Cricketers & Lifestyle

‘Never imagined you’ll be head coach and I would’ve played 100 Tests’: Virat Kohli’s heart-to-heart with Rahul Dravid

Former Indian skipper Virat Kohli played his 100th Test for India against Sri Lanka in Mohali and the anticipation for him  for him to score a century on the special occasion were very high. Before the start of the game, Kohli was honoured by head coach Rahul Dravid for achieving the remarkable feat of 100 Tests. Virat Kohli became the 12th Indian cricketer to have reached the landmark.

Virat Kohli received a brilliant ovation from the crowd when he walked into the crease and the Mohali crowd had their posters shown up on the screen as well. The right-hander did start his innings nervously but found his rhythm once he got off the mark. However, he received a peach of a delivery from Lasith Embuldeniya while batting on 45 as he was clean bowled.

Virat Kohli mentioned his emotions have been really high and it felt like his debut match. 

“I told Rahul bhai (Rahul Dravid) that I am feeling like I am making my debut for India – I didn’t realise the magnitude of the occasion until I reach the ground. It was a special moment,” Virat Kohli shared with reporters after the end of Day 1 of 1st Test against Sri Lanka.

‘Every time we pick a Playing XI, we disappoint people’: Rahul Dravid makes heartfelt ‘I’m not perfect’ confession

With coaching comes the responsibility of taking tough calls, which Rahul Dravid admits is the ‘hardest part’ about being a coach.

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In the 20 months that he’s been head coach of the Indian men’s cricket team, Rahul Dravid has had more misses than hits – not qualifying for the Asia Cup 2022 final, losing in South Africa, losing to England in the rescheduled 5th Test last year, bowing out in the semifinal of the T20 World Cup and suffering a defeat in the World Test Championship final. However, the one thing he has done better than his predecessor Ravi Shastri is given players a long run. Arshdeep Singh, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer are names that have been persisted with and look where it’s got them. Arshdeep has become India’s go-to bowler in the death overs, while Gill has announced himself as the next big thing in Indian cricket. Even Iyer has shown his class against spin – in Bangladesh last year – even though he was put on the shelf with a back injury.

A part of that behaviour stems from who Dravid is – a fair man, as a player then and as coach now. He believes in giving every deserving candidate a fair run, a trait that can only be found in someone who has played all his cricket with dignity. And Dravid was the epitome of dignity. However, with coaching comes the responsibility of taking tough calls, a fair share of which Dravid has taken during his time in charge. That, as Dravid puts it, is the ‘hardest part’ about being a coach, far beyond the confines of winning and losing.

“You care for each of those people whom you coach, on a personal level as well and you’re trying to build personal connections. You want to coach them as people and not so much as cricket players. And when you do that, you want all of them to succeed. But at the same time, you’ve got to be realistic and realise that not all of them are going to succeed. At times you’ve got to make those tough and difficult decisions,” Dravid said during the episode of ‘Cred Curious’.

“Every time we pick a Playing XI, we disappoint people; there are others who are not playing. Every time we pick a 15 for a tournament, there are a lot of guys who feel they should be there. And you feel bad for them at an emotional level. But at least we all try. I don’t say I am perfect at it. I’m not saying that I get it right all the time because it does affect you. That’s the hardest part of coaching or leading teams – having to make those tough decisions about people you truly want to succeed and do well. But you can only pick so many players, forced by the rule.”

There is no easy answer to it, says Dravid

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 06: India Head Coach Rahul Dravid looks on during India training prior to the ICC World Test Championship Final 2023 at The Oval on June 06, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Before taking over as head coach of Team India, Dravid’s time with the India A and the Under-19 teams was lauded all over. Barring the immaculate string of results that he and his team delivered, the highlight was just how good Dravid and the players were with each other. But the Indian men’s senior cricket team is a different kettle of fish altogether. Here, Dravid had to make decisions that not many can – such as dropping Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma from the team last year – or having the ‘talk’ with Wriddhiman Saha about his future.

But since it was Dravid, there was an assurance that it wouldn’t blow out of proportion. In fact, back when the whole saga played out, the only positive development was just how transparent the communication was between Dravid and Saha, something the former India captain takes pride in and tries to be fair at.

“There is no easy answer to it. I think the thing that comes to me is at least you try to be honest about it. In your communication and dealings with players, if there is an honesty and if they can think that you are doing without any political agenda or any bias in play, then that is the best you can hope for. That has to be a guiding principle,” mentioned Dravid.

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