How nice it would be to have Rahul Dravid as the Indian team's coach. Perhaps, he is best suited for the role for his cricketing brains and also the respect he earns in the cricketing fraternity. And, he is only 41, just two years since retiring from international cricket, and a year from playing his last IPL match. It was for these reasons that Sunil Gavaskar suggested that Dravid be made India coach while calling for Duncan Fletcher's sacking.
However, Dravid is not ready for the high-profile role yet. He said here on Friday: “Firstly, I am happy that he (Gavaskar) thinks I am capable. It is a nice thing for him to say. At this point of time, with the time constraints and the time required to do the coaching job that is 11 months in a year, and I just finished playing cricket, it is extremely hard to devote that kind of time. Who knows some day in the future, what is in store. Currently, I am involved with Rajasthan Royals in a different role for two months. Time permitting, I would look at an India 'A' or India U-19 role. Not really the Indian coaching job at this point of time.”
One of the senior players instrumental in India hiring their first foreign coach in 2000 end when New Zealander John Wright came on board, Dravid did not want to go into the nationalities of a coach. “We live in a professional world today and the nationality of a coach is irrelevant. If he can provide what the team needs, it doesn't matter where a coach is from. We've had Indian coaches with various roles (Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad) involved with the team in the past. From purely one on one, just to pick an Indian coach, they should pick the best man irrespective of the nationality. And if he is an Indian, so be it.”
The former India captain also felt that changing the coaching staff with the 2015 World Cup less than a year away is not an ideal thing. “You have got to give a team four years. With two big tours of England and Australia coming up, and the World Cup after that, it is unlikely that India will change the coaching staff or the support staff, or any part of the leadership group,” he said.
The veteran of 164 Tests and 344 ODIs stressed that the role of a coach is “over rated and over stated”. “The responsibilities should also lie with the senior players. It is their team. A team is defined by what the senior players bring to the party. In the end, they are the ones who have to perform. A coach can help you create the right environment, the right conditions. You cannot always necessarily judge a coach by the results. How you prepare your players and what you do with your players is how you have got to judge. Coaches cannot really influence a course of a game but they get judged on a course of a game. But the responsibility also lies with the seniors and the captain and the senior leadership group we have in the team along with the coach,” he said.
Besides speaking on coaching and coaches, Dravid also spoke about the current team's failure to win overseas in recent times, captain MS Dhoni not going with five bowlers in Tests overseas and the upcoming World T20.
Dravid said that Dhoni should go with five bowlers in Tests abroad to give the team a chance to win. “I would like to believe that we should go into overseas series looking to play five bowlers. We should go with five bowlers with (Ravindra) Jadeja batting at 7, he is batting a lot better. Just a fact that we were not able to finish off two games (in recent times). We got ourselves into positions to be able to win two games and we didn't. An ideal scenario for me would be to somehow find a way to play five bowlers because it will give you a chance to win. Going with two pacers and two spinners can sometimes be risky especially on the wickets we play on. Every time we go abroad, teams are giving us green wickets. In that kind of scenario, when you are forced to bowl first, it can be tough. Having the luxury of a third seamer and two spinners, and in Dhoni, Jadeja and with (Ravichandran) Ashwin developing as an all-rounder, maybe in 6, 7 and 8 those three can do a job.”
Asked if Dhoni was not comfortable with five bowlers, Dravid said: “He has got a young batting line up. I won't blame only Dhoni. Traditionally, after Kapil Dev, we have not had the confidence of being able to say that we have a genuine all-rounder. We have not had that. I think Dhoni is as good a batsman as anyone is. Jadeja is improving. Ashwin is improving. I think that opportunity lies. We have to be brave to be able to win Test matches. Because we are getting into positions and we are not able to get those 20 wickets to be able to win Test matches. And that is a little bit of area we need to plug. We might get bowled out cheaply sometimes because we have a batsman less but we will also get a team out when are in a position to do so with that extra bowler.”
Dravid felt that off-spinner Ashwin, who has been criticised for not performing well overseas, said that he be given time. “These couple of tours (upcoming tours of England and Australia) are going to be important for him as well. He has got a bit of experience in international cricket but he has not played a lot in overseas conditions. We have to be a little bit more patient with him and give him that freedom and scope, and judge him when given enough opportunities. We should judge our guys in a fair manner and judge them on standards, and set tough standards for them. But also give them fair enough run and not on the odd matches here and there. It becomes extremely difficult to judge bowlers on that.”
The right-handed batsman of yesteryear believed that the current team is in the learning process and need to be given more chances to be able to win overseas. Asked why India have not been winning overseas of late, he said: “It is a combination of things. It is not only now. I was part of the team that lost eight Test matches in a row towards the end of my career. We had some very very good players in Tendulkar, Laxman, myself. It is just a learning process. To be fair, this Indian team had two really good opportunities in the last two Test series. One Test match in South Africa and the other Test match in New Zealand. You have to give more chances. This is a young developing side.”'
On the upcoming ICC World T20, Dravid praised Australia's selection by naming 39-year-old Brad Hodge in their squad. “Australia have been very very smart with their selection in picking up Brad Hodge. I have played against Hodge and he can be devastating in the last five overs. They have been very smart with their selection considering the sub-continental conditions. Australia can be as big a threat as anyone in the competition.”
He said that with four different winners in the previous four World T20 editions, it shows how open a T20 format can be.
Continuing on the shortest format of the game, Dravid said that the coach's role in T20 ends once the game gets under way. “In T20, captaincy is very very important because you don't have time to discuss with coaches. One you are on the field, it is really up to you. There is no fall back. In IPL, you have strategic time out but you don't even have that in international games. It is really up to the captain, he has got to be quick as one over can cost you a game. There is very little a coach can do after he has prepared for a game. His job actually finishes once the game starts,” Dravid said.
He also felt that it is up to the individuals to maintain the integrity of the game, especially after what happened in last year's IPL with the fixing controversy. “Good things happen in cricket. There have been situations like last year when things that should not have happened, have happened. Efforts are on to improve upon those things. The people involved, teams, players, officials, have to be alert. The BCCI is trying to improve that. Rajasthan Royals have a system in place to try and ensure these types of things can never be repeated. Irrespective of whatever we improve in whatever ways, responsibility lies with the individual. The individual takes the responsibility of trying to uphold the integrity of the game.”