Author: DILEEP PREMACHANDRANSun, 2018-02-04 17:29ID: 1517759358755009100BANGALORE: Soon after this marvellous India U-19 side had romped to the World Cup title, chasing down Australia’s 216 with eight wickets and 67 balls to spare, the tributes started to pour in. “Every Indian is delighted, all credit to Rahul Dravid for committing himself to these young kids, and a legend like him deserves to lay his hands on the WC. Only Fitting. #INDvAUS,” tweeted Virender Sehwag.
The songs of praise could even be heard from across the border. Shahid Afridi’s tweet said: “Congratulations India, exceptional U-19 team, great coach and mentor in Rahul Dravid. Future stars in the making.”
It is not hard to see the common thread in both those messages. Dravid, who made nearly 25,000 international runs for India across 16 years, took charge of the U-19s more than two years ago, and after leading them to the final in 2016, he could celebrate as a vastly different side went one step further in New Zealand.
Soon after, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the rewards for the team that had won an unprecedented fourth U-19 title. There were cash awards of two million rupees ($311,000) for each of the support staff. For the players who had gone through the tournament unbeaten, there were three million rupees each. And for Dravid? Five million.
It is not hard to fathom why this approach or attitude is problematic. Cricket is not football or American football, where the coach is the most important individual in the team ecosystem. The cricket coach’s role is that of a supporting actor. Even in football, as Zinedine Zidane is discovering this season after two years of Champions League glory, a coach can do little if his marquee players stink up the place.
Indian cricket, in particular, has had an especially chequered relationship with coaches. When India won the World Cup in 2011, the headlines did not exactly say much about Gary Kirsten’s role, as coach, in the triumph. And when MS Dhoni led the team to the Champions Trophy in England two years later, there were fewer paeans to Duncan Fletcher, then coach.
Behind the scenes as the celebrations continue for India in the changing room! #U19CWC pic.twitter.com/W50gu2TMgi
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) February 3, 2018
But when India limped out of the 2007 World Cup in the opening round, with the big-name stars all having flopped miserably, it was Greg Chappell, that most unloved of coaches, who was left to carry the can. When they exited at the semi-final stage at the World Twenty20 on home soil in 2016, largely as a result of shocking individual mistakes, it was Ravi Shastri — the only man who has rivaled Chappell in the unpopularity stakes — that was the target of popular ire.
This writer cedes ground to no one in his admiration for Dravid, and his own responses illustrate just how flawed the prevailing narrative is. “They really deserved this, couldn’t be really happier and proud for this bunch of boys,” he said after the final. “Hopefully, it’s a memory they’ll cherish for a long time, and hopefully it’s not a memory that defines them and they will have a lot more bigger and better memories as they go on ahead in their careers.”
Note the emphasis on “they” and not “me.” He went on to add: “Coaching this team, I tend to get a lot of attention, but it is really about the quality of support staff that we have had and the effort they have put in has been amazing.”
What was as incredible was the fact that five Indians — Prithvi Shaw (the captain), Shubman Gill (player of the tournament), Manjot Kalra (player of the final), Anukul Roy and Kamlesh Nagarkoti — made it to the team of the tournament. Past experience tells us that not more than two or three of them will be regulars in the senior side in the years to come. For most of the squad, this past month in New Zealand will be as good as it ever gets.
Dravid is one of Indian cricket’s legends, and his reputation needs little more burnishing. At the end of the day, he did not win a World Cup. His wards did. It is important not to lose sight of that fact.
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