In the 2003 Cricket World Cup final, Rahul Dravid and his teammates entered the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg to face formidable Australia.
India had made it to the final for the first time in almost 20 years, so expectations were high. However, the Indians were thoroughly outplayed by the Australians, and the match ended in tears for them.
When Dravid was guiding the squad in 2007, he was given another chance to win the cherished trophy.
The Indian team’s ODI campaign ended in disappointment once more as they were unable to advance to the knockout stages.
The fashionable batter is back in the game as the head coach of the Indian squad, which will play Australia in the World Cup final on Sunday in Ahmedabad, some two decades after his retirement.
India’s dream team is undefeated in the World Cup.
Whether he is able to hold the coveted trophy or not, Dravid is probably guaranteed a spot among the all-time greats in coaching.
Yet how did he go from being a great hitter to an unassuming coach whose influence is seen through his team’s winning performances?
It is his remarkable career that holds the answer.
Dravid was renowned for working extremely hard during his illustrious playing career. He was known by the nicknames “The Wall” and “Mr Dependable” because he seldom gave up his wicket easily.
When he and VVS Laxman sewed an incredible 376 runs together in 2001 to save an almost certain defeat in a Test match against Australia, his skill as a batter was on full display.
His 12-hour innings against Pakistan in a 2004 Test match are still remembered as one of the best examples of sporting obstinacy.
Dravid held his own among his contemporaries in 2011 during India’s catastrophic tour of England. Despite the hosts humiliating India 4-0, he managed to hit 602 runs.
His coaching method also reflects his defining mentality of persevering until the task is completed.
But if you look more closely, you’ll find that he hasn’t had an easy time with this stint. Similar to his playing career, Dravid has put in a lot of work as a coach, frequently putting aside criticism and adhering to his renowned methodology.
There has been some context for his achievement. He began at the very beginning, providing India’s senior team with players who are prepared to compete internationally.
In 2016, he took on the role of head coach of India’s under-19 and A (junior national side) sides, a position far removed from the spotlight of the national squad.
However, he flourished in it, leading his squad to the under-19 World Cup championship game in 2016. He spent more than three years developing talent at the youth level before being named director of the National Cricket Academy (NCA).
Players can remain at the NCA, a prestigious facility, to increase their level of fitness or heal from injuries.
Indian cricket was going through a turbulent time when he was there. The nation was running out of time to win an International Cricket Council (ICC) trophy. It hadn’t won an ICC competition since 2013.
India was defeated heartbreakingly by New Zealand in the World Cup semifinals of 2019.
In 2021, Dravid was handed leadership of the team in light of this.
He was a junior team coach and mentor to many of the players on the senior squad. Thus, everything appeared to be simple and set for David, but it wasn’t. The team saw frequent changes, and when Virat Kohli resigned as captain in 2022, the issues became more apparent.
Using his tried-and-true approach, Dravid calmed the crowd, encouraged his squad to trust in the process, and advised them not to let setbacks get to them too much.
His focus was on the 2023 World Cup, which would take place in India. Even if it meant suffering losses, he had to try out various combinations.
He supported his athletes. KL Rahul defended the batter in response to those who questioned the team’s inclusion.
Rahul is the team’s mainstay these days thanks to his wicket keeping prowess as well as his batting abilities.
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That is just true, Dravid, the player who, in the 2003 edition, gave up his wicket voluntarily so his team might use a spinner or an extra batsman.
Although Rahul was not a top-tier wicketkeeper, he is performing on par with other players in the competition. Shreyas Iyer’s position in the team was also questioned by many, although he is currently among the best number four hitters to have played for India.
In addition, Dravid made significant investments in his bowlers, particularly in the speed group that included Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah.
Prior to entering the major competition, he made sure he had the ideal combination and that the team peaked at the appropriate moment.
Along with that, he developed a reliable relationship with captain Rohit Sharma, whose tactical judgement and selfless batting have been a revelation in this tournament.
The timing of Dravid’s adjustments to the side could not have been more ideal. Before entering the World Cup, India won the Asia Cup, handily defeating Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Additionally, they haven’t lost in the competition thus far. There’s now only one more obstacle in the way of this game legend realizing an ambition that eluded him so severely as a player.
Although he would be quite eager to hold the trophy, one can be sure that he won’t display any shows of excitement before the game, or even after it’s finished.
That is characteristically quiet Rahul Dravid, who prefers to work quietly.