In a recent interview with Harsha Bhogle on CNN IBN, Rahul Dravid said that he is not averse to the idea of coaching India in the future. His statement, made candidly and without much elaboration, has subsequently generated significant interest in the Indian media.
Everyone has their own take on whether Dravid has the ability to become a successful coach. His integrity, commitment and cricketing nous are unimpeachable but coaching is a different kettle of fish which requires a unique set of skills.
If one looks at Dravid's cricket career spanning 16 years from 1996 to 2012, a few key points about his mental outlook, people skills and personality in general stand out. The most prominent is his unswerving dedication to the craft, amicable demeanour and impeccable conduct on and off the field. He wasn't as prodigiously gifted as Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara but he squeezed out every inch of talent he had and deployed it masterfully for the team's cause. His career statistics place him in the company of all-time greats. His impregnable batting technique was a bane for bowlers across the globe.
The retired batsman's recent comments about coaching have sparked off plenty of speculation.
Dravid always put team above himself. He did everything his team wanted or required him to do. Though he was a middle-order batsman, he opened the batting in Test matches when the team fell short of competent openers. He donned the wicket-keeping gloves in ODIs so that his team could afford to go with an extra batsman or a bowler. He batted at different positions as per the team's requirement. As Navjot Singh Sidhu so fittingly said, "Rahul Dravid is a player who would walk on broken glass if his team asks him to." And most importantly, Dravid did his best to not court controversy.
But do these attributes define success as a coach? Cricket is a complex and nuanced game in which a plethora of factors come into picture as far as a team's performance goes. It's primarily a team sport and individual brilliance, adroit captaincy and resourceful coaching can only take a team so far. It is often said that a captain is only as good as his team; the same, almost, holds true about the coach.
Ian Chappell and Shane Warne have often questioned the role of a coach in international cricket. They think the coach is just a periphery. Chappell once famously said that John Buchanan had contributed zilch to Australian cricket. "How could he take even a smidgen of credit for Australia's remarkable success during his tenure. That Australian team was one of the best teams ever and even if Buchanan's daughter had coached it, the results would have been same, or probably, better," said Chappell.
We've witnessed that great cricketers don't necessarily make successful coaches; Kapil Dev, Greg Chappell and Javed Miandad are three such. On the other hand, Dav Whatmore and Bob Woolmer were not great cricketers but proved brilliant coaches. Luck and the quality of the team are undeniably overriding factors which determine the success of a coach.
In my opinion, to term a coach as a 'periphery' is undermining his significance. Coaches alone cannot win matches but their strategic finesse and man-management skills surely come in handy. Coaches have a role to play in ensuring smooth facilitation of communication among the players and step up in the time of chaos to soothe frayed nerves.
Also, a coach equipped with technical cognizance of the game helps cricketers by pointing out chinks in their armour and then works with them to iron those out. Fitness and team harmony are the other factors which a competent coach addresses. But despite these factors, the success ratio of the coach is largely dependent on the quality of individuals which comprise the team. A skillful coach adds value to the team but cannot transmute the fortune of the team overnight. As Chappell aptly said once: "A coach doesn't go out on the field to score runs and take wickets."
Coming back to assess Dravid's role as potential coach of India, there are a slew of points which work in his favour - his phlegmatic temperament, batting credentials and personal traits. Dravid invokes reverence from the youngsters and he's familiar with Indian players, their varied cultural background. He understands their misgivings, reluctance and aspirations.
Dravid's biggest strength is that he doesn't have a tendency, unlike Greg Chappell, to hog the limelight. He's far from being domineering. He went about doing his bit through his career with unruffled sang froid. Though he lived under the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar his entire career, Dravid never showed a desire to 'outshine' his batting counterpart. He was glad, and comfortable, going about his business.
We've seen in the last decade that coaches who worked efficiently from behind the scene for India without inciting hoopla, like John Wright and Gary Kirsten, have done well for themselves and the team. Greg Chappell, who wanted to call the shots and be at the helm, had a stint ridden (and marred) by a spate of controversies which created a rift in the team and hampered their progress. Discretion and patience are regnant virtues to become India's coach and Dravid wears both of them with unmistakable pride.
The naysayers might say that with all his creditable qulaities and credentials, Dravid's tenure as a captain came a cropper. But one must not forget that while being the captain, Dravid had other fishes to fry. He had to concentrate on his own form and fitness, which takes a major chunk of cricketer's time, and probably, Greg Chappell's presence didn't help.
Dravid's record as a captain is not bad. His sucess percentage is better than Sourav Ganguly in ODIs but the disastrous 2007 World Cup, from which India crashed out in the first round, became his annus horribilis. The World Cup is often the yardstick in India to gauge the quality of the captain and unfortunately Dravid couldn't pass that test with flying colours.
Dravid has the enviable pedigree and technical brilliance to complement the fairness. His presence will be a guiding force for the young crop of Indian cricketers as they can glean his work ethics and exceptional conduct. Knowing Dravid, he'll leave no stone unturned to ensure that he does his work with unmatched merit.