play the same cricket and the end turns out to be just one spectacular blowout, it will not take away from the progress they have made. The final win will make it extra special for a team that has been unfairly trolled for not winning the knockout games despite a good record in the league stages.
And perhaps the coach will take time to recall the scenes from the dressing room as India lost to Sri Lanka in Port-of-Spain in 2007 – the royalty of Indian cricket, Tendulkar, Dravid, Anil Kumble, Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh sat all sad, on the verge of tears, as wicket after wicket fell. Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj got another shot at World Cup glory, and took it. Some don’t. Not all.
And then it’s possible that the coach will just laugh it off with another meme featuring the king of Bollywood.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo