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The faded India Test cap with No. 206 engraved on it will never be seen again on the cricket field. The mere thought of an Indian Test batting line-up without the unflinching support of the Wall evokes fear of vulnerability. Life without the crisp backfoot punch and the classy cover-drive would be incomplete. The IPL pushed the dreaded future sans Rahul Sharad Dravid a few weeks away. Each of Dravid’s 462 runs in IPL 2012 was a pause of calm amid the storm. Every time he met the ball with his bat with typical precision, the romantics stole their moments from the spectacle of brute willow wielding.
But now, IPL 2012 is over, and one doesn’t know if we’ll ever see the magic of Dravid’s bat again. What we do know is that the next time India bat in a Test match, the fall of the first wicket will not accompany that sense of dependability and poise we’re so used to, and at times, take for granted. As the reality of life without Dravid begins to sink in, it is a good time to know what the legend feels about the future of Indian cricket, the IPL and coping with life away from the cricket field. He shared his views on these subjects in a rendezvous with bcci.tv / iplt20.com.
This was your first IPL after international retirement. You led and mentored a young Rajasthan Royals team. Was it a different season in many ways for you?
I just retired from international cricket and two weeks later we were playing the IPL. So, from the preparation point of view, it didn’t feel any different. But captaining a team that had a lot of youngsters was different and also exciting in a lot of ways. It was a long tournament in that sense as you tend to get a lot more involved in the running of a team when you take on multiple roles. It was good fun to work with a fine bunch of people – players, support staff and management. Do you think this IPL you smiled more than you usually do on the cricket field?
I wasn’t trying to be different; I don’t know if it came across that way. I just tried to enjoy the game like I always do. Probably this time, we had a lot more reasons to smile and that’s why I smiled a lot more. The fitness, agility, intensity and hunger are still there. You didn’t look like a sportsman whose time is up.
I have to be honest with myself. I will not be playing cricket for a year before the next IPL; and one year is a long time. It’s too early for me to comment. These are the decisions I can make only at the time of the next season. I have to assess how fit I am and if even after spending some time away from the game I still have the hunger. One thing is for sure – I want to play only if I’m completely confident that I’ll be able to give my best.
How difficult will it be for you to cope with not playing cricket?
It’s definitely going to be challenging. I’ve played this game since the time I was a boy and it’s not going to be easy to suddenly not play it. But that’s a part of life. I’m hoping that there will be new challenges in life that I can look forward to. I have a pretty young family and I’m sure my two kids will keep me busy. But yes, it’s never easy to leave the game you love and has been a part of your life for 39 years. I don’t think I’ll be able to go away from the game completely; I’ll still watch it and enjoy watching others play. The mentoring role seems to come naturally to you. Will we see you take up the role on a larger scale in the long run?
I’ve enjoyed the role of managing a young team at Rajasthan Royals as captain and mentor. But I haven’t given a lot of thought to whether I’d like to take up this role in the long term. Having said that, even if not on an official basis, I’ll be available to any young kid who wants to talk to me about cricket.
One young kid who really benefitted from your guidance this IPL season is Ajinkya Rahane. He’s grown up idolising you and there he was, building the best opening partnership of the tournament with you.
The credit for his work goes to him; he’s worked really hard and deserves the success he’s enjoying. The thing with Ajinkya Rahane is that he’s not an overnight success. He’s performed incredibly well in the Ranji Trophy since five years and averages over 60. It was a pleasure for me to bat with him this season, and I believe he’s got a lot of potential for all forms of the game. I believe that he has it in him to be a better batsman than I was. He shouldn’t just aspire to be as good as some of the greater players from the past but strive to become better than them; which he can. These are early days for him; it’s a learning curve and he has to face a lot of challenges as time goes on. I’m sure, with the right attitude and hard work he’ll be able to hold his own. There are so many young batsmen waiting to take up your place in the Test side. What would be your advice to them?
There are a lot of good young batsmen in India. And besides the obvious names doing the rounds, there are many batsmen who can fill in these slots as and when they open up. For all of them, the most important thing is to constantly keep improving. One of the great challenges of playing international sport is that people around you are constantly improving. Your opponents are working hard everyday and are looking to get an edge to their game. They are going to analyse your game and try to go one up on you. So, you can’t afford to stay still or get complacent. You’ve got to constantly raise your game because it’s a journey that never stops whether you’re 21 or 35.
Had the IPL arrived when you started out in your career, do you reckon it would have affected your game?
It would definitely have had an impact. If you play the IPL or T20 cricket at a young age, you have to adapt, learn to play different shots and improvise to survive in that environment. I’m sure had I been forced to play this format at a young age, I’d probably have had to adapt a little more and it might have changed my game to a certain extent. But I’m glad that I started out with Test cricket and had a solid foundation that helped me shape up a great Test career, which I’m really proud of.
What according to you is the biggest impact of the IPL on Indian cricket?
I think it’s already doing great, and from here, it can only go from strength to strength. Player-development and mentoring is very important. The IPL gives young players a feel of international cricket by playing in front of packed crowds and rubbing shoulders with world’s best cricketers. Now, it’s up to us, senior players, to pass on our experience to them and help them develop into fine cricketers and human beings.
Citi Rising Star wants to build on this year’s performance
By Hoshedar N. Gundevia
Chennai 28 May 2012
A talent that shone through the brightest in IPL 2012 was Kings XI Punjabopener Mandeep Singh. The right-hander impressed both fans and critics with his masterful batting displays against some of the best in the business. With 432 runs this season, the 20-year-old was the highest run-getter for KXIP ahead of more seasoned campaigners like Shaun Marsh and David Hussey. Adjudged the Citi Rising Star of the IPL, Mandeep revealed his joy at receiving this honour amongst such august company. The IPL final served as the perfect opportunity for the youngster to witness firsthand the pressure and excitement of a big game. With aspirations of an IPL final appearance in the near future, Mandeep expressed his joy at Kolkata Knight Riders’ title win. You’ve been adjudged as the best young performer this season. What does that mean to you?
It feels very good. As a junior player, you wish to win this Citi Rising Star in the IPL. I really worked hard for this and it feels good. What sort of support did David Hussey and Adam Gilchrist give you?
Both really inspire, especially the youngsters. They gave me an opportunity to bat in the top order and I wanted to make use of this opportunity, which would be good for the team also. I am a little disappointed that I scored a lot of 20s and 30s, and next year I would want to convert them into 60s or 70s. Who do you look up to in terms of batting?
I have always watched Sachin Tendulkar. No one can be like him, but I have always tried to be somewhat like him. Do you think you can make it to the final some day?
If we play to our potential, we can really make it to the final. I am happy for KKR, because it is my ex-team. What’s the best part about the IPL for a youngster like you?
Best opportunity is to get international exposure. You get to play Morne Morkel or Dale Steyn who you don’t get to play at the domestic level. It gets very difficult if you play for India from the domestic level; and I have played them [international players] this season, which has done a lot to my confidence level.