NEW DELHI, India: In 2003, Rahul Dravid and his teammates walked into the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg to clash with mighty Australia in the Cricket World Cup final.
India’s hopes were high after nearly two decades of reaching the final, but it culminated in tears as the Australians dominated the match, leaving the Indians bereft.
In 2007, Dravid led the team for another shot at the coveted trophy, yet the ODI tournament ended in sorrow as India failed to advance past the knock-out stage.
Almost two decades later, the elegant batsman reemerges, this time as the head coach of the Indian team gearing up to face Australia in the World Cup finals in Ahmedabad. Dravid’s stature as a coaching maestro seems firmly established, regardless of whether he hoists the prestigious trophy.
How did he transition from a legendary batter to a coach whose influence shapes the team’s dominance from the sidelines? The answer resides in his illustrious career.
Known for his relentless dedication during his playing days, Dravid earned monikers like “The Wall” and “Mr. Dependable” for his rare giveaways of his wicket.
His batting prowess shone in the unforgettable 376-run partnership with VVS Laxman in 2001, turning the tide in a Test match against Australia that seemed destined for defeat.
His monumental 12-hour innings against Pakistan in 2004 exemplified unwavering resilience in a Test match.
During India’s troubled tour of England in 2011, Dravid emerged as a towering figure, amassing 602 runs despite India’s 4-0 drubbing.
His coaching reflects the same never-say-die spirit. However, this phase wasn’t without its challenges. Similar to his playing days, Dravid toiled hard as a coach, steadfastly following his famed process while weathering criticisms.
His coaching journey began at the grassroots, nurturing talents for the senior team. Heading India’s under-19 and A teams, he propelled the under-19 squad to the 2016 World Cup finals, a far cry from the glamour of the national side.
After honing junior talents for over three years, he assumed the directorship of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), a hub for player fitness and rehabilitation.
Taking charge in 2021 amid a tumultuous period for Indian cricket, Dravid’s familiar mantra persisted—focus on the process despite the noise. With many players mentored by him at the junior level, his aim centered on the 2023 World Cup in India.
Navigating through team transitions and challenges, Dravid backed his players, supporting their inclusion even in the face of criticism. His investment in bowlers like Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah bore fruit.
His partnership with captain Rohit Sharma proved pivotal, fine-tuning the team to peak at the right moment. India’s triumphs in the Asia Cup, coupled with an unbeaten streak in the World Cup, set the stage.
Now, on the cusp of the final hurdle, Dravid remains characteristically composed, driven by the desire to grasp the elusive trophy, yet displaying no outward eagerness.
That’s vintage Rahul Dravid—quietly getting on with the job, embodying the essence of a true legend.