DUBAI: For a man who emphasizes on ‘process’ more than results, Rahul Dravid’s journey as Team India’s head coach, leading to the T20 World Cup, has been put to test. When he took over from Ravi Shastri after the T20 World Cup debacle, India aimed at playing a specific style of cricket, besides having a stable core for the playing XI.
Even as Rohit Sharma assumed all-format captaincy by March, Dravid remained the captain of the ship all through. Unavailability of top players prompted India to field seven captains across formats in the last eight months. For a man who has forever harped on the need for consistency, Dravid’s journey as Team India coach has ironically been a topsy turvy one.
Unlike the preceding team management, when then captain Virat Kohli called the shots with Shastri majorly working on executing the plans and managing the players, Dravid has been in the driver’s seat by default. From attending selection meetings to managing the workload of his marquee players, ‘the wall’ of Indian cricket has been enduring the roughest of environments.
The results in bilateral T20I cricket point at India’s supremacy in the format. Yet, one can’t dismiss the underlying anxiety over the team composition as the T20 World Cup draws closer.
Besides the regular overwhelming hype around the India-Pakistan matches, the Asia Cup here is significant for Team India to finally settle down with a set of players.
When the home T20I series against West Indies concluded in February, Dravid had asserted that he didn’t want to cast his net too wide for the T20 World Cup. Yet, India ended up playing musical chairs with a host of players at every position in the playing XI.
“Rohit is an all-format player and it is unrealistic to expect all (all format players) to be available for every series. We need to ensure that they are fit for all the big tournaments and are peaking then,” Dravid had said at Ferozeshah Kotla before the home T20I series got underway in June, just after the IPL ended.
Rahul Dravid (TOI Photo)
“Dravid is literally the captain of the ship. The selectors had to look for captains in nearly all the selection meetings in the past eight months. Dravid has been a part of the selection meetings. He has been very vocal about certain players even though selectors may have had reservations. He was planning to play with a settled combination from the England tour in July but that didn’t happen. This Asia Cup is the tournament where he would have finally been looking to execute his plans,” a source told TOI.
As Team India got into a huddle for the first time in Dubai on Wednesday, Dravid was forced to stay back in Bengaluru having contracted Covid-19. That’s how Indian cricket has been in 2022. People flying across the globe on last-minute bookings to fill in for the established personnel. The Indian cricket board (BCCI) didn’t want to take any chances. Even as Rohit and his designated deputy KL Rahul are back in the team together after ages, the board felt the need to have another wise and prominent figure in NCA head VVS Laxman in the setup till Dravid recovers and rushes back to work on his plans.
Dravid, the head coach, was always going to have a huge say in the running of the team. Yet, even Dravid wouldn’t have expected that he would have to be in front of the wheel right through this journey.
Perhaps, it’s time Rohit emerges as the true leader of the team and makes firm decisions.