Adelaide (The Telegraph):
Former India captain Rahul Dravid, who is the second-highest run-getter in Test cricket, recently spoke to The Telegraph for an hour. Dravid, who first played for India in April 1996, turned 39 earlier this month.
Q You have given a lot to the game over the last 15-16 years. What has it taken out of you?
A More than what I’ve given to the game, the game has given to me... I must admit that I was a shy boy, growing up in Bangalore... I see what the game has done for me, the fact that it helped me grow so much as a person, helped me fulfil so many of my dreams, helped me see places and meet people that I never dreamt I would see and meet. So, the game has given me a hell of a lot... The enjoyment, the job satisfaction... I will always be grateful.
On a scale of 10, how do you rate yourself?
I never rate myself. I never get into that business. I don’t worry about it, I try to do the best that I can, with the abilities that I have got... That’s probably been my whole goal and that’s the way I’ve been brought up... You just try and do your best and don’t judge yourself or compare yourself to other people. A part of what I have been given, I have no control over... No one has any control... There are certain gifts that are given... My goal has been to try and do the best that I can with the gifts that I have been given and to make the most of them... Largely, I think I have achieved what I set out to do.
Are you your own best critic?
I have grown and changed... The journey has been long. Early on in my career, I was probably very harsh on myself, extremely tough on myself. But, over the years, I’ve begun to relax and and learnt to accept things... It’s natural that you try to be the best... I have always kept in mind that, if you want to be the best, you can never afford to be complacent.
You’ve talked about being more relaxed nowadays. Is that, then, the biggest change in you as a person over the last 15-16 years?
I would say so... I’m quite a bit of an introvert, I wouldn’t say I’m the most talkative person you will find... But I’m a lot more confident now than when I started off. I guess it is hard to be relaxed when you are young and trying to achieve a lot of things.
How much has your game changed? Have you made a conscious effort to change something?
Over the years, there have been various questions... When you are playing international cricket, at such a high standard, everyone around you is constantly improving... They are getting better all the time and they are asking various questions of you at different stages of your career. So, you have got to adapt, got to learn how to change, how to improve your game... Otherwise, people will find you out. There’s so much video technology, so much analysis nowadays... If you play in the same way, you will be dead. So, you
have got to realise what people are trying to do with you, how they are trying to get you out, where are they trying to block you... Then, you have to adapt and keep improving.
So, there are little-little things along the way. It’s a process.
Do you find a change in the challenges which confront you now, compared to what you faced earlier?
The idea is still the same, irrespective of what phase you are in. The idea still is to score runs, to do well and that never changes. But, yes, the pressures are different... When you are starting your career, trying to establish yourself, everything is a bit of the unknown to you... You are then taking your first few steps in international cricket... That brings with it its own kind of pressure, a different kind of pressure. At this stage of my career, there is the pressure of expectations... People expect certain standards from you and you have to live up to those expectations. So, at different stages, there are different pressures. Everyone goes through it, it hasn’t been just me.
What’s the best way to approach challenges? Face them head on?
I think so. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do the best that you can and then there’s not much more that you can ask of yourself... You’ve got to have the attitude that you want to keep improving, keep getting better... Never to relax, never get complacent... Because, as I’ve said, everyone around you is improving. You’ve got to do the same if you want to have a long career.
Have there been distinct phases in your career?
What should young batsmen, coming into the game, do?
They should first recognise what their strengths and weaknesses are... They should look around international cricket and assess the skill set they need, to be successful in all three formats of the game... You can either deduce it yourself, or talk to your coaches, or talk to the senior players who have done it all. Then, make it your mission, or your lifetime’s burning ambition, to improve your skill. It’s all about improving your skill sets... I believe that the skill sets come in various forms... The technical and physical
skill set, then your mental skill set... You need to work on those things, it’s a journey, it’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no button that you switch on and switch off... And, each one of us is different, so each will react to things differently. So, it’s also about understanding yourself and recognising that you just need to work hard at the skill sets and get better and better. The ones who get better executing the skills under pressure, are the ones who make it.
Fine. What should young batsmen not do?
I don’t know... I just think that the young batsmen should avoid getting into the trap and believing that they can choose between any one of the three formats. I believe you can fit into all three if you (a) want to and (b) if you have that absolute desire and determination to do so.
Your take on today’s generation of batsmen in India...
In terms of shot-making abilities, or in terms of pure ball-striking abilities, this generation is much more talented than at least when I was a 20 or a 21-year old. Their ability to hit the ball is unbelievable... There’s a huge amount of confidence... It’s because they are growing up in an environment which encourages them to play a lot of shots... From the pure talent point of view, I think they’ve got it all. But, in the end, the guys who are going to succeed in all three formats are the ones who will work on all their skill sets, without neglecting any one. The challenge for some of these young guys is to recognise that there are different formats and that they need different skill sets for each one of them... For example, you will play more short-pitched bowling in Test cricket than in the other formats. So, that’s one area of the game you need to work on.
Did the India captaincy drain you?
It was challenging... There were areas of it that I really enjoyed and took to. But, like anyone who has captained India over a period of time would tell you, there are parts of captaincy which, after a while, get tough... It gets hard. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed most of it.
But did you give it up in haste, in just two years (after the 2007 tour of England)?
I gave it up because I didn’t feel I was enjoying it as much as I thought I should in order to give my best. I thought I should be enjoying and doing it with a much better frame of mind... At that stage, I wasn’t enjoying it that much. I felt that it was the right time to go.
Do captains have a shelf life?
It depends... It’s hard to say... Even the guys who have done it for a very long time, and I’ve spoken to quite a few of them, will tell you that it does get harder and harder as time goes by.
You had been the vice-captain for a number of years, before you got the captaincy in October 2005... Did you, at anytime, get a little impatient?
I enjoyed being the vice-captain in the sense that I enjoyed the success that we had during that time... I felt I had played a big role... As a vice-captain you always know that if the captain gets injured, you will have to do the job... And, I did take over at times when Sourav (Ganguly) was either injured or he couldn’t play. So, I wouldn’t say that I had been impatient.
Is there an ideal captain?
To be honest, I believe that the team makes a captain... You should never discount that fact. It’s your team and the seniors around you who are the ones that make the team. The captain is the leader, but it’s that core (senior) leadership group that’s important.
In terms of leadership, who influenced you the most?
All the people that I played under... You observe people and see what they do... I’ve played under so many captains... Not just international cricket, look at the Ranji Trophy, the club level, the company level. There have been so many guys to learn from. I can’t talk about one person.
What’s special about Mahendra Singh Dhoni?
He has got the ability to remain quite equanimous to what is happening around him... That’s fantastic and is a terrific quality to have, especially in a place like India, where emotions go up and down a lot. He is able to keep that balance... Apart from that, tactically, he has been very good and leads a lot by example. He might not say a lot, but is someone who trains as hard as anyone. He is always catching balls, always practising, even bowling at nets... I don’t think he shirks from a contest, shirks from a battle.
That’s something which someone like me rates very highly... He has done a great job for us.
You have played against some great captains... Steve Waugh, Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan, Stephen Fleming... Being on the other side of the fence, did you pick up anything in particular?
Like I’ve said, you pick up stuff from all kinds of guys... I can’t really pinpoint that I picked up something from one particular captain... You observe their tactics, for tactics are important.
What were your expectations when Gary Kirsten started off as the India coach, in March 2008?
Gary was terrific for the team... One of the great things about him was that he led by example and was an incredibly hard worker... Also, the way he conducted himself around the team was incredible. Once you do that, it’s easier to build respect... A lot of us had played with Gary, so for some of us senior guys, he was more like a friend than a coach...
That seemed to work for the team. At that stage, that’s probably what the team needed. Apart from his work ethic, his ability to work with people was also good... He built up a bond, a good relationship with Dhoni, which turned out to be very critical.
Weren’t you surprised that Kirsten took up a national job so soon? He’d been wanting a complete break, to spend time with his family...
Not really... Coaching your country is a huge honour and a privilege... I don’t think anyone at any stage in his career will knock that back. So, while he might have liked a break, an opportunity like this might not have come if he had taken the time off.
Gary had been 40 when he got the India job... Duncan Fletcher is in his 60s... Is Fletcher having to adjust a lot more?
Duncan is a very experienced coach and he has been around the international scene for a long time... As a player, as a coach... So, he has been there and done that... He brings that whole experience with him and has incredible knowledge... He is very good technically. I don’t know how it is with the bowlers in our team, but as a batsman, I have found some of his ideas and suggestions really good.
At the highest level, just how much can a coach do?
A coach can’t do too much technically... Coaching is also about managing the environment around the team, it is also about talking tactics and strategies... There are small things that a coach can add... But it is also about sharing experiences, sharing his thoughts... Being like a sounding board... With so much of international cricket nowadays, it’s hard not to have a coach to manage things.
Your teammates have told me that more than a good coach, we actually need a good man-manager. Do you agree?
Definitely... At the international level, man-management is as important as coaching.
To talk of ODIs, could you not have achieved more in the 50-over game?
Yes... I could have achieved more in Test cricket too... You can always try and do better, try and achieve more... The moment you think you’ve done your best, or have achieved it all, then that’s the time to quit... If someone had, at the start of my ODI career (after the 1996 World Cup), said I would score over 10,000 runs and play more than 300 matches, then nobody would have believed that person... So, in that sense, I have over-achieved! But, yes, if you compare my ODI record with the Test record, then the Test record is better. But in ODIs, I batted in different positions and even kept wickets for a while... Having said that, batting in different positions taught me a lot about adaptability and about reacting to situations... I’m glad that I could play both (principal) formats successfully, for at one stage in my career, it did look that I would only be a Test player.
The final one... You actually had a fantastic T20 debut, in Manchester, at the age of 38...
(Smiles) Strange things can happen... Right now, I'm enjoying Test cricket and the time I get off is great for me, as it gives me time to work on my fitness and to be with my family.