Alongside a ‘God’, a prince and a swashbuckler, in the previous generation of Indian cricket, existed an aristocrat from Bengaluru. His talent was apparent, but not shining. He had aggression, but it burned within him. He didn’t hit a lot of sixes, but was always counted on to bat for six hours. Rahul Dravid understood his limitations, maximised his potential and sweated his way to success – and he did it being a mild-mannered, modest gentleman. Dravid proved that nice guys don’t necessarily finish last. For this, he evokes respect and serves as a role-model, especially in young and aspiring athletes. He was, hence, the perfect person to address the Go Sports Athletes’ Conclave in Bengaluru on Friday.

Here’s what he had to say:

‘Coaching gives me more fulfillment’

After I was done playing, I did a few things – commentary, doing corporate speeches. But the thing I enjoyed the most was coaching. Commentary was nice and great, but you just don’t get a fulfillment at the end of the day. Being involved with young people, their lives gave me the most satisfaction. So, purely for selfish reasons I am doing something that gives me satisfaction. I enjoy doing it. Also, I figured out that I can do it at this stage, because it will get tougher as you grow older – coaching has also become physically demanding.

‘I was more of a failure than success’

I am qualified to talk about failure. I played 604 matches for India, including a T20I game, which I am so proud about (laughs). I didn’t cross fifty 410 out of those 604 times. If you just do the math, I was more a failure than I was a success.

‘Failing well is very important’

The great players I have played with and the people that I have had honour to play against know how to fail well. We have often heard “failure is the stepping stone to success”. But it’s just that you can fail badly and can also fail well. Failing well is very, very important.

When we fail, we often tend to brush things under the carpet. We blame someone, we always tend to find an excuse. When you do things like that, you lose an opportunity to fail well. When you fail, you have an opportunity to understand yourself. Failure teaches you to deal with tough situations. The more you put yourself on the line, you will learn to get better.

‘2001 Calcutta Test taught me to focus on the simplest thing’

In the first three days of the (2001) Calcutta Test match, we were sort of completely beaten. My form was not good. In fact, I was demoted to No. 6 in the batting order. I want to take my mind to the start of the fourth day. It was quite funny because, I had reached the depths, I felt so low. I was not in a position to think about the past or about the future. I said to myself: ‘I am struggling so much. So there is no point about worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. I was not willing to think whether I was going to be dropped or we were going to lose’. I said: ‘I am going to just focus on the simplest thing’. And in cricket, it just focusing on one ball at a time. For me, it was a really good lesson that day.

‘I wish I had developed more hobbies’

It’s important to have hobbies because international cricket is full of stress and pressures. It’s like living in a fishbowl. There, every performance matters, every game matters. Your successes and failures are so public. For me, I liked reading. I started reading quite late, in college. But reading took my mind away from cricket. When I read, I wasn’t worrying about how to face Muttiah Muralitharan. So, looking back, I wish I had developed more hobbies, like playing an instrument and things like that.

‘Balance in life helped my longevity’

I was lucky I had friends outside cricket. There were teammates from Karnataka but we never bumped into each other off the field. There’s no doubt that I was able to play 16 years of international cricket is because I had a balance to my life. It helped my longevity. The players of this generation should also develop their personality, which will in turn help their game.

‘Cricket changed my personality’

Being an international cricketer has changed me completely. I was an introverted person. I ran away from my first debate competition. International cricket has put me in a position that I wasn’t comfortable with. But now I am happy for that because I had the opportunity to visit some great places, meet interesting people.

‘I maximised my potential’

I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best with his abilities. A lot of people who’d seen me as a youngsters have told me ‘Rahul, I never thought you’d be able to score 13,000 Test runs or 10,000 ODI runs.’ I wasn’t a standout player. Like, if you saw a Tendulkar, you’d know he’d become a great player. Not with me. But I actually liked it. It was a backhanded compliment. I was someone who maximised my potential.

‘A good coach will like someone who’s willing to learn’

I don’t think a good coach should expect the people who he’s working with to listen to everything he says. A good coach will like someone who’s willing to learn. He might be the quietest in the team, he might not take everything you say, but will be open to learning. That’s what coaches look for.

‘Youngsters today are really passionate’

At least the cricketers I work with, their desire to learn is great. They want to get better, they are ready to put in the effort on the field. The youngsters of today are passionate. It’s fulfilling for me to work with people like that. But they also should learn to maximise their potential.