Former India captain Rahul Dravid said that learning when to switch off away from cricket played a crucial role in his career.
In an interview with India’s women’s team coach WV Raman, Dravid spoke about the need to understand how to tone down the intensity away from the cricket field and how a stint with county side Kent in 2000 helped him achieve that.
Asked what three qualities he thinks are necessary to be successful as a cricketer, the former India A and Under-19 coach said it was important to have perseverance, the curiosity and inquisitiveness to constantly improve and, finally, the balance to handle the highs and lows during a career.
The legendary batsman also spoke about his vision for youngsters as part of the Under-19 and India A set-up, learning to focus for long periods of time, how he is as a parent and more in this interview.
Excerpts from the interaction below:
On getting to spend time with family during the lockdown…
I practised a lot to play in those 22 yards, we played a lot of cricket. But I am not sure I ever practised staying at home so much (laughs). From the age of 14, once we start travelling as cricketers, that becomes the lifestyle right from the Under-15 days. It’s time away from home – train journeys, bus journeys — and you loved to come back and enjoy that. But this is the longest I have ever had to stay at home without travelling. It’s been really nice to connect with the kids, but it’s also different. This is tough for the children also because they have been home with not much to do, lot of online learning but not a lot of outdoor activities. At some point, my wife’s going to ask ‘when are you going to go out next?’
The importance of concentration and whether it is an inherent skill or can be developed…
I was not one of those hyper-active kids or extroverted. I had the ability to stay calm, balanced. So that helped. But, over the years, you realise that you’ve got to be able to work on [the powers of concentration] and improve it; had to have confidence of executing under pressure. To those simple routines when the heat is requires practice. I used to learn from spending time at the nets. Then, someone gave me very good advice: the best way to learn how to concentrate, bat for long, is to be able to do it when you are out in the middle. Don’t throw it away when you have an opportunity when you are batting when you have got a 100. Don’t think ‘I have got a 100 now, I am set for the next few games’ but use it as a chance to concentrate more. So yes, it can be definitely worked upon.
On whether concentrating can be overdone and the importance of switching off…
I think you can become too intense, there’s no doubt about it and I fell into that trap as a young boy myself. In batting, it doesn’t mean that you have to be switched on all the time. That ability to switch on and switch off obviously between balls or when you’re playing and even being able to switch on and switch off, off the field is an important skill. Because if you are switched on all the time, you are intense all the time, it drains you of so much of your mental energy and then when you play, you’ll be so tired mentally and drained. Being able to switch off, off the field was very important and that’s something I really had to learn.
I was very intense and like a lot of young people, desperate to do well didn’t learn the art for a long time. Realizing that worrying about something off the field just because I’ve had a bad day or not done well, you know, worrying about it was not gonna help my cricket. Learning from what happened on the day is something and you can spend time reflecting and learning. You have to do that if you want to improve because you’re constantly looking to learn and improve and get better.
That’s something actually I actually had learn. I figured out reading helped me. I was not a very big reader when I was in school or even in my early days in college. It’s actually only after I started playing first-class cricket and mostly international cricket that I actually started this habit of reading. I realized that there’s so much of time as cricketers which is spent not doing a lot. You’re on flight, you’re in buses, sometimes you have the whole afternoon free or the evening free and you could just be worrying. I just realized that if I was reading a good book, my mind sort of went away from the worrying and was in the book. I used that as a way to really relax.
I found that for me books work better than movies, I know a lot of other people who find movies better or music better or just chilling out with friends better. I think what’s important is you need to figure out what really works for you and just understanding the criticality of knowing when to switch off. I think was a big lesson.
How County cricket stint with Kent helped him have the best phase of his career…
I learned obviously through my own experiences. A big experience for me was playing county cricket. I was 27, had played a bit of international cricket when I played for Kent in 2000 and I think just being in a different dressing room and a different environment taught me a lot. Because I looked around a lot of those young colleagues in the Kent dressing room and I kind of really admired the way that they were able to actually switch off after their innings or after the game and you know go out to the pub and have a drink and socialize. Things that I was never doing as a Ranji Trophy player. I sort of realized that this was a much better wayto play the game. From then on for the next seven, eight, nine years I probably had the best years of my career and a large part of that was learning the ability to switch off.
On why he chose coaching and advice from Kapil Dev…
After I finished [playing career] there were quite a few options and I wasn’t necessarily sure what to do. It was Kapil Dev who gave me this advice actually when I was in coming to the end of my career. I bumped into him somewhere and he said: ‘Rahul don’t commit to doing anything straightaway, go out and spend a few years just exploring and doing different things and see what you really like’. I thought it was good advice so I was also a little fortunate that at the back end of my career I was already in a sort of captain’s-coach kind of role with Rajasthan Royals.
Then, I did the media for a couple of years and then I was also doing a little bit of the talking circuit and some endorsements. I liked doing the commentary, I like the media, I liked the fact that you know you could really have a good seat in the house and get to watch some great cricket. I think the thing that gave me the most satisfaction was really being involved in the game and you know being connected with the boys.
I sometimes felt a little disconnected as a media person. You commentated on a game and then you kind of left the venue and it just didn’t seem like a connection with the result. I really liked the coaching side of things and and I got sort of involved in that when the opportunity came up to do some coaching with India A and Under-19. I thought it was a good place to start and and took it up and I’ve really enjoyed it since. I just feel a lot more satisfying to be involved in the coaching side of things.
Especially the developmental side of the coaching; it’s really given me the opportunity to work with a lot of the players without having to worry about the immediate results which I think is a really nice space for me to work in. I can enjoy that as it allows you to look at the bigger picture which I think is a lot of fun.
On the decision to restrict U19 players to one World Cup only…
Instead of just 15-20 players, we were able to give 45 to 50 players exposure to the facilities at NCA, good coaches, good physios, good trainers, so it broadens the pool.
On facing insecurities…
(Laughs) I have gone through many phases of insecurity. I think growing up as a young cricketer in India is not easy. There’s a lot of competition and especially in the time that I grew up in when there was only the Ranji Trophy and the revenue was so poor. There was that constant challenged because you had given up a career in studies. I had to forgo a CA or MBA to pursue cricket so there was insecurity. If cricket didn’t work out then you sort of didn’t have too much to fall back on so I
think there was at that level of insecurity at that age.
That actually helps me a lot in sometimes working with a lot of these younger players because I can
identify with some of the challenges and some of the insecurities that that they go through. And how things like security then helps at that stage when you know you’re going to get opportunities or people trust you and give you games I think things like that certainly do help a lot of these younger players.
Even through my international career there have been phases. I was dropped from the one-day team in 98, I had to fight my way back in. There were certain insecurities as well then whether I’m a good enough ODI player or not. Because I had grown up wanting to be a Test player and been coached to be a Test player; ‘hit the ball on the ground’ or ‘don’t hit it in the air’; (laughs). I worried whether I had the skills to be able to do it.
For me, the ways to deal with insecurity was to sort of try and control what I could control. I think some of the things you realize when you get insecure are actually beyond your control and you start worrying about things that you cannot control; selections and even success or failures is sometimes beyond your control.
But what is in your control really is the effort; just the hard work that you put in; your ability to switch on and switch off; your ability to concentrate; to stay balanced whether you succeed or fail; mindset of how positive you are even in the difficult times. Kind of ignoring the stuff that I couldn’t
control was certainly something that definitely helped me.
There’s a certain amount of anxiety involved in this sport I think it’s just something you have to experience and you have to accept it. It’s part and parcel of what I do. There’s no magic formula or magic solution. Sometimes being anxious or being nervous is a good thing, that means that you care that and means that it matters to you. ‘I’m anxious and I’m nervous that’s a good thing because I care deeply about this’.
Of course you don’t want it to get to a point where it starts hampering your performances and doesn’t help you. And small stuff like meditation off the field helped me calm my nerves. When I was playing I used to meditate every morning in for 15 minutes just – this is more as a life skill not as not as
anything else; just to help me kind of stay relaxed.
On what is success…
Geez, success is just being the best you can be. For me that’s it. End of the day, success is not equated to the runs scored or wickets taken. If you sit back and think in your career: ‘I gave it the best shot, I tried my very best’. Sometimes you might play a lot of cricket, sometimes you play a little less cricket. You need a bit of luck. Things need to fall in place, I mean you can’t escape the fact that I at least was in the right place at the right time. Yes, I worked hard and no doubt about it, I worked hard, I practiced a lot. But there are lot of other people who do those things too. So I think you can’t compare yourself with other people. In the end, it’s your journey and just be the best that you can be.
On being a parent…
I don’t know, you should ask my children. (laughs). I like to think I’m okay. I’m chilled out. Well, that’s a hard one to answer.
I am little bit more relaxed about certain things than my wife would like me to be; like studies. I always equate their marks with my marks and they do much better than me but when my wife expects them to equate it to her marks which are pretty high. (laughs)
Look, I just enjoy being with my kids and and it’s really been nice to be able to and they sort of growing up and so nice to be able to have some conversations with them; just to watch them grow.
They play a bit of sport which is really nice and I don’t get overly involved in it. I go and watch a few o fthe games once in a while as and when I can just to see how they’re playing.And they don’t seem to mind so which is a good thing. If they tell me ‘no, no we don’t want you to come’, then I probably won’t go but they never seem to say that so it’s okay, it’s cool. I try not to coach them too much. (laughs).