Friday saw Australia become the first team in two years to beat India in a Test match on their home turf. It was a commanding win by nine wickets which leaves the series nicely poised going into the fourth and final Test at Ahmedabad, starting next week.
The Test match at the Narendra Modi stadium is not only critical for India to win and qualify for the World Test Championships final, it holds key for one other person in the Indian team management.
In November 2021, when Rahul Dravid took over as the head coach of the Men’s team it got many in the cricketing fraternity excited. After all, many cricket-watching public, especially in India, felt even during his time as an active international cricketer that he had the makings to successfully transition into a coach.
16 months into his tenure, however, the numbers paint a slightly different picture. In 13 Tests with Dravid as coach, India have won 8. That is a winning percentage of 61.5%, which looks fine on paper. But a deeper introspection shows a slightly different picture. The three defeats, prior to Indore, have led to India losing a series (to South Africa 1–2) and drawing a series against England 2–2.
A 2–2 result series against Australia at home would come only a few months after India were eliminated from the T20 World Cup in forgettable fashion. It would also mean that on home turf, under Dravid’s reign, India would not have won the most marquee series.
A few days after the World Cup loss, Dravid and his management were given a break from the tour to New Zealand. Dinesh Karthik, who featured in T20 cricket for India right through the second half of 2022, spoke about the break given Dravid and co. and defended the decision by saying the following:
“As we speak, on the 30th, the team is going to Bangladesh and this New Zealand series isn’t going to get over on the 30th. I don’t think he can be in two places at one time. So it is very understandable.
“The two Tests in Bangladesh and four against Australia are now important because they will give India a crack at the World Test Championship final and hence they have chosen to be part of those series. Hence a full-fledged side to go to Bangladesh and Australia Test series. T20 will take a big backseat right now because you have two years to prepare for the next World Cup,” Karthik told Cricbuzz.
After India beat Bangladesh 2–0 in December 2022, R Ashwin equated Dravid the person to ‘48 karats of gold’ and even spoke of how he kept the spirits in the dressing room high when India were staring at a defeat.
The backing for Dravid from players is not something new. As a coach of the India A and U19 teams, the former number three received wholesome support from players in the manner in which he provided them with the support they needed.
However, one must remember that Dravid was appointed in place of Ravi Shastri to keep the momentum from the previous regime, particularly in Test cricket, going. It must be said that over four full series and one solitary Test in England, the results have not lived up to the billing in the longest format of the game.
The defeat at Indore now means India head to Ahmedabad having to win to make it to the World Test Championships final. A loss would mean qualification to the summit clash will be out of their hands. It could also mean Dravid’s position as head coach of this side might witness the first rumblings of questioning in the fraternity, one which has backed him right through.