Former Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai was a very astute observer of cricketing talent during his tenure as the chief of Committe of Administrators (CoA) which ran Indian cricket for period of three years till a new body for Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) could be elected. One of his chief contribution during his stint as CoA chief was identifying the potential in former captain Rahul Dravid to groom the next generation of Indian cricketers.
Team India is reaping the benefits of that decision as Dravid has laid the platform from which youngsters like Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, T. Natarajan and the likes can take the next big jump. India's bench strength is so strong now that they can take down the might of a full-strength Australian and that too in their own den.
Since 2010, India 'A' team have played 52 first-class matches -- the highest by any team in world cricket. Siraj has played 16 'A' team matches, Saini 14, Vihari 12, Agarwal 10, Gill 8, Shaw 5 and Pant 4. It's no wonder that the step up to the next level wasn't a hard one for this bunch.
A lot of the credit for the planning of this must go to Dravid. He has been managing these players from the Under-19 level right through to the senior team.
In fact, Rai revealed in an interview last year that Dravid turned down the opportunity to become the Head coach of the senior team and instead chose to head the National Cricket Academy (NCA) to aid in creating India's supply line of players.
"We definitely spoke to Rahul. He was engaged with the Under-19 team and he was involved with them. He had developed a road map on how to develop a team. He was bringing out fantastic results. He wanted to continue because he felt that there were some unfinished task with that team and he wanted to do it," Rai had told Sportskeeda last year.
The importance of honing the basic skills has been instilled in all these young cricketers. It helps that the likes of Gill, Vihari and Agarwal are trained well on testing tracks in England, Australia and South Africa under one of the best technically correct batsman that India has produced in Dravid.
Twitterati was immediate to praise the contribution of Dravid to India's remarkable 2-1 series win over Australia, including a famous first defeat for Tim Paine's side at Gabba after 32 years.
“Rahul Dravid must be watching and feeling proud of the India A and India U19 programs he's developed, which gave India their depth. Take a moment to thank Rahul Dravid for all that he's doing for Indian Cricket,” wrote one of the users.
“Far away from the melodrama, somewhere in a room in Bangalore, Rahul Dravid watches this, having quietly built a menacing machine of under 19's who will constantly supply future Indian wins. And ignoring the noise and metaphors, he will methodically and coldly go back to work,” wrote another fan.
Far away from the melodrama, somewhere in a room in Bangalore, Rahul Dravid watches this, having quietly built a menacing machine of under 19's who will constantly supply future Indian wins. And ignoring the noise and metaphors, he will methodically and coldly go back to work.
— Anuvab Pal (@AnuvabPal) January 19, 2021
"Real man of the series - Rahul Dravid. Building such a great bench strength through India A. Moulded in his personality - grit, resilience and immense self belief!!" said another.
Thank you Rahul Dravid for confirming that future of Indian cricket is in safe hands.
— (@Msdian__Cr7) January 19, 2021
Credit to U19 coach of Indian team - Rahul Dravid
The composure of Pant, Gill and Washington Sundar is all kudos to this man!
— Pallavi (@pallavi_sreeram) January 19, 2021
Team India will forever be grateful to the contribution of Dravid in this historic triumph down under. Now no one will be wondering, 'Who after Virat Kohli'?