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November 30, 1999


The Rediff Cricket Interview/ Rahul Dravid

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'Tough! In Australia it is going to be tough cricket all the way!'

Which of your hundreds did you find the most satisfying, and why?

Rahul Dravid I think the 190 I made at Hamilton was fantastic. I think it was very satisfying. But your maiden Test hundred is very special. The 148 I scored at Johannesburg, South Africa, is a real favourite of mine. It's the first one you get. When you get a Test hundred, you really feel that you have arrived as a batsman in a lot of ways, and it took me 7-8 Test matches to do it so it was very special.

But why would you rate your Hamilton hundred ahead of the Jo'burg one? South Africa had a much better attack than the Kiwis...

The 190 I scored in Hamilton was on a more difficult wicket. It was a bigger score. I mean, a 190 is a 190. We were in a very precarious position at that time, and I joined Srinath and we put on that big partnership. I think my quality of stroke- making was better in that 190 than it was in the 148. Having said that, I agree that the quality of the South Africans was much better.

And which was your least satisfying hundred in Tests?

I think the one in the second innings against New Zealand at Hamilton. You know, they gave it to us on a platter, there was nothing in their bowling, they just bowled a lot of part-time bowlers and I got it very easily. But no hundred is less satisfying, really. A hundred is a hundred, in Test, and you take any number that you can get, and enjoy the fact that you have a hundred. But if I were to grade them from 1 to 6, then that one would be at number six. But you know its good to have a hundred in each innings.

You've been a permanent member of the squad for three years now -- as a senior player, what role have you been assigned?

I just perceive myself as a senior, established batsman in the side. So I have to carry the top order, in the sense that I bat at number three, which is pretty crucial. In that sense, I really think of myself as someone who has to stabilize the top order. There are a lot of stroke-makers in our side, so maybe I am someone who has to lend that stability and sort of try and hang around and frustrate the bowlers so that the rest of the guys around me can play their shots.

Ricky Ponting and you have scored the maximum Test runs without getting a duck against your name. Each time you went out to bat, you opened your account -- and then came that first duck. Did it impact on you in any way?

Not really. I was not thinking of anything of that kind. A duck is a duck. Whether it is a zero or two runs that you get, you don't feel any less disappointed. When I got out that time, it pushed us to two-down in the second over. By the time I went back to the dressing room and settled down, we were 20 for 5, that day in Wellington. So that was disappointing, because I knew that if I had stayed for about half an hour, I would have scored well. It was a good batting wicket.

Barry Richards once said that he set himself small goals while he was batting. He would aim to score ten runs at a time, he would tell himself that he was good enough to score ten runs against any attack. Are you a goal-setter in that sense?

Rahul Dravid I try and play one ball at a time, I try and look at it as one ball at a time. The most important thing to realise when you are batting is that the only thing that decides your fate, your score, your career or anything else, is that next ball. What happened in the past and what will happen in the future is something you can't control. But if you can have your utmost focus and utmost concentration on the very next ball that you are going to play, then that is the only thing that matters.

That one ball has numerous possibilities. It could get you out, you could score runs off it. Anything could happen, and you have control only over that one particular thing. You have to bring your mind to that, and if you can do that over a long period of time, you will succeed. It is not an easy thing to do, though.

You mentioned recently that you thought the reason India is a poor fielding side was because the grounds in India were not conducive for diving. Is that all there is, or is that too facile?

One of the reasons, I believe. I am saying that is definitely one of the main reasons. I am not trying to say that it is the sole reason, I am not giving it as an excuse or something. And I don't think our fielding standards are as bad as they are made out to be. I think I think we are a very good catching side, we take a lot of good catches. People just try to rip apart our fielding because it is the weakest of the three departments -- batting, bowling and fielding. It is not really bad, though.

I agree it could do with a lot of improvement, and I think one of the reasons is the kind of surfaces you play on while you are growing up. Diving is instinctive, if you dive as a kid, you'll dive at the highest level. But here, as kids, we play in the streets, on rough grounds, where you can't dive without hurting yourself, so the instinct to dive is not bred into us.

Another factor is the kind of physical attributes and strengths, and the importance of physical fitness at a young age, which we don't tend to inculcate in our youngsters. You find that a lot more people play outdoor sports abroad, then they do in India. Physically they tend to be a lot stronger. And a lot of fielding is about physical strength as well.

You yourself were not rated a top fielder at the start of your career, but now, you are ranked among our best close-in catchers. How did this transformation come about?

Rahul fielding I worked really hard at it. I have always been a safe catcher, I remember when I first got into the Ranji Trophy team, they put me in the slips or short leg or silly point. I have taken some pretty decent catches in Ranji Trophy as well, early on. Since then, I've worked quite hard on my catching, spent a lot of time out there in the middle, practising.

You made the point about fitness -- so what difference has it made to you and the team, working with guys like Andrew Kokinos and Andrew Leipus?

I think we can only gain from the knowledge that these guys have. People ask, why do these physios need to come from abroad? The simple thing is that physiotherapy in India today is just basically injury treatment. You have doctors, and if someone has broken some part of his body and after the cast is removed, they put him on physiotherapy. And those guys are just doing that.

In Australia and in South Africa, where I have been to the medical centers and have spoken to them, I found out that there is a lot of research going on, on sport and the physical necessities of sport, the bio-kinetics and other stuff.

There is so much of research and development going on there, they really study these things well. There are courses in universities where people are actually studying these things and research is going on, on the latest technologies. These guys have studied that, and they have the access to first hand information. And you can only benefit from that. These two guys have personally benefited me. There is one thing to understand, and that is none of these guys have any magic pill to offer to you. Just because he is here does not mean that there will be no injuries, and that he will just give you something and you will be all right.

These guys can ensure, over a long period of time, that you will get fitter, you will get stronger and injuries will be well looked after, better care will be taken, diagnosis of injuries will be better. I am sure it will only benefit the side. And till we can get courses on these subjects in universities and colleges here, I think we should take help from abroad.

But bottomline, Rahul, are we a fit side? Can we last three sessions without flagging?

Yeah, why not? Of course we can. I am sure we can last in the field for three sessions. Unless somebody is injured, none of the players come off.

From fitness to coaching -- what is your idea of a perfect coach? What is it you would be looking for in a coach?

Kapil Dev A perfect coach is someone who has sound knowledge of the game. It should be someone who is able to get the best out of the players. I think the coach's job is to motivate everybody, in fact it should be someone who can motivate 14 people to go out there and play a cricket match wanting to win it for each other.

I would want my coach to be someone whom I can trust, someone who always has my best interests at heart. Someone who knows the game, and can help you out with technical stuff when you need it.

In the team right now, you have three high achievers, three performers. What kind of rivalry do you have among yourselves? Do you try to outdo each other?

Rivalry, it is more made up, than real. There is no rivalry between us. We are not competing with each other. I have always said Sachin is the best batsman in the world, there is no comparison between him and any of the rest of us. We are just trying to better ourselves.

Personally, for me, I am just looking at being the best cricketer that I can be. I am not looking at someone else's achievements and saying he's done that and I should also achieve that. When you do that, you will never be satisfied, you will either sell yourself too short or you will always be dissatisfied because somebody else has done more than you.

You just have to do the best that you can and be the best cricketer that you can be. I might never achieve all the targets that I set myself, but at least I can make my best effort, so that I can say that at the end of the day, I worked pretty hard at it, gave it my best shot. But at the end of the day, if my average is five points less than someone else's, it does not matter to me at all.

You are on the verge of leaving for a tough tour, how do you assess it?

Tough! It's going to be very tough. It's going to be tough cricket all the way. We are playing against arguably the best cricket team in the world. It's going to be very difficult because we are playing in conditions that don't suit us. Maybe it will be one of the toughest tours that we have ever been on.

And how do you rate India's chances?

We will have to play really well to win, there's no doubt about that. I believe we have a good team. We have a good team, which should hopefully give a good account of itself. I believe that if we play to the best of our abilities, we will do well.

Of course, I am not going to go on the tour thinking that we cannot win. I go to play every cricket match thinking that I am going to do well and the team is going to win. But having said that, you must realize that they are a great cricket team and we will have to play exceptionally well to win. We cannot play poorly and win. A lot of times, you can get away with stuff against other teams having a bad session or two but not against Australia.

Are you looking at any bowler, particularly, who will be difficult to get away?

All of them are dangerous. They are a great bowling side. There is not just one bowler who will be difficult to face. They have McGrath, Fleming and Warne. Any one they put up on the cricketing field will be competitive. And it's the whole bowling attack that is challenging.

You have been playing a lot of aerial shots of lately. Is there a subtle shift in your style of batting?

Rahul Dravid It's the confidence that has made a difference, I have kept improving, I am a better player than I was three years ago. So I have developed new shots. It is not like I have changed my style overnight, though I wish I had that ability, to play one way today, and another way tomorrow, to decide how I will play on any given day.

You keep evolving as a cricketer. I know some of the shots that I could not play three years back, but now I manage to play them with ease.

It's a funny thing isn't it, that each time you produce a great innings, someone steals the limelight by making a few runs more. How does it feel, getting overshadowed?

I enjoy being a part of this team, it's a great honour. I never look for glory. It doesn't bother me, in fact it's a great situation to be in, that more than one player is performing at the same time. I am not too bothered by these things, in fact I have had my fair share of publicity, I've been given too much of the limelight, more than I deserve, I think.

Why do you say that?

Look at the kind of hard work Srinath or Kumble put in. Their contribution to the team is enormous. I think I have been pretty lucky in the sense that I have got my share of good press. People write nice things about me, and so I have no reason to complain.

Mental strength is seen as one of your attributes, we heard that you are working a lot with one Mr Baam on that aspect...

Baam works with Geet Sethi and some of these other people. I spoke to him a couple of times and met him as well. It was very helpful, he gave me a new insight, gave me new ideas. There are a lot of yogic principles involved in strengthening your mind and helping you concentrate better. I am a lot more calmer and more focussed as a result.

Sketch of Rahul Dravid Rahul, if you were to put your finger on a reason as to why cricket is such a passion in India...

It may be the history behind it. It may just be the fact that everybody can play it. You can go on the street and find them playing it. Everybody in this country, man or woman, at some time in their lives they must have held a cricket bat, or thrown a cricket ball. We grow up with this kind of cricket culture. In India, our parents are talking about it, our brothers are talking about it.

It is a game where you don't need much. All you need is a bat and a ball, and some land, and 10 people, 20 people can get into it. I think its something that binds us together.

What do you do besides playing cricket? What are your other interests?

I read a lot, listen to a lot of music. I read autobiographies, sports books. Anything I can get my hands on, really. I tend to read a lot more than I watch television.

Which is your favourite restaurant in Bangalore?

There are quite a few. I go to Shezan or the Paradise Island.

When was the last time you went there? In the sense, given your stardom, how normal a life do you manage to lead?

I last went about six months ago. You know I tour so much, I must have spent only six days, in the last six months, at home. I live a peaceful life in Bangalore, I don't get mobbed. If there is a promotion or an event, there are crowds, but otherwise I can do the normal things with my friends in Bangalore, I think the people there are pretty relaxed.

So nothing has changed since you became a star?

Things have changed, but it's not too uncontrollable, uncomfortable.


Photographs: ALLSPORT


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