'Rahul Dravid continues to be a student of the game' - Sandeep Patil, who was India coach when the current captain made his debut a decade ago, talks exclusively about him

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  • Published 20.03.06
Sandip Patil

Mumbai: Sandeep Patil’s tenure as the India coach didn’t last more than some six months, in 1996, but (among other things) that was when Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid made their Test debut and Sachin Tendulkar became captain for the first time. A flamboyant middle-order bat in his time (and a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad), Patil spoke exclusively on Dravid in a chat with The Telegraph on Sunday ? the day after the current captain made his 100th Test appearance.


The following are excerpts


On his first impressions of Dravid

Actually, I was grateful to Rahul for gifting a crucial Ranji match to my team (Madhya Pradesh) in the 1993-94 season... Karnataka, if I remember correctly, didn’t need many runs to beat us when Rahul stepped out and was caught. He fell for the trap... He was then a very different batsman ? attacking, somewhat carefree... Over the years, he has changed.

On interacting with Dravid for the first time as coach

I think it was in the next season when I took the India A squad to Kenya under Ajay Jadeja’s captaincy... By then, Rahul had ‘cooled’ down... He was composed and a solid batsman... (After a pause) Rahul used to be very jovial... Nowadays, his intensity alone comes through... Actually, I would like him to smile more often... We don’t have to be reminded that he always means nothing less than business.

On Dravid’s India debut, in a one-day tournament in Singapore, after the 1996 World Cup

Frankly, I can’t recall anything... Don’t think he got many runs. [Dravid scored three and four in the two matches there.]

On Dravid’s Test debut, at Lord’s, later that year

He wasn’t supposed to play, but made it because of an injury to somebody (Sanjay Manjrekar)... In fact, he learnt about having to play at the ground itself and I can still recall how his face lit up when I gave the good news... The rest is history.

On whether Dravid interacted with him when he wasn’t the India coach

He did come to me during a Challenger tournament (in Mumbai, 1997-98), when he wasn’t a certainty for the ODIs... He appeared unhappy at having been labelled a Test player... I told him not to worry as somebody good enough for Tests could make a mark in the ODIs... However, somebody good enough for ODIs alone can’t do so in Tests... In any case, why should somebody worry about labels?

On what has impressed him about Dravid

That he continues to remain a student of the game... That he continues to learn... Also, he handles situations so well... Everything about him is neat and he changes gears whenever he wants to... He doesn’t allow the situation to dictate. That’s remarkable... Indeed, at times, I’ve been jealous of Rahul!

On a decade of Dravid at the highest level

Most cricketers go through a phase when form dips and doubts creep in... Dravid, though, has never had a crisis and has been more consistent than even Sachin Tendulkar... He hasn’t let the team down and has never quite been affected by pressure... Rahul knows his responsibilities... Of the current lot, I only rate Ricky Ponting higher.

On Dravid as captain

Initially, I was apprehensive that the added responsibility could affect Rahul’s batting, but he has responded very well... Sourav did a fantastic job and, now, Rahul has to take this team forward... Sourav had that spark... Had the flair... Rahul is different, but has been getting results... Sourav and John Wright worked very well, now we’ve got to give Rahul and Greg Chappell time.

On Dravid being retained till the 2007 World Cup

It’s a fantastic decision... Of course, something similar ought to have been done in the past, but the good thing is that a precedent has been set... When the coach is till the World Cup, it makes sense to also appoint the captain till then... I wouldn’t go into technicalities, like the tenure of the present selection committee (which ends this September)...

Finally, on where he expects Dravid to finish

He’s exceptionally fit and, so, has it in him to continue till he wants... For India’s sake, I would like to see him take guard for many more years.