Very rarely is a coach more celebrated than the players and in this case, even paid more than them for winning. But for the large part, Rahul Dravid played in the shadows. That’s why we still feel we owe him something.
In 2013, Prithvi Shaw first hit the headlines when he made the highest score by an individual in the Harris shield, scoring 541 runs. His record was overtaken by Pranav Dhanawade 3 years later. The Harris Shield has given the world a glimpse into the making of future champions. It was here that the world first sat up and took notice of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli when they ran amok and built what was then a record – a gargantuan 664 run partnership.
When Kambli and Tendulkar were playing, there was no social media to instantly relay their exploits to the world. By the time it was Prithvi Shaw’s turn, his exploits were relayed to the world in an instant. But when his hour of crowning glory came to pass, the winning captain at an U-19 World Cup, a moment that only a privileged few are fortunate enough to live through, he had competition – his coach.
Social media erupted in its effusive praise for Rahul Dravid, the coach of the U-19 team who, for all of his towering achievements, never won a World Cup in his playing days. The BCCI, which usually lavishes its players with jaw dropping rewards whenever they win a trophy that matters, surprised everyone by rewarding the coach the highest sum of money – 50 lakhs, while the players were awarded 30 lakhs each. But no one demurred.
I know it’s Rahul Dravid, but I have bone of contention here. Of course, they were playing to stature – when India won the T20 World Cup in 2007, the coaching staff comprised of Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, both former players both not as celebrated and they didn’t get more money than the players. No coach in recent memory, including Gary Kirsten who coached India to a World Cup win, was rewarded more than the players for shepherding them to victory.
Maybe I expected Dravid to make a magnanimous statement, something on the lines of – ‘no I can’t accept it, it’s all because of the hard work of the boys that we won, I was just a catalyst. I request the BCCI to revoke this reward that they have awarded me and distribute in among the players.’ This is someone who refused an honorary degree because he felt he didn’t earn it. Of course, expecting him to apologize for something that isn’t even something of his doing is ludicrous and uncalled for. Unfailingly, as always, he credited the support staff for their support their work in the background. This is Rahul Dravid we’re talking about. Not some self-obsessed millennial. But to even think of it as a possibility tells me that I probably hold him to a higher standard than almost anyone.
The BCCI’s obsession with stardom is a double-edged sword. They didn’t battle an eyelid when it came to showing Greg Chappell the door after he publicly clashed with senior players and had a first round exit at the World Cup to show for it. When it came to the Kohli-Kumble showdown, they just let it simmer until they took sides with the larger- -than-life captain. Even then, voices of protest howled at a captain being given undue powers to choose a coach. As Dravid himself recently said, the players are always greater than the coach and even his time at the helm will one day come to an end.
Victory in the U-19 doesn’t guarantee future success. Mohammad Kaif captained the U-19 side in 2000 but his career never took off like Yuvraj Singh’s. Unmukt Chand captained the U-19 side to a victory in 2012 but his career hasn’t taken off like Virat Kohli’s. Whether Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Manjot Kalra and the rest will go onto use this as a stepping stone is yet to be seen. Their magnificent run in the World Cup, one in which they didn’t lose a single match and dominated it single-handedly was a sight to behold. As much as we celebrate our stars, cricket is also littered with many tales of might have beens. After the victory, coach Dravid said that he wishes the boys go on to win even bigger titles. It would seem futile to expect that all the 11 players who starred in this win will go on to make it to the senior team and make it larger than life in their careers.
But why is it that we are all okay with the coach being paid more than the players?
Because, deep down, we feel it’s impossible to repay any sort of debt that we feel we owe Rahul Dravid in full. If there ever was anyone who deserved a World Cup to his name, it was him. And we always feel we owe him some more acknowledgement, praise and gratitude.
He played three world cups in his career and came close to winning it only once. In the 1999 edition, one in which the side, apart from a victory against Pakistan, gave us little to cheer about, he was the highest scorer of the tournament with 461 runs to his name. In the 2003 edition, he donned the wicket-keeper’s gloves so that the side could accommodate an extra bastman. The side went on a dream run until the final, which ended in a nightmare against a marauding Australian side.
2007 could have been his crowning moment of glory. Instead the defining moment of his captaincy was of him standing in the dressing room, wiping off a tear as India crashed to a scarcely believable first round exit. There is a scene in the movie Dhoni where he asks for the axe to come down on a few senior players who he felt were slow on the field. It’s no secret that Dravid was one of them. The flexibility afforded to Sachin Tendulkar to extend his career, pick and choose which tournaments to play in and also decide on his retirement, wasn’t extended to anyone else.
For most of his career, Dravid played in the shadows. He was always under the shadow of the towering figure of Sachin Tendulkar and once quipped that people were happy to see his wicket fall as that meant the arrival of the master. He began his career a good six years after Sachin and yet managed to end his career as the second highest scorer in tests. His magnificent 148 in Kolkata, when he wasn’t in the best of form, was overshadowed by a historic 281 by VVS Laxman in the same match. His captaincy was shadowed by the megalomaniacal Greg Chappell and Dravid was blamed for not having the conviction to stand up to him. In the penultimate series of his career, he scored 3 brilliant centuries but it was overshadowed by a 4-0 thrashing that the side suffered.
While he did have his moments in the sun, they always seemed, well, muted.
It always felt that we never truly celebrated him in his playing days. Like we took him for granted. He was the Wall, he would always show up, play a stellar role and let others walk away with the credit.
Then he retired and we all cried for the praise we never lavished on him.
That doesn’t excuse the board exercising double standards when it comes to rewarding people. Of course, he didn’t clamor for it. It was the board, as usual, over reaching when it wasn’t required.
For once in his celebrated career, Rahul Dravid inadvertently did something that went contrary to everything he has done thus far in his career.
He cast a shadow on others.