Rahul Dravid finally gets his dues for being Indian cricket's deserving servant amid trials and tribulation | Crickit
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Rahul Dravid finally gets his dues for being Indian cricket's deserving servant amid trials and tribulation

Jun 30, 2024 12:50 PM IST

Rahul Dravid ended his tenure as India head coach with the T20 World Cup 2024 title.

It has taken Rahul Dravid almost three decades to lift a World Cup trophy with the senior team. One can’t help but wonder at the man’s determination! Dravid played in three 50-overs World Cups from 1999-2007 and the best result he could achieve with India was a runner-up finish in the 2003 World Cup.

India's head coach Rahul Dravid after Team India wins the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2024 final.(ICC - X )
India's head coach Rahul Dravid after Team India wins the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2024 final.(ICC - X )

His last World Cup in 2007 -- coincidentally also in the West Indies but that time it was entirely in the Caribbean -- was a total disaster as the team couldn’t progress from the group stages. And four years later when he announced his retirement from the format, he went down as one of those players – Sourav Ganguly being another -- who despite a great record, almost 11,000 runs in ODIs, couldn’t win the prestigious trophy.

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But what he couldn’t do as a player, he has done as a coach. On Saturday night at Bridgetown when India won their second ever World T20, Dravid at last had done it! Yes, he had won the Under-19 World Cup with the Indian colts in 2018 but many would agree that couldn’t be the apex as far as winning a trophy was concerned.

But to get there wasn’t an easy affair. It was a road full of trials and tribulations. Dravid took over as India head coach almost two and a half years ago after a disastrous showing (Super-12 exit) by the Indian team under Virat Kohli in the 2021 World T20. The expectations were high from the former India batsman but he too struggled to deliver in World Cups in both formats.

India lost to England in the 2022 World T20 semifinal in Australia. A World Test Championship final loss came next year and this time it was Australia who broke Indian fans’ hearts. No exaggeration, these two losses were crushing in nature.

Criticism started piling up for the Indian cricket team and Dravid wasn’t spared either. People called him gutless, not able to instill the killer instinct into the team. Some went on to suggest that a man who couldn’t win a World Cup trophy – mind you, he was part of the Champions Trophy that was shared between India and Sri Lanka in 2002 -- during his playing days was not going to do it as a coach either. How unfair!

Indian fans idolize their stars but can also be very harsh. Good thing was, Dravid always knew what they were like -- thanks to his playing days -- so instead of letting it affect him, he put his head down in pursuit of the prestigious trophy. But try as he might, India continued to choke in the World Cups.

Last year during the 50-overs World Cup, India went on a 10-match winning streak and it appeared at last the long wait was going to end but at Ahmedabad in front of well over 100,000 spectators Australia stunned the hosts in the final. The opportunity was there, and the critics didn’t fail to twist the knife into him.

Thanks to this background, ahead of the 2024 World T20, there weren’t many who were hopeful. There was discontent over squad selection. Then a day before India’s opener against Ireland, when Dravid gave credence to rumours that the tournament was going to be his last as India head coach, there were many who secretly rejoiced.

That’s why it was so important to win the event or else his legacy would have been badly tarnished. Dravid delivered with the unpopular squad. Despite a few obvious loopholes like Kohli opening the innings and Shivam Dube and Ravindra Jadeja not inspiring much confidence, Dravid stuck with his plans and the playing XI and guided India to their first World Cup trophy since 2011.

In the last eight years as head coach of the under-19 team, as head coach of India A, as director of cricket operations at the National Cricket Academy, and finally as India head coach, Dravid’s contribution has been immense. The pathway to success he created, including player development at the junior level, is sure going to be the blueprint for many years to come.

At the post-match celebrations, when Dravid took the trophy in his hands and passionately shook it for several seconds, he gave away how much it mattered to him. He was calm and composed during his playing days but on Saturday night, he just couldn’t control his feelings. It was a trophy he thoroughly deserved. Adios, champion!

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