‘Will be interesting to see impact of World T20 on IPL turnouts’

March 13, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:38 am IST

Rahul Dravid was in the city recently as ambassador of Laureus Sport for Good foundation

ver since he hung up his boots four years ago, Rahul Dravid has made a smooth transition into a multi-faceted personality, on and off the field. A media expert, coach, mentor, corporate speaker and social worker, Dravid has been at his usual best while donning either of these roles. An ambassador of Laureus Sport for Good foundation, Dravid held a clinic at a slum in Mankhurd as part of the foundation’s initiative to support Magic Bus, an NGO that helps slum kids. After the clinic, the former India batsman opened up to The Hindu .

How was the experience at the clinic?

It was a really good day, and terrific to spend time with the Laureus-supported Magic Bus programme. To see the work they are doing in the community, the impact that sport is having through the Laureus Foundation is actually changing people’s lives. We play sport and we take a lot of it for granted. That sport can be used as something to attract children to a programme like this, and change their lives and create leaders in the community, I think for me was really nice.

You have been donning multiple hats over the last four years. Which role do you enjoy the most?

I have really enjoyed my time outside after I finished playing cricket, because it’s given me an opportunity to explore a lot of things. Like you said, some of the corporate work I do, some of the sponsorships, some social work, media work and the coaching, it’s nice. It’s actually given me an opportunity to meet new people and experience a lot of new things. Obviously, a lot of these things take a stress on your time and it’s just a question of balancing out what you can do. This year, a lot of it has been taken up by the coaching assignments that I have had, so I have actually cut down a lot on media. The year before I was doing a lot of media work leading up to the World Cup in Australia. It’s just a mix and match of everything, and I have really enjoyed over the last year or so the coaching side of things.

How much time does that leave you to spend at home?

Yeah, it’s always a challenge. Like I said, there is only so much that you can do. It’s always a question of balancing it out. The difficulty is that for a lot of the things that I do, fortunately/unfortunately, I have to leave home. You can’t sit at home and do them. It means a lot of travel again. After having travelled so much as a professional cricketer for 15-16 years, travelling again is sometimes quite hard. It’s always a question of finding the right balance for me.

Of late, especially in urban India, there has been a perception that cricket has lost ground among the masses. Not only do kids watch football, they even want to play it over cricket. What do you feel about it?

I think it’s a good thing. It’s great that other sports are actually growing in India. It creates for a much better sporting environment and culture. Sometimes, cricket being challenged will be good for cricket, because then it will force people to ensure that they do things to attract the best talent; that they don’t take talent or fans for granted. So, I think in a sense cricket also needs to be pushed. I am glad that other sports like kabaddi, hockey, tennis and badminton are coming up. We are seeing the sporting environment in India changing. It’s a great thing because it allows all sports to flourish. There are enough people and resources for more than one sport to survive in this country.

Some elitists even say cricket is no longer the main sport in India. Is that really the case?

When 25,000 people turned up to watch India’s practice match (against West Indies in Kolkata), how can you say it’s over? But you never take things for granted. One of the things cricket needs to be aware of is that it should never become a spectator sport. It’s not only about spectators. Spectators will always come; we love watching cricket, but it’s about participation levels. We need to ensure that we engage enough young children – boys and girls – and get them to participate in cricket. You want to increase the participation levels. Spectatorship and television viewership will always be there, but how many of those are converted into participation is very important. And, it should be quality participation, not just participation in the nets. Ensuring they get to play matches, and get to know the joys of being a cricketer in itself is very very important.

In that respect, is T20 the way to go?

T20 is very, very important. There’s no denying the fact that people want to watch T20. It’s something that has caught the imagination of the people. And, there is a great amount of skill involved in all departments – batting, bowling and fielding. For someone like me, I still love Test cricket. I think that’s where you are challenged to your limit; that’s where you are pushed. Having said that, I enjoy T20 cricket as well. It’s a very important part of the future.

You recently took over as the Delhi Daredevils mentor. How did it come about?

After the U-19 World Cup, Delhi kind of approached me and said, “Look, we are putting together a new group of people. We have a young group of boys. Will you be able to come in and assist?” And I thought it was a really good opportunity to work with a good group of young players. Also, it’s an opportunity to try and stay involved in the IPL, which is obviously something that I enjoy because it’s a fantastic competition in terms of bringing the best out of people from different countries and cultures. I am really looking forward to it.

Were you involved in the auction strategy?

No. But they had hired Zubin (Bharucha, former Rajasthan Royals director of cricket who is now Daredevils’ technical director) for the auction. Zubin had worked very closely with me at Rajasthan, so I kind of knew what his thinking would be and the kind of direction he would be taking.

How will the World T20 affect IPL teams’ preparations?

This year, the way the schedule has been worked out, a lot of players didn’t get involved at the back-end of the Ranji Trophy or Irani Trophy. So, they are relatively free. But a lot of them are playing company matches, inter-office and local league matches. I don’t think cricketers are ever free in India because they are playing office or club matches whenever they are not playing first-class cricket. And, a lot of grounds are busy with World Cup preparations.

Preparations really start when you get down and meet together a week before the tournament. That is again a challenge; how do you bring players together quickly in a week and make them perform straightaway. That is one of the challenges you face as a mentor of the team.

In 2011, crowd turnout for the IPL had taken a hit in the initial stages, soon after India hosted the World Cup. Do you see the same happening this year since the IPL starts just six days after the World T20?

It will be interesting to see. The World T20 is not such a long-drawn tournament like the 50-over World Cup. The World T20 is a shorter tournament. Like you rightly said, the crowds didn’t come out for the first few games of the 2011 IPL, so it will be interesting to see what happens this time around.

Are you done coaching the India Under-19 and India A teams?

I am sort of done with it since my contract was only for a year. So, we will have to assess it at the end of the IPL. I have to see what the Board wants and what the schedule is for the year ahead.

Are you willing to take up the India responsibility now?

I am actually content where I am coaching at the moment. I am realistic about the fact that being a coach of an international team, whichever it is, means you are going to be away from home for 10-11 months, which at the moment is probably not on. I am enjoying coaching in the IPL and junior levels, which is giving me a lot of satisfaction.

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