India will be sending two separate teams for tours with the Virat Kohli-led Test squad competing in the World Test Championship final in England before a Test series against the hosts and a Shikhar Dhawan-led limited-overs team that will play Sri Lanka in July.
The quality in those two squads is testimony to the incredible bench strength of the Indian cricket team. A big part of the credit for the same goes to Rahul Dravid, former India U-19 and India A teams coach who is now the director of National Cricket Academy who help set up a system that enabled India to maximise its talent pool.
One of the key areas where Dravid made an impact was providing opportunities to all players in the India U-19 and A squads that he accompanied. Although he no longer tours with the teams, his impact can be seen in the number of players India have produced over the last 2-3 years.
“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,” Dravid told ESPNcricinfo’s The Cricket Monthly.
“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. And 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. So you tell people up front: 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,” he said.
Fitness was an area that was long identified as a sector where India need to improve to compete with its opponents.
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 who are very well aware of their fitness needs.
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 added.
Dravid will tour with the limited-overs side that will travel to Sri Lanka in July and expect some new faces to get opportunities they need to prove themselves on the international stage.
(With PTI inputs)
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