Laxman joins Dravid in coaching as India looks to bring back glory days

Dravid Laxman

In July last year, when the Indian Test team was in England for a five-match series, a second team travelled to Sri Lanka to play three One-Day Internationals and as many Twenty20 Internationals. It was the first time since 1998 that two Indian sides were engaged in international assignments at the same time.

On that occasion, while a team led by Mohammad Azharuddin was locking horns with Pakistan in the annual Sahara Cup in Toronto, Ajay Jadeja captained the other team at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Neither side courted much success; India were comprehensively beaten in the Canadian cricketing outpost while their Commonwealth debut was an unqualified failure despite Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble’s presence as the Indians failed to advance beyond the first stage.

How things have changed! Last year, the ‘second’ – not second-string – Indian team defeated Sri Lanka 2-1 in the ODIs and went down by a similar score-line in the T20Is, largely because they barely were able to put an XI on the park after game one, with Covid sweeping through the ranks. Elsewhere, the Test boys were living it up in England, relying on the depth of their pace battery and the class of openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul to grab a 2-1 lead when the series was interrupted with one Test to go.

Transition to Dravid

The on-field developments on these tours testified to the tremendous depth Indian cricket has systematically assembled. They also pointed to the success of the Indian process in putting together excellent backroom staff who worked seamlessly to ensure the wires didn’t get crossed, that messages weren’t lost in translation.

Even as head coach Ravi Shastri was steering the Test ship in England with a steady, benevolent hand, Rahul Dravid put his expertise to good use in Sri Lanka. Dravid by then was an integral part of the coaching landscape, having handled the India A and Under-19 teams for four years from 2015 before taking charge as the head of the National Cricket Academy.

Also read: Rahul Dravid’s Total Cricket and Indian team’s way ahead

Few knew during the tour of Sri Lanka that in four months’ time, Dravid would succeed Shastri as the head coach of the national team. In many ways, it was a natural progression for the former India No. 3, but he had a young family and its needs to keep in mind before giving his consent. Last November, when Shastri’s tenure ended after an embarrassing first-round elimination at the T20 World Cup, Dravid stepped up to carry the ball, making the transition smooth and undramatic.

Dravid has two big events to address over the next three months – the Asia Cup in the UAE beginning later this month and the T20 World Cup in Australia in October-November. It’s almost impertinent to point out that India haven’t won any global silverware since 2013, but that drought has now ticked over to a tenth year and Dravid and Rohit will be desperate to set the record straight.

Laxman’s entry

While most in the Asia Cup squad are enjoying a few days’ well-deserved break after a gruelling tour of England, the Caribbean and the US in the last two months, another team is in Zimbabwe to play three ODIs against the hosts. This is India’s first visit to that country in six years as KL Rahul returns as captain to the ground where he began his ODI career with a hundred. In Rahul’s corner as head coach is not his illustrious namesake but the gentleman who replaced him at the helm in NCA, VVS Laxman.

Laxman is no stranger to the big-ticket league as coach. True, that wasn’t his designation at Sunrisers Hyderabad or when he toured the West Indies with the India U-19 team during their successful World Cup campaign earlier this year, but the gentle Hyderabadi has never been big on nomenclature and designations.

Also read: BCCI to ask Kumble and Laxman to apply for post of Team India coach

Like Dravid, he too had a big call to make when he was offered the job of head honcho at the NCA. He not only had to consider his own young family, he also had to relocate cities and rejig his life. To Laxman’s credit, he enthusiastically plunged into the deep end once he gave his nod and has already initiated a series of moves that will go a long way towards erasing the NCA’s recent reputation as a rehabilitation centre and not the centre of excellence its founding fathers envisaged.

As recently as late June, with the Test team again in England to complete the series that had been halted last year, Laxman took the T20I team to Ireland for two games. For the record, India won both matches but that’s almost immaterial. What emerged from that outing was the excellent communication between Dravid and Laxman, and in turn between Laxman and those wards under his tutelage at the moment.

It’s no surprise that Dravid and Laxman are on the same coaching page. Not only did their India careers overlap, there’s a sameness to their life philosophy that transcends the ordinary. It’s Indian cricket’s great fortune that these two exemplary role models are in the positions they are in now, leaving no stone unturned in preparing the resources for the future by way of thanksgiving to a sport that has made them the household names they are today.

Laxman isn’t merely a tool for the implementation of Dravid’s ideologies. He has too much knowledge, wisdom and nous for Dravid to not tap into that reservoir. Having said that, Dravid knows Laxman too well to have to worry if the latter’s individuality will be contrary to his visions for the national team and beyond. It’s a wonderfully happy win-win for Indian cricket that it can fall back on two men of such pedigree and integrity to mould the fortunes and mindset of the present and the future.

It’s premature and irreverent to even consider if Laxman has any ambitions of becoming the head coach in his own right at some point in the future. After all, Dravid is at the start of his tenure and his great mate and batting partner at the early stages of his term at the NCA. The synergy between these two champions and the innate trust and confidence in each other means structure-wise and beyond, Indian cricket is stronger now than ever. With the promise that more of the same is in store.