Winning a nail-biting Eliminator against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, a few blocks away from where his erstwhile teammates are now being grilled for spot-fixing, must have been a bitter-sweet feeling for Rahul Dravid.
"I will not lie. It was tough, a blow to the team," Dravid said after Wednesday's win.It was a small step towards a bigger goal. But there was no stopping Dravid from baring his emotions. He fidgeted nervously after being dismissed early on in the chase of a tricky target, slumped in his seat in the dugout when all seemed over and darted to hug Brad Hodge when the Australian won it for the Rajasthan Royals.
It has been a sea change for the Royals in one week. Last Friday, they were a unit stunned by the news of Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan being arrested for spot-fixing. Losing to the Sunrisers hours after that looked like a setback beyond repair. "Everyone was in a daze really when we were playing in Hyderabad the next day," said Dravid. And yet, the turnaround at such short notice is magnificent. Apart from skills, it also speaks about the mental strength this team possesses.
How did they do it?
Sea of emotions
It wasn't easy. And Dravid gave a vivid description of what he mentally had to go through. "I have never experienced anything like this. It's like bereavement. You feel sadness, disappointment, anger…so many emotions," said Dravid. "The sad part is that it becomes imperative how the team hides and confronts the tense atmosphere, buckling under pressure and combating harsh media criticism," says Amit Bhattacharjee, mental trainer of Abhinav Bindra, India's first individual Olympic gold medallist.
"The dressing room wears a silent look, everybody has a million things running on their mind and yet the games continue," he said.
"You also have to understand that the Royals won the fairplay award last year. Under such circumstances, it comes as a rude shock for the team to be playing members who've been accused in the spot-fixing scandal," he said.
"The onus was on Dravid. He had to come out of all this by effective goal setting, stopping negative thoughts and using positive replacements," said Bhattacharjee.
Baring the heart
Dravid did exactly that. The two days spent in Jaipur after the Royals' Hyderabad blues were spent in talking themselves out of the situation. "It was fantastic. There were some open honest conversations amongst us. It was amazing to see the way cricketers came out and expressed their feelings," said Dravid.
It helped that Paddy Upton is their coach. "Paddy and the staff have been of great help. We knew we had four days so we planned our campaign slowly. We also deliberately stayed back at Jaipur and didn't come to Delhi till the night before the match," said Dravid.
Even if mental, that ploy has paid off. And if the Royals' discrete arrival in small batches here is of any indication, they are ready to stick to it.