India coach Rahul Dravid is excited by the prospect of leading his side to their first ICC World Test Championship 2023 title in London this week.
Dravid’s team qualified for the one-off decider by finishing in second place on the World Test Championship standings and get the chance to go one step further than they did in 2021 when they take on the talented Australian outfit at The Oval.
For Dravid it represents his best chance to claim an ICC trophy and the former India skipper says he can’t wait for the opportunity.
Here is a transcript of the press conference as provided by ICC:
Last time India missed out by a whisker. India is in the final again. How is the excitement in the team for the final?
Yeah, obviously, really looking forward to it. It’s been two years of hard work to get here, quite a few ups and downs along the way. It’s something that you start the cycle aspiring to be in the top two teams so that you can get an opportunity to play this game. So yes, I mean, looking forward to it and hoping for a good game of cricket.
Apart from India, England and Australia, other countries are not playing a lot of Test cricket in the next cycle. Where do you see the World Test Championship going forward?
Yeah, so I mean, I really hope that, because of things like the World Test Championship when you have some context to a lot of these, to a lot of the bilateral games, not that - honestly, not that they don’t have context in itself. I mean, anytime you play for your country, play against someone else, there’s always context, there’s always - you always want to win those series. But you know, really hope that it will encourage a lot more teams to be able to potentially play a lot more Test cricket or to be able to find a way to play a lot more Test cricket.
I know it is complicated and that it’s hard to go into depth in a press conference and there are a variety of reasons why that is probably not happening, both in terms of time, finances, there are many things that go into it. But certainly, we’d like to see a lot more Test cricket - personally at least, I’d like to see a lot more test cricket being played. We do play a lot of it. Like you said, England and Australia, probably the other two countries that play a lot of it.
But the point system actually allows everyone an opportunity to be able to play these. It’s not usually skewed in terms of favour of any of the countries because even if you play less, you still have an opportunity to make it to a final like New Zealand showed last year and to win the championship. In fact, it probably playing less gives you an opportunity to protect your resources a lot better than some of the bigger teams have.
When you’re only playing a two-Test match series, you know you can get your bowling attack ready for those two Test matches. Whereas, if you’re playing five-Test match series, like some of us do, it really challenges your depth and resources a lot more. So, it cuts both ways. But certainly, it is a fantastic form of the game and I would really love that a lot more of it is played and with context.
Traditionally if we see The Oval, it has always been a comfort zone for subcontinental teams. How do you assess these conditions from the point of view of the Indian bowling attack?
Yeah, so like you rightly said, I mean, at least from the time I have probably been playing or been following cricket, I’m not sure if there’s actually been a Test match played in June. I’m not sure before that, not sure historically if there’s actually ever been cricket played in June. But yeah, a lot of the data and a lot of the stats that we looked at over the last bit is obviously, like you said, skewed towards the end of the summer in the UK.
Wickets are slightly different, slightly more tired - having played here in the past. So yeah, it might be different conditions, but we just have to react to that. I mean, it’s not something that - we just have to react when what we see on in terms of the conditions and how it plays out in the middle. And hopefully we have the resources and the ability to deal with whatever comes in front of us.
Cheteshwar Pujara is probably the most acclimatised player in the team. Have you all got inputs about the conditions from Pujara and how difficult do you see being a one format player is?
Yeah, I mean, certainly we’ve had conversations with Pujee. He’s also got a good handle on in terms of the kind of tactics and the strategy that’s used by a lot of the county bowlers that he’s played with. So we’ve had some conversations and discussions obviously with him in and around that and we’ll see how we can maybe incorporate some of that. Doesn’t drastically change some of the basics of the game. They always remain the same. You still got to hit the top of our stump irrespective of whatever you - you might come up with a lot of gimmicks, but sometimes the simple things always stay simple. For us the key is try and execute those simple things really well over the course of five days. If we do that, then I think we’ll have a good test match.
In terms of being a one format player, it’s not easy. You know, having experienced that probably towards the last end of my career as well. It’s not easy because sometimes the matches that you play are few and far between. But the good thing with Pujee is that he continues to find a way to play cricket. I think one of the things that’s really stood out for me is he finds a way to play Ranji Trophy cricket whenever he can. Even during our season, he’s taken the trouble, I mean, he’s taken the challenge of coming and playing county cricket here. He’s taken on a leadership role at Sussex as well. So he recognizes that fact that he’s got to try and keep playing cricket because otherwise the gaps might be quite a lot in between. And I think he’s probably someone who’s played a lot of cricket irrespective of not having played the IPL.
When India won the ‘83 World Cup, it sort of transformed the status of ODI cricket. When India won the T20 World Cup in South Africa, it transformed the status of T20 cricket. What do you think an India win would do for test cricket both in India and the rest of the world in this match in terms of enhancing the status of the five day game?
I don’t think you can compare the two. That was a long time ago and it’s the new formats of the game. Test cricket has been around a really long time. And I’m not sure one match is going to transform things or change things drastically irrespective of either way, whichever way it goes. Test cricket faces unique challenges, and that’s not going to necessarily. It’s a fantastic game which faces some challenges, which is not necessarily going to change the result of one game.
When it comes to the World Test Championship final, how much of that is a focus during the two-year cycle when you’re going and playing those big marquee series? Is it something that you look at as a goal and talk about sort of all the way through?
It’s just my own experience over the last couple of years that I’ve been part of this cycle. It’s probably somewhere at the back of your mind when you start the cycle, it starts becoming front and center when you get to the pointy end, you know. So when you get to the last few games of a series and then you can see the conversations around - okay, what do we need to be able to qualify? Where are the other teams? So probably in the first couple of series, you know you need to win those, you need to get there.
But I think it still seems like it’s a little bit far away and you still need to react to what’s in front of you and not so much worry about what’s happening elsewhere. But I think when it gets to the back end, the last couple of series, you certainly start looking around and looking at the point system and start seeing what you need to do to definitely qualify or at least give yourself a chance to qualify.
I just wanted to ask a little bit about Ajinkya Rahane’s return to the squad. One, just your thoughts on what he brings to the test line-up again and two, also as a player I guess it’s a little bit of a tricky situation for him to come back in.
Yeah, so I think firstly it’s good to have him. We’ve had a few injuries which have probably led to him having the opportunity to come back into the squad. Great for us to have someone of his quality back. He brings obviously a lot of that experience, he brings proven performance in overseas conditions. Even in England he’s played some terrific innings for us. He brings terrific catching in the slips as well to the group. He just brings his personality to the group as well which is really important. He’s led the team to considerable success. So yeah, it’s just great to have someone like him around here.
And again, I wouldn’t want him to approach this as just a one-off. Sometimes you get dropped from teams and you make a comeback and you come back and you can play for as long as you’re playing well and as long as you’re performing. It’s not written in stone or rule that you only get one match. He puts in a good performance, really shows what he’s got. Who knows, even when people come back from injury, you never know what can happen. So again, from my point of view, it’s not really only about this match. Yes, this match is important but then in the larger context of things there’s a lot of cricket to be played further down the road as well.
In 2019 here, Stuart Broad was all over David Warner around the wicket. Are you looking to tap into that at all and the tactics that they used to get over him in 2019?
I mean, I’m not sure that’s the only, I think there are many tactics that he used against players, he’s a class player, it’s not as simple as just turning up and bowling around the wicket and getting him out. He wouldn’t have played 100 Test matches if it was that simple. He’s a very good player. He’s going to still be able to execute from over and around the wicket. Of course, just as they do, we will also have looked at videos and seen what other teams have done or the lines they’ve bowled to him, what sort of lengths. Everyone does that sort of thing. The batsmen know exactly what you’re looking at. So honestly, there’s not very much that’s there to hide anymore because of data and video analysis.
Everyone knows what you’re looking at. Everyone has honestly very similar information about each other. It’s just how you deal with that, how you counter that. And every batsman will have areas that they’re strong at and areas that they, I wouldn’t say a weakness, but areas that are not probably their strengths. And David is someone who’s been very, very successful in managing that. And that’s the reason why he’s played 100 test matches. And we know that’s a very important wicket to get early on.
Is there any extra tension since India couldn’t win any ICC tournament since 2013. Is there any discussion about that or do you feel any extra pressure also?
No, not at all. I mean we don’t feel any pressure in terms of trying to win an ICC trophy. Of course, it would be nice to do it. It would be certainly nice to be able to win an ICC tournament. But also in the context of things, you look at this and you see this is the culmination of two years of work. It’s a culmination of a lot of success that gets you here. So there’s a lot of positives to take from that to see where you stand on the table.
Winning series in Australia, drawing series here, being very competitive everywhere that this team has played in the world over the last five or six years. I think those are things that will never change just because you have or you don’t have an ICC trophy. That’s really the bigger picture. But of course it’s nice to be able to lift any game of cricket you want to win it. This happens to be like a World Test Championship final and it would be nice to get on the right side of the result.
When it comes to playing in England, it’s about swing. The swing of the wicket gives the batsman a lot of trouble. The swing behind that also gives the wicket keepers and slip a lot of trouble. You have been both of them. So what work have you done on both of these in the preparation of this team?
I would like to say that our team, this time all the boys have played a lot here. Our batting line up has a lot of experience. People have a lot of idea about the conditions here. They have played in different conditions here. So we definitely have a discussion. We do it in the practice. We analyze what lengths can be put in these conditions. Maybe the lines can be different keeping India in the center of attention. So, there is a practice on that.
Our bowlers also want to put those lengths or lines in the nets. So, there is a practice on that. But there is no need to do anything special for it because our players have all played here. They know how to make runs. The thing is that in the next 5 days when we get the opportunity, it won’t happen that everyone will be successful. If the 4-5 boys who will make the run or get set, if they can play long runs or big runs, then it will be very beneficial for the team.
What about the wicket keeper and slip catching?
Yes, it is a factor for keeping. So, our fielding coach practices on that. We use different types of balls in practice. Some are swerve and some are swing. As you might have seen earlier. So, we do have a specific practice and discussions on that. And we do have technical or tactical changes that we discuss with the players. Because I believe that the player has a method, a style of play. We don’t change that much. We try to refine that.
The build-up regarding the finals, most of the experts said that Australia has a slight advantage. And there is very little chance for India to play in the World Cup finals. There is no hype for India. What is the advantage that it is not being called a favorite and there is no hype?
Whatever happens, will happen in 5 days. Whatever happened earlier or later, it doesn’t matter - who is the favorite and who is not the favorite. When two good teams play, when good players are playing in both the teams, the team that performs well over 5 days will win. I have full hope that if we play good cricket, and we have the ability and the players to take 20 wickets and make runs, then I have full hope that we can win. So, not being hyped is a good thing.
Content courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.