Rahul Dravid tells Michael Atherton about the strong young Indian talent pool and how it is broadening

Michael Atherton interviewed former India captain and current India A and U19 coach Rahul Dravid.

Rahul Dravid is now shaping the future of U19 cricketers | Getty

Rahul Dravid was recently honored by the ICC as he was inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame. Called ‘the Wall’ for his unwavering concentration and how difficult it was to remove him from the crease; Dravid is now taking that selfless devotion to cricket into coaching.

Dravid coached a raw, young talented U19 Indian team to a World Cup win earlier this year in what can only be said was a dominating performance. However, the biggest contribution of Dravid can be termed as him discovering some young genuinely quick fast bowlers for the Team India and preparing them for the senior cricket.

The likes of Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti have already impressed the best of the best with their performances in the U19 World Cup and Mavi also played in IPL 2018 for Kolkata Knight Riders.

Rahul Dravid was interviewed by former England captain Michael Atherton in order to discover more about this pool of young talent in India for thetimes.co.uk. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview.

Dravid talks about Mavi, “Mavi is an interesting story. He was not really playing regularly for his state association at U19 level. There was an injury and he played in this game, got wickets, and it was his luck or destiny that a selector was watching. I liked what I saw and he was a key part of our winning World Cup squad a year later. Talent can be missed and we can always do better but I believe that even if we had missed him at u19 level, our pathways are such now that we would have picked him up sooner or later.

Dravid cited Shivam Mavi and Mayank Markande as examples of talent coming from faraway places

“We are broadening our talent pool as far as possible,” says Dravid. “Go back to my time, what’s changed is facilities. Cricket is a game that needs facilities, such as grass pitches, because without them it’s hard to produce players. Without good facilities you can’t develop your skills. You can have as much passion as you want but to kick on you need good infrastructure.

He said that the game in India has spread to faraway places and is not concentrated in the metros anymore.

With the money that has come into Indian cricket a lot of it has been put into infrastructure, particularly outside our traditional centres, like Mumbai and Delhi, which means that the game’s catchment area has expanded. In our last Under-19 World Cup squad, for example, we had one boy from Mumbai — the captain, Prithvi Shaw [who made a hundred against West Indies A yesterday] – one from Delhi, none from Chennai, none from Bangalore, and one from Kolkata. The game is spreading. We are reaching more people,” said Dravid about the widening of the reach of the game.

Dravid spoke about how MS Dhoni’s rise from a small town like Ranchi to one of the most popular cricketers has changed the mindset of people that talent can come from anywhere.

Dravid says, “Having a role model like Dhoni from a small town so important. They are saying ‘If he can come from Ranchi and do it, so can we wherever we may be.’ Facilities are there now to allow that incredible hunger and passion in the smaller towns to flourish. Also in the bigger metropolises, the traffic gets worse, the commuting times to nets and practice get worse and it becomes harder for many parents.”

Dravid also gave credit to the Indian Premier League teams or scouting for talent beyond the realms of metros and big cities. He took up the example of Mayank Markande, who made a big splash in IPL 2018 by dismissing MS Dhoni.

Dravid called MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli as big time role models for youngsters | AFP

Take [Mayank] Markande, for example, the young wristpinner who caused a stir when he got Dhoni out in the IPL. He wasn’t playing for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy but Mumbai Indians picked him up and he’s certainly on our radar now. The IPL might only be one format, but it throws up lots of cricketers who might be useful in other forms of the game,” Dravid said.

Michael Atherton wrote, “I’ve always thought that the best and most knowledgeable coaches should be working with the best young cricketers because it is there where the impact can be most profound.

Atherton said that Dravid’s other role is to instill values and shaping the character of the young U19 players he coach.  

Dravid explained how he had to keep his players’ focus on the semifinal against Pakistan in U19 World Cup, as the IPL auctions were going on. He said, “It was a difficult week but we didn’t ignore it. How could we? It’s human nature. Also, the levels of communication now through social media are so far removed from when I first came here and we were using coins in slots to ring home, you know you can’t hold back that tide. So we talked about it and tried to emphasise that’s it’s not the be all and end all for those picked or those ignored.

A handful of U19 players from the World Cup-winning team were picked in the auction and Dravid says, “At 19 our boys are very advanced now. I certainly can’t take credit for it, as it’s a consequence of the amount of cricket they play. These guys are playing an unbelievable number of matches and they are learning through play, rather than through coaching, which I think is a real advantage. The number of tournaments and matches they play makes them very street smart in cricketing terms for their age.”

He also pointed out that the current young pool of players has role models like Virat Kohli to keep themselves fit and ready for matches. When they see someone like Virat transforming himself from a chubby guy to a lean machine; it gives them the inspiration of doing so themselves.

Talking about the challenges faced by Kohli’s India team on this tour, Dravid sees some similarities between Kohli’s outfit now, and his then. “It’s all about the bowling. You need 20 wickets to win and if you keep on having to field for 140 overs, it will take its toll eventually. We had a good seam attack in 2007 and kept them fit, and India at the moment has another good crop of seamers, so if they stay fit they’ll have a chance.


By Jatin Sharma - 05 Jul, 2018

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