Head coach Rahul Dravid didn’t let the world in on his preferred playing XI for the opening Test against South Africa but said Indian players have been “professional” when it came to handling “difficult conversations” about their places in the side. As India geared up for the ‘Boxing Day’ Test against one of the most depleted South African sides in recent times, Dravid said that it’s good if players are disappointed at not being picked as it testifies that they care and have the hunger to be in the middle of action. The context was what kind of conversations does he have with senior players like Ishant Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who might be overlooked in the Centurion Test.
“I think the guys have been very good about it and I think most players are professionals. I mean, obviously, sometimes you need to have difficult conversations with players and by difficult you know what I mean, telling any player that he is not playing, it’s hard as everyone wants to play and be part of playing eleven,” Dravid said on Saturday.
The batting great believed that most of the senior players have themselves taken tough decisions at some level, may be when they have captained first-class sides or been part of a leadership group.
“They understand situations and not the first time, they had been in situations like this and some of them are in senior positions in their state teams and they are part of decision making groups where they leave out people.
“And some of them might be in leadership positions and some of them are part of senior leadership groups which makes decisions like this, so they understand and as long as they know the reason and we can communicate about it,” the ‘Wall’ said.
Disappointment, at times, is a good thing as it keeps the fire in a player alive, said India’s second highest run-getter in Test cricket. But if a tough call is taken, a player needs to take that in the right spirit.
“I don’t want everyone to not be disappointed, as that’s one of the reasons that makes people succeed at this level. You want to be playing, you want to be competing, you don’t want to be sitting out.
“But how you take that as you sit out and how you respond to that and that’s really a test of your attitude. So far I have had no complaints and everyone has been fantastic about it,” the head coach said.
For Dravid, any decision on playing XI would be based on conditions and the opposition’s preferred combination rather than “getting carried away”.
“We have some real quality in our squad. Obviously, we have to make a decision and only XI can play and we have to make calls, but it’s just the way it is.
“But we won’t get carried away and make decisions. We have had very good conversations within the selection group for the tour and having some healthy discussions about what we think is the best XI that gives us best chance to win a Test series in South Africa,” the coach added.
When someone asked if he found this current South African attack a bit “casual” (the scribe meant weak), Dravid was quick to refute that view even though the home team won’t have the fiery pace of Anrich Nortje to complement Kagiso Rabada.
“Don’t think this attack is casual (weak) by any stretch of imagination but I will agree with you that our attack is certainly more experienced than South Africa attack at this point in time, with the number of Test matches played,” he opined.
“…And it might not have been the case in the past, but they have got quality and some very good bowlers (Duanne Oliver) in home conditions and got some proven performers (Rabada) as well.
“We will certainly not take them either casually or lightly and we have contest in our hands and we know we need to put up kind of score that helps our bowlers take 20 wickets, there will be period in Test series where we will have to fight really hard.”
Mayank Agarwal had recently said that Dravid works a lot on the mental aspect of each and every player.
“Hope, I am not messing them up actually (laughs),” he laughed.
“At this level, lot of chat and conversations is about keeping them in good head space and keeping them relaxed.” Dravid said that conditions can be “challenging”, bounce can be steeper and slower and the pitch tends to quicken up on days three and four. And it can go up and down on day five.
“It’s very rare that in a series like this, one person is going to score in every single game. I would love that to happen from our side but I know there needs to be contributions from everyone. That’s what we are focussed on and not one or two individuals,” he said.
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