India’s 2-1 Test series win over Australia was notable not only due to the fact that it was their second straight series win Down Under but also because India did it while far from being full strength as far as their starting XI was concerned. Virat Kohli had left the tour after the first Test and India then went on to suffer a litany of injuries that saw them going into the final Test in Brisbane with Mohammed Siraj – who was only two Tests old – leading the pace attack. That India could then notch a maiden win at The Gabba in these circumstances owes a lot to the behind-the-scenes preparation to ensure India’s bench strength remains strong.
The man who has in the past few years been responsible for drawing up a road map for Indian players to make it to the first team is former India captain Rahul Dravid, who in his time as coach of the U-19 and India A side has nurtured many a young player.
However, the man fondly nicknamed ‘The Wall’ has said that the players deserve more praise than he does for the historic series win in 2021.
“Ha ha, unnecessary credit, the boys deserve all the praise,” was Dravid’s reply to the Indian Express on his role in the building of India’s bench strength.
Former national selector Jatin Paranjpe believes Dravid’s inputs at the A level – where Ranji Trophy performances were given a lot of weight – helped make the transition to the national side ‘seamless’.
“Before such tours, the support staff of the Indian team, A team, U-19 team, selectors, and Dravid discuss which bucket of players we want to concentrate on,” Paranjpe told the newspaper.
“The performances in the Ranji Trophy matter in the selection of the A team. Mayank Agarwal and Vihari were picked from there.
“The A teams have a great guy like Dravid working with them, from where they go to someone as good as Shastri in the national team. It’s a seamless transition.”
WV Raman, who has had a stint coaching the India women’s cricket team, said Dravid’s focus on giving youngsters exposure rather than focusing on results of A and U-19 games made all the difference.
“He took out winning and losing from these A and U-19 games. He made it clear that it’s about exposure, giving a chance to all kids over a tour. So everyone knew that they would be getting chances, and could improve their games,” Raman said.