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How 'The Wall' Rahul Dravid became Team India's foundation
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When Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar were leading India's charge in Brisbane on Tuesday, they were representing the Next-Gen of Indian cricket nurtured by Rahul Dravid. Pant and Washington are a part of the first batch Dravid coached. Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw were in his second batch. It's been nearly six years since Dravid took charge of the U-19 and India 'A' programmes. In essence, India's enviable bench strength has been built by 'The Wall'. Now a director at National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, Dravid, along with Paras Mhambrey, a former India pacer, has brought in a more academic approach to the grooming of youngsters. High-end technology and facilities aside, one will find weekly reports of each player from the U-19 teams from all the zones, and also the India 'A' players. Dravid has ensured that BCCI's pool for workload management expanded beyond the 30 centrally contracted players.

 

'Objective was to unearth players and groom them'
 
The weekly reports of each player at NCA cover their skill development, technique and physical fitness. For example, an U-19 batsman's form includes a lowdown on how he has played a certain shot this week, compared to what he was doing a week ago. There are columns on how far that shot was travelling, whether he was hitting the right angles, the number of times he was mistiming the shot and the changes in his technique.
 
There are reports also on how the players have been responding to match situations during simulation sessions. There's a workload management system and database for players who are on the road playing for India 'A'. There have been instances when players like Mohammad Siraj and Mayank Agarwal, who have been India 'A' regulars, were rested for a certain 'A' tour because they were going through the grind of the domestic season too.
 
 
The biggest change in selection policy happened in 2016 when a 33-year-old Naman Ojha was stopped from boarding a flight to Australia for an India 'A' tour and Sanju Samson was brought in. The policy was clear: 'A' tours are meant for young players to be groomed for the next level.
 
Former India selector Devang Gandhi told TOI, "The objective was to unearth players and groom them. There were players who played for India but we didn't pick them for 'A' tours. We have already seen them. If they performed in domestic cricket and if there was a spot in the national team, they will be picked on domestic performance." Dravid was clear in his ideas. He let the selectors do their job and never imposed himself on them. "Dravid trusted us. He always trusted the selectors' judgment. Even on tours, he was open to suggestions. We would communicate with him what the senior team really needed and he would take it on board," Gandhi said.

 

 
The Australia tour was a reflection of all the work put in by the BCCI, selectors and NCA. The BCCI has increased its budget for NCA and 'A' tours twice. The selectors ensured there were enough people ready to be sent to the grooming station. And the NCA has made sure that there are enough players ready to take the field for India at any given point.
 
Rahul Dravid has been the link between all three aspects.

 
 


 
 


 
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