The fact that Indian cricket today has the most intimidating bench-strength in the world is not something that was developed overnight. It took years of struggle to develop players that today can fill in successfully for a big player.
One name behind the success of such young players is Rahul Dravid. While MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli were leading the senior men’s team to unprecedented heights in international cricket, the great Rahul Dravid was busy doing what he does best – prepare the stars of tomorrow.
Dravid, who is now the NCA president, was at the helm of the India A and India Under-19 teams, where he helped mould the careers of many aspiring cricketers, with India reaping the fruits now. India won the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand in 2018, while the A squad went on several successful overseas tours under Dravid’s leadership.
Meanwhile, former India skipper Rahul Dravid has given special mention to India’s tremendous bench strength by saying that if a player is on an India A tour with him, then it is the batting great’s duty to ensure that the player at least gets to play a game.
“I tell them upfront, if you come on an A tour with me, you will not leave here without playing a game. I’ve had that personal experience myself as a kid: going on an A tour and not getting an opportunity to play is terrible. You’ve done well, you scored 700-800 runs, you go, and you don’t get a chance to show what you’re good at.
Then you’re back to square one from the selectors’ point of view because the next season you have to score those 800 runs again. It is not easy to do that, so there is no guarantee you’ll get a chance again,” said Rahul Dravid while speaking to ESPNCricinfo on The Cricket Monthly.
“So. you tell people upfront: this is the best 15 and we are playing them. This is not about the supposed best XI. At U-19, we make five-six changes between games if we can”, Furthermore, Rahul Dravid also added that there is no dearth of facilities for today’s budding cricketers which was not the case during his playing days.
Indian cricketers are now among the fittest in the world but there was a time when they did not have the required knowledge on fitness and envied the more athletic Australians and South Africans, Dravid said.
Now in charge of the National Cricket Academy, Dravid has played a key role in producing the next generation of cricketers and a reserve pool which is the envy of India’s opponents. In his playing days, Dravid said the awareness just wasn’t there.
“Playing on the beach and playing on the road doesn’t make you a cricketer. It makes you someone who loves the game. That’s what we had. We had a lot of people who loved the game,” Dravid said.
“Unless you give that guy a proper matting wicket or a turf wicket, unless you give him some half-decent coaching, some half-decent fitness assistance… where was all this in the 1990s and the 2000s? There was no access to it. We were starved of knowledge.
“Even in terms of fitness, we used to look at the Australians and South Africans and we used to look at their fitness trainers, and what did we get? ‘Don’t do too much gym, your body will become stiff. Bowl, bowl and bowl. Run rounds and laps’,” he recalled.