By Amlan Chakraborty
NEWDELHI (Reuters) – Seven years into his retirement and former test stalwart Rahul Dravid is still making silent and important contribution for India, shaping the next generation of cricketers who will form the core of the team.
For a significant part of his 16-year test career, Dravid was the bulwark in India’s star-studded batting lineup that also included Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S Laxman.
A classical batsman who built his game around a near-impregnable defence and an over-my-dead-body attitude, ‘The Wall’ was a purist’s delight even though team mates often eclipsed his best efforts.
His 95 in his very first test innings was overshadowed by fellow debutant Ganguly’s century in the 1996 match at Lord’s. Three years later, Dravid hit 145 in a World Cup match against Sri Lanka but once again Ganguly’s 183 was the talking point.
Dravid’s 180 in the 2001 Kolkata test was crucial to India’s stunning victory against Australia but still ended up being second fiddle to Laxman’s epic 281.
Having quit international cricket with more than 24,000 runs against his name, Dravid has since taken charge of India’s under-19 and A teams, overseeing the seamless transition of youngsters into the senior side.
Among his wards, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shah and Hanuma Vihari have taken to test cricket like duck to water, all-rounder Vijay Shankar is staking World Cup claims, while Shubhman Gill broke into the ODI team in New Zealand.
“He’s been a great mentor for us,” Agarwal, who impressed on his maiden tour in Australia, told Reuters.
“We can always walk up to him, speak to him about our batting, about our thought process, the way we approach an innings or if there’s any technical difficulty.”
Shoehorned into the Indian side midway through the test series following an opening crisis, Agarwal impressed immediately with two 75-plus knocks in three innings.
The 28-year-old said Dravid helped him understand how to manage mental energy in the long format.
“We had a few chats about my game and he figured that part out,” Agarwal added.
“He said ‘to do well in test cricket, you need to manage your mental energy because you are up and about for all five days’. That’s something we spoke about.
“Also we figured out things we can control in the middle and focus on doing them.”
Lokesh Rahul is another beneficiary of Dravid’s deep understanding of the game – accumulated over 164 tests and 344 ODIs – and batsmanship in particular.
Rahul, 26, was in crisis after a slump in form was followed by a brief suspension for inappropriate comments on a television chat show.
Sent home midway through the test series in Australia, Rahul joined the A team under Dravid and found his mojo back in the five matches against England Lions.
He has since looked his free-flowing self in the two Twenty20 matches against Australia, scoring 50 and 47, a turnaround he credited to the time he spent with Dravid.
“Fortunately, I got to play some India A games and some games where the pressure was a little less, so that I can focus on my skill and my technique,” Rahul said last week.
“I spent a lot of time with Rahul Dravid, working on my game and chatting about cricket. He helped me a lot in the games I played for India A.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)