| Dravid: ĎDual role has worked out reasonably wellí
Pretoria: Twenty years ago, Rahul Dravid was in Indore (his birthplace) when Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup. With a bunch of cousins, the current India vice-captain ďcelebratedĒ with ice-creams. If a million and more youngsters are to rejoice in much the same way, 20 years on, then Dravid must deliver in both roles: Key batsman and wicketkeeper.
Though pressed for time, Dravid spoke to The Telegraph recently ó the interview almost exclusively limited to one-day cricket. He was, as always, spontaneous.
The following are excerpts
Q You narrowly missed making the 1996 World Cup squad, or else the eighth edition would have been your third...
A I wasnít devastated, for I knew the selectors would opt for experience (specifically Sanjay Manjrekar and Vinod Kambli) in a tournament such as the World Cup... I told myself that when opportunities did come my way, I should grab them with both hands... Actually, I was looking to be picked for the tour of England later that year.
Q But you got selected (Singapore and Sharjah) just after the World Cup. Only, with 21 runs in the first four matches, you didnít quite set the Cauvery on fire. That must have upset you'
A I accept it was a difficult period but, as Iíve said, I was very keen to board that flight for England as a long tour (with Tests and ODIs) would give the chance to showcase my skills. Because of the cricket you get to play between the Tests, specially, itís fantastic for a youngster if his first big tour is to England. I knew if I didnít make use of the opportunities, I would be the only one to blame.
Q Today, then, how do you look back on that 1996 tour'
A Gave me lots of confidence, helped me find my feet in international cricket. Gave me the security I could build on. Also, that trip made me more aware of the demands of international cricket and made me more determined to get things right.
Q For the first two-three years, though, there were people who kept insisting you werenít suited for the one-day game. What did you make of that criticism'
A Iíve always tried to be positive about criticism... I thought some of it was fair, while some wasnít. I made a note of the first lot, forgot what I thought was unwarranted. At no time, however, did I believe the world was against me and... At the international level, sportspersons must be prepared to accept that performances will be reviewed and that there will be a degree of criticism. You canít become sensitive, or you will struggle... Therefore, utilise what can work for you, forget what wonít. Labels have never bothered me.
Q At that point, one of the selectors even suggested you should concentrate on bowling off-spin at nets...
A (Laughs) Donít think my off-spin would have troubled too many... Of course, I acknowledge that one-day cricket has changed and itís important to have two strings in the bow.
Q How much of an effort did you put in to improve as a one-day cricketer'
A I work hard at all aspects of my game and take pride in that... Be it Tests or ODIs, I try and give myself the best chance... The effort, my work ethic... I think it makes a difference.
Q Will you elaborate on your work ethic'
A The willingness to work hard, to make the sacrifices... Cricket neither begins with the first ball of the day nor does it end with stumps... Unfortunately, the effort which goes into producing a performance never quite gets the attention it deserves. Bottomline is the quality of time, not the quantity ó at nets, the gym...
Q Early on, was it tough switching from Tests to ODIs and, then, back to Tests'
A Not really. (After a pause) My opinion is that a good Test batsman can become a good one-day performer, not so the other way around.
Q The 1999 World Cup (461 runs, with two hundreds) has to be the turning point in your one-day career...
A Well, Iíve always done well in England and while that performance did satisfy me, it was disappointing that we couldnít reach at least the semi-finals. Had we got to the last four, anything could have happened.
Q Did your 2000 stint with Kent specifically improve your one-day game'
A Helped my game in general... The exposure, clearly, was fruitful in many ways... I learnt from having to pull my weight in the team, as a professional... As a person, too, I grew... Harbhajan and Veeru (Virender Sehwag) are set for the circuit this summer and Iím hoping they will return a better cricketer and a better human being. The attitude, though, has to be right and they must be ready to add to their armoury as cricketers and to their personality as individuals.
Q Do you, then, recommend at least a season of County cricket'
A Itís difficult making a blanket recommendation... Moreover, with the amount of international cricket, finding time will be tough ó this summer, after all, is only going to be an exception. (After a pause) I would leave it to the individual... The drive and energy must be there. I mean, if you wonít be there mentally, you shouldnít be playing County cricket. Away from home, the six months are difficult.
Q What are your plans for the summer'
A I havenít had a break for so long and, so, Iíll take one... Work on my fitness, do a bit of travelling as a tourist. Iím looking forward to that.
Q Youíve been around for seven years. What has this period taught you'
A Every experience teaches something... Itís all about taking that experience on board and trying to learn... Over these years, Iíve become a more confident person... I understand both myself and my game better. Overall, Iíve got a better view of things and am a lot more comfortable with myself.
Q How different is your approach to a one-day series'
A (Smiles) In terms of wanting to do well, the approach is the same... But, yes, the shot-selection is different and thatís something I work out before a series. Then, the approach at nets is different. On the eve of a Test series, for example, Iíll be looking to leave a lot of balls and tightening my defence. Before a series of one-dayers, Iíll be looking to innovate and exploring shot-options.
Q Youíve been íkeeping for 10 months now. Was it just the call of national duty, so to say, which made you accept a double role'
A Weíd been discussing it for some months before the move took shape (in the West Indies). Basically, we were looking at a wicketkeeper who could bat in the first six but, as it turned out, we didnít get our man. The task, then, came to me and I think itís worked reasonably well... Iíve accepted it as a challenge and have worked hard. Yes, in the long run, I do think we need a specialist who can bat in any of the top six positions... I hope young Parthiv comes off well. Heís a fine íkeeper and a good learner.
Q Do you admire a wicketkeeper-batsman'
A Adam Gilchrist.
Q The last question ó whatís your message for the many budding cricketers'
A First, love the game... If you donít, you wonít enjoy the hard work... I feel the parents, too, have a role: They shouldnít push kids into cricket simply because it happens to be Indiaís No.1 sport... Donít push kids into becoming a Sachin or a Sourav... Instead, cultivate a love for cricket. And, once there, aim high.