Rahul Dravid was not considered the archetypal T20 player. However, as player and mentor with Rajasthan Royals and now as mentor with Delhi Daredevils, he has shown that while his classical batting style may not have suited the slam-bang format, he has overcome that due to his cricketing acumen.
Considering that Delhi have one of the youngest squads in the IPL this season, they have also benefitted from tapping into the experience of skipper Zaheer Khan and head coach Paddy Upton.
Delhi, who take on Gujarat Lions at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday, have racked up four wins from six matches, which includes the win over the high-flying Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday.
One on one
On Monday, Dravid and Upton sat in a restaurant in the team hotel and had one-on-one interactions, resembling personal appraisals, with every player for a few minutes. According to Sam Billings, who scored 54 off 34 balls against KKR, the exchange created an environment where even young players like Sanju Samson and Shreyas Iyer could approach them without hesitation and express themselves.
Upton was popular during his tenure as India’s mental conditioning coach.
“As a young international player from overseas to have an environment to come into which is great for confidence, to go out and play your natural game, in a short competition it is invaluable,” Billings said on Monday.
The 24-year-old England player said Dravid has been helping players to become mentally tougher and read the game better, which can be the difference in this format.
“He’s been teaching us when you have got to sit in (curb your shots) for a little bit and when to attack.”
The inputs should be invaluable to someone like Iyer, who after being the highest Ranji Trophy run-scorer for Mumbai last season, has hit a rough patch, scoring 22 runs in five innings.
“He (Dravid) told me I need to open up my shoulder a bit more for seamers so that I can keep my head steady,” said Iyer when asked if Dravid was helping him with technique.
Zaheer has been expensive, but has been a mentor not just to the bowlers, but also to the batsmen. Billings spoke about how some innovative fields Zaheer set during training had helped him out-think the bowler.