Rahul Dravid's last dance: Can India give outgoing head coach the perfect farewell in 2024 T20 World Cup | Crickit

Rahul Dravid's last dance: Can India give outgoing head coach the perfect farewell in 2024 T20 World Cup

Jun 05, 2024 07:01 AM IST

Rahul Dravid has confirmed that the T20 World Cup will be his last assignment as India's head coach.

India's 2024 T20 World Cup campaign wasn't devoid of storylines. There was the return of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to the T20 international fold after not playing the format for the entirety of 2023. There was also the story of whether it could be the last T20 World Cup for one of the two seniormost India batters. There was the potential for a redemption arc for Hardik Pandya after a 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) that went wrong in practically all the ways that it could. Add to this the story of Rishabh Pant and the question of how much of a difference he will make, especially considering T20s was his weakest format despite being known for his aggressive batting in Test cricket.

Rahul Dravid took over as head coach after the 2021 T20 World Cup(ANI)
Rahul Dravid took over as head coach after the 2021 T20 World Cup(ANI)

In the midst of all this came the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) announcement on May 13 that it is inviting applications for "the position of Head Coach (Senior Men)". It meant that Rahul Dravid's time as India's head coach is about to end, unless he decided to apply himself and continue that tenure. Chances of that happening were miniscule though, with it being pretty clear that if Dravid was interested in doing anything of that sort, it would have been done without the BCCI making a statement as public as that.

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And sure enough, when Dravid finally spoke to the media for the first time since the announcement, he confirmed that he is indeed stepping down from the position. “I love doing the job. I've really enjoyed coaching India and I think it's a truly special job to do. I enjoyed working with this team, and it's a great bunch of boys to work with, but yeah, but just considering, you know, unfortunately, just the kind of schedules and where I find myself in the stage in my life, I don't think I'll be able to reapply," said the 51-year-old former India captain.

If India are unable to win the title in the 2024 T20 World Cup, it would mean that Dravid would bow out with just one trophy to his name as head coach - the 2023 Asia Cup. Coaches not having a trophy-laden career with the Indian team is nothing new, considering the fact that the side hasn't won a major ICC title since 2013. Regardless, the players in the Indian squad would be keen to ensure that their outgoing head coach gets a parting gift of the T20 World Cup, but can they really do it?

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Strength on paper everywhere

There may have been a few eyebrows raised when the selection committee declared the Indian team, as is the case most of the time, but one can't argue with the fact that the 2007 champions are a formidable side on paper. Rohit and Virat Kohli could have a highly experienced opening pair, both of whom might just be perfect for the conditions that are being expected at the Nassau County Stadium and later in the Caribbean. Yashasvi Jaiswal is their backup opener and could even play at No.3 and the 22-year-old has been nothing short of sensational in his brief career thus far, regardless of the format.

India could also send in Pant at No.3 in a way to better utilise his abilities instead of trying to make him a lower order basher, something they had been guilty of doing in the past. Suryakumar Yadav, the Men's T20I Cricketer of the Year for the second time running, would be one of the first names on the teamsheet at No.4.

A questionable lower middle-order and bowling prowess

If anything, India's corridor of uncertainty in the batting order comes in numbers five, six and seven. There is no denying Hardik Pandya's talent but the fact that he had arguably the worst IPL of his career just before this tournament doesn't augur well at all. Shivam Dube could be in at five and while he was sensational in India's T20I series against Afghanistan earlier this year and in the first half of the IPL, the management would be hoping that he doesn't continue on the downward trend he had been stuck in after his selection to the T20 World Cup squad was announced. Ravindra Jadeja's form with the bat has been patchy in this format and Axar Patel looks the strongest in the lower middle order, possibly set to walk in at No.7.

In Kuldeep Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah, India have two master operators leading their bowling lineup. Bumrah especially has been imperious in all formats ever since he made his return from a long-term injury just before the 2023 ODI World Cup. India have a choice of Mohammed Siraj and Arshdeep Singh for their No.2 fast bowler.

India are hence, very much contenders for the title on paper and yet, Dravid would know more than anyone else that cricket happens to be played on the ground where strange things happen all the time. India were the best team in the 2023 World Cup by some distance up until the end of the semi-final. In the final, they were beaten comprehensively by Australia, a team whom they had routed in the two sides' opening match of the tournament.

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