March 24, 2023

India vs South Africa: Emotions in check, intensity the key for Rahul Dravid | Cricket News – Times of India

It will be fascinating to see how Team India’s new coach strikes a balance with the in-your-face skipper Kohli
It was 1996. Allan Donald was a superstar and a young Rahul Dravid was still finding his feet in international cricket. Donald was terrorizing India – as was the case when India were touring South Africa those days – when Dravid slapped a six over Donald’s head during an ODI at Kingsmead. Donald lost his head, said a few words to Dravid, and saw the next ball being flicked to the boundary.

That, in a nutshell, told us all about Dravid. Below the exterior of a courteous Bengaluru boy, there is a street fighter who knows how to play the gentleman’s game the hard way.
But it isn’t exactly the image of “I am a tough guy” that he is trying to sell the world – ‘Indiranagar ka gunda’ only being a brilliant caricature of his own self. “Be aggressive when you need to be, but don’t make it your USP.” That has always been Dravid in his playing days. And now that he is the coach of the Indian team, it may not be too different.
The Test captain Virat Kohli, with whom Dravid starts his new journey from Sunday, loves aggro with a pinch of brashness. Dravid, on the other hand, by his own admission, prefers the intensity of Rafael Nadal – a man who doesn’t give an inch on the court, shows his emotions too when required, but is never disrespectful towards the opposition. “I have met Nadal and his uncle Toni Nadal and seen them practice… the intensity that Nadal brings to an hour and a half of practice is incredible,” Dravid once said in an interview, stressing on the word ‘intensity’.

And if you have followed Nadal and Dravid, you know that they never beat the “I am the best” drum – even if they are the best in their professions. That’s a shift in mindset that Dravid will bring to the Indian team after a seven-year stint (in two phases) under Ravi Shastri when we got used to the notion of India being the “best in the world” without winning a single ICC event.
How will the team react to such a change in approach? That’s probably a million-dollar question, but the little bits and pieces that we have seen suggest the signs aren’t bad.
A video posted by BCCI a couple of days ago showed a super-fit Dravid keeping with baseball gloves against practice pacers, with Virat Kohli at the crease. We immediately knew Dravid, in his own quiet way, will be in the thick of things, showing you first-hand how to do it. And leave it at that!
Dravid himself said sometime back that he “isn’t quite the life of a party” – another departure from his predecessor Shastri. But there is a fun-loving, caring man with a tongue-in-cheek humour that will make Dravid a favourite of some of the Indian players who are slowly coming into leadership roles. In the pictures posted by opener Mayank Agarwal from a barbecue in a South African ranch, we saw Dravid soaking in the fun with his new wards.
Now, if we look back at Dravid’s captaincy days between 2005-07, we will find a wild fluctuation of the performance graph. While he didn’t ever make his stand clear on which side of the fence he stood in the Greg Chappell saga, he oversaw India’s worst ODI World Cup performance in this millennium. And even in his highest point as captain – when India won a Test series in England after 21 years – he was labelled as “a little too conservative” when he decided not to push for a win at the Oval and come away with a 2-0 series win for India.
Is Dravid still the same man? One thing we know for a fact is that Kohli and conservatism are North Pole and South Pole. It will be a fine balance and we will be keen to see how the two batting greats come to a common platform on contentious decisions. One thing that we don’t want to see is a repetition of the Anil Kumble saga, when an all-time great left as coach of the Indian team humiliated.
Over to the fire and ice of Indian cricket!

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