July 16, 2016

'Sometimes the most important thing is execution, not strategy'

Rahul Dravid talks about how batting has evolved in T20, the challenges of captaincy, and picking a balanced XI

Watch and read part one of the interview here

Does the price tag in some way force selection? For instance, Pawan Negi in this IPL had a huge price tag and you had situations where you could not play him in the XI in some games.
You're trying to pick the best XI that works on that particular day, against that particular opposition, on that particular ground. You are not trying to pick people based on the money they've got. In general, in a selection meeting we do not discuss what somebody has earned. A selection meeting is based on what a guy can offer, his form, his performances, does he fit into the team? At times you find there are good players who have to sit out.

You might have come out of an auction with clear areas or holes in your team that you have got to fill, and then you're trying to mix and match and sometimes good players miss out. And there are other players who are lesser in terms of international experience or lesser in terms of current performance in domestic cricket that don't actually get a chance to play, and that's difficult for them, and I can understand that. It's an opportunity for them to further their careers, both in terms of selection and also financially. It's a big tournament and if some of them don't get an opportunity, it can lead to frustration, and that's natural.

Aren't you now picking XIs based on what you anticipate situations to be and how players will respond to those situations? In the past you've had to rotate players, give them certain roles they may not have been used to. For instance, you asked Brad Hodge to bat lower down the order [at Rajasthan Royals].
Tactics have evolved and people are now picking different kinds of players and they're not just picking players based on reputation. You're seeing players being picked based on what they bring to the team.

Each of those strategies will be based on the team you have. Hodge's role is not a trade secret. Hodge batted lower down the order in that team because we didn't have a gun Indian batsman at that stage. We had Ajinkya Rahane, who was still a developing young player at that stage, but he is clearly more a top-order player. Someone like a Brad Hodge can play that role. There could be another team where Brad Hodge might have been more valuable at the top of the order.

Data is a very important aspect of the game in T20. Is that significantly different to how you've seen it in the other formats of the game?
I think data's growing in every format of the game. People are coming up with new metrics to view things. A lot of it is really useful. But it's how you read that data. I think that's the game changer. That's where the skills of the coaches come in.

"You see more and more batsmen today being fearless about the risks they want to take" © BCCI

A particular batsman faces three dot balls and you're aware then, from the data that you've collected, that he has a particular get-out-of-jail shot. Let's assume it's over cow's corner. Are you down to that level of strategising?
Sometimes we get caught up about tactics and strategy and we forget that the most important thing actually is execution. I always like to use the example of Lasith Malinga. He is a great example of someone, when you were facing him, you knew exactly which ball he was going to bowl at the back end of an innings. Millions of people watching on TV know which ball he was going to bowl. If he executed it brilliantly, like he did most times, there's nothing you can do. Can you execute that particular ball that you're asked to do? Sometimes people ask, "Oh what is that tactic?" Sometimes the tactic and the strategy is not wrong; it's the execution that's wrong and a lot of times people get confused with that.

We are hearing a lot more about head-to-head contests in T20s. Is that also a part of your scenario, picking players for particular players?
You could, in certain cases, and Chris Gayle is a good example. People have in the past used offspinners against him a lot but if Royal Challengers Bangalore open with either [AB] de Villiers or [Virat] Kohli, you've got to counter that as well. I think it happened in a game in Bangalore where R Ashwin didn't actually bowl an over, or he bowled an over very late in the innings because Gayle had got out and then they had a string of right-handers and maybe the situation didn't come up. I think the teams that win are the ones that have the best balance. They have the ability to play every situation and in all conditions. They are not reliant only on certain things panning out for them to be able to use certain players.

What's your sense of how much batting has developed in T20 cricket?
I think batting has the freedom to develop. We are more accepting of failure in T20 cricket than we are in any other form of the game. When a batsman takes risks and plays a paddle sweep or a reverse sweep, you're more likely to view it with a certain degree of acceptability than you would in a Test match or one-day match. If you keep practising something, you are going to get better at it. AB de Villiers has had nine IPLs now - think of the amount of batting opportunities he has had to experiment with this. He's got gifts that other people don't have, but he's also had so many opportunities to fail, to learn from them and to keep refining his batting technique for T20. People have been allowed to take few more risks.

"You can't afford to get rattled because the ball is flying all over the place, and it's the captains who can actually just hold their own who end up being successful"

Are power-hitters more valuable in a T20 set-up than the conventional batsmen?
Of course they are, which is why a lot of the West Indian players are so valuable in an IPL because they are able to play the kind of shots that are not easy for others to hit. The West Indian team of this World T20 was a brilliant T20 team because it had batting so deep, with power-hitters who could change the course of the game from No. 2 to 8. It's not easy to accomplish that for every other team, especially in the IPL teams for certain because no one's going to allow you to pick eight power-hitters.

It is almost sacrilege to start suggesting that players like Virat Kohli or David Warner, while extremely valuable for their teams, may not be quite as valuable as these dynamic power-hitters, who can actually turn the game on its head. And if you've got a team loaded with a few of those, you have a greater chance of success?
If your dynamic power-hitter can score 900 runs for you, then yes, but not all dynamic power-hitters can score, which is why Chris Gayle has been one of the most dominant T20 players for a long time because he scores as many runs as he does, at a great rate. These are not easy skills to obtain - consistency as well as power-hitting, and the ability to negotiate pace, spin. It's not like there are many players around who can do all of these things. There's no way that the talents and the abilities of a David Warner or a Virat Kohli are ever going to go extinct.

"AB de Villiers has had so many opportunities to fail, to learn from them and to keep refining his batting technique for T20" © AFP

Is the concept of the par score in T20 changing?
I think the batsmen are slightly ahead of the bowlers in terms of the way their skills have improved over the last 9-11 years in T20 cricket, but the bowlers are slowly catching up. We find bowlers coming up with new skills and strategies to counter some of these batsmen. Mustafizur [Rahman] was excellent in this [IPL] tournament. The nature of bowling is such that you're limited physically by the amount you can do. Batsmen can set up bowling machines to mimic certain kinds of balls and you can go on practising. They have a little leeway. You can't obviously go on bowling for two hours every day because you're going to get injured.

In terms of embracing innovation, are young batsmen now more accepting of it?
When you're growing up, you're a product of the environment you are in, and the environment that a lot of them are in is one where they grow up watching their heroes play these shots. So it's only natural that they will take what they have seen the night before and go to their summer camps and try that. You see more and more batsmen today being fearless about the risks they want to take, being more innovative and more creative.

How much has captaincy in T20 evolved with time, and is it the most challenging form of the game in which to captain?
Because of the nature of the game, one decision to give somebody the ball could actually cost you a game, whereas in a Test or one-day match, you have an opportunity to come back. Sometimes at the back end of a game, you are weighing your options and you get one of those decisions wrong, and sometimes it's not even a wrong decision, and that's why I think in T20 cricket it goes down to execution. You have to make decisions a lot quicker, be very flexible. You have to be quick on your feet and clear in your thinking - you can't get muddled. You can't afford to get rattled because the ball is flying all over the place, and it's the captains who can actually just hold their own in that kind of situation that are the ones who end up being successful.

"What we don't want is for every score to become a 200-plus score, where it's always about power-hitting skills. You want somebody to negotiate a difficult spell, the turning ball"

In a T20 scenario there's more input possibly because the coach/mentor is right there in the dugout. What sort of dynamic does that create? Does the captain want all that input or is he almost shooing you away?
That's unique to different players and different captains. Some captains might like some conversation, some captains might not. I think it's just the dynamic of the team, the way it's structured, the kind of information the captain is looking at.

You have the strategic time-out, where you are actually allowed on to the field to offer inputs.
In the strategic time-out you don't get in the way and confuse them even more. It's again something that's very unique to this format and sometimes just to bounce off a few ideas of the captain. Sometimes you realise how different you might be thinking but it's the guy on the ground who finally makes a decision, and he should be given the right to make that decision.

Where do you see T20 headed over the next two or three years?
I think T20 cricket is only going to get bigger and bigger. We need to be a bit careful that we maintain the balance between bat and ball. I see that as one of the major challenges of T20 cricket. What we don't want is for every score to become a 200-plus score, where it's always about power-hitting skills. We want to bring the skills of cricket. You want somebody to negotiate a difficult spell, the turning ball, and see if he can score at seven-eight runs an over against a good spinner. I think otherwise you just might put up bowling machines and see who hits it further.

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Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prem on July 18, 2016, 9:53 GMT

    Dravid had good temperament but he was a over-thinker and that tied him in knots like in this article.

  • Utsab on July 18, 2016, 4:59 GMT

    @Alex, you seem to brimming with ideas with no takers. You tend to believe that you can advise Dravid on how to become a good coach and that fellas like Dhoni n McCullum stayed at helm for as long as they did n with the accomplishments they managed sheerly out of seventh sense leadership. Man, you should review your comments before you post them. You sound like a guy who is brimming with notions which are a tad outlandish and you're certainly delusional about your own standing. As a commenter, I can voice my opinion with due respect to all parties concerned. And, my only tool should be logic and rationales. You're citing somewhat paradoxical examples which don't hold water. You think you're learned enough to provide roadmaps n blueprints, but truth most likely is that you've neither played the game at any serious level or coached/managed a team in any capacity. Try your blueprint on fantasy cricket league n see how it works. Chances are your team will flunk at the first hurdle. You must be really foolish n audacious to think that you can give Dravid a five-point manual on coaching. I'm not a great fan of MSD's captaincy, mainly because he seldom experiments. But one can't take away from him the the two works cups n a champs trophy. Can't ignore India's limited-over returns at home n abroad. His win percentage speaks ample about his captaincy. I prefer McCullum's leadership because it is comprehensive and full of spark. He, in my humble opinion, is the leader of men. Much like Timur n Genghis Khan. His batsmanship is more hit or miss, fluke stuff, but his captaincy is calculative n imaginative. He has made the NZ an outfit that doesn't back down anymore. In a few ways, his leadership has revolutionized how captaincy in cricket is now looked at around the world. All this and more can't be achieved merely on the basis of good fortune or psychic powers. Your comments proved how little you understand cricket. Hereon, I doubt I'll even spend any time to read your comments, leave alone react to them. So long, mate.

  • Alex on July 16, 2016, 22:10 GMT

    My blue print for great team. openers(1995,1990,1989,1996) 3 Down(1986,1998) (ponting), 4. (1994,1989) 5. 1997,1985 6. 1993,1988,1987(all rounders) 7. (1987,1995) -wk. Bowlers are 1994 (a must for winning team), 1995 ,1992,1996 I have all people except players born in 1991. I consider them Freaky explosive one day ( few peaks and too many valleys in their scoring to be good for any team for long run) then nothing. You have captains galore. Best guy to captain is 1989 because i believe delegation is best form of leadership. Team has so many leaders it will be in auto mode even one guy is off day. people born in 1994 are born to be bowler at their heart. i do not select 1994 for a batsman. They do not do justice to their skills as batsman. 1995 is born to be opening batsman and opening bowler. 1996 - when you need player who can play in pressure situation. 1986, 1998 - Because of high energy of all the people best for counter attacking number 3. 1987 is best fit for all rounder.

  • Alex on July 16, 2016, 21:36 GMT

    I can write so much but without divulging my secrets on people. Here is some tidbits. The way i see world has 4 types of leaders. 1. Energy/Lead by example/Carry The team literally (ponting) 2. Lifestyle / Mafia boss ( more like army) (viv richards, imran khan) 3. Delegation/Smart (steve waugh,sanga/jayawardene) 4. 7th sense luck/no logic (dhoni /mccullum). Out of this , i rank them 3. 2,4,1. Great leader do not do not all the work himself. A good coach delegate tougher task to a specialist. Hire a data analyst instead of doing it by himself. All ears. Great coach take a job if he has good captain in the team. Only guy decent leader is carlos braithwaite. Rest of DD players has no leadership skills. That is why they lose. The reason SA team stuggle because captain has to be a leader first. Strategy and instinctive can come later. Prefer indian guy to be captain but DD do not have anyone with that skill. DD has to dump half the team if they want to win.

  • Steve on July 16, 2016, 14:55 GMT

    Usually a good student, observer and a thinker of cricket, I am surprised to hear him say Pawan Negi is a good cricketer. Looks like his much vaunted skills have slowed down like his reflexes. Negi has done nothing yet on the field to merit the kind of sick price tag he got in IPL. I do admit he has one thing going for him big time, luck.

  • Alex on July 16, 2016, 8:08 GMT

    Contd... We all want master something. Like every one want to master golf swing that works every day same way. Dravid wants to understand coaching in detail. Data can help identify big things. Like not select a player against some team. Data helps match up. For me there is no science in coaching. human mind is complex stuff to read and understand human emotions and energy. Every one is different. Game is decided by small moments. Gave over to wrong bowler like england did. When you do not have no info on player, consult chinese astrology (don't tell anyone because its pseduo stuff. Like homeopathy. ). So what i am saying is Dravid need to do understand a good coach has to find a 1. Leader who can be captain 2. Analyse team and provide alternate energy level people in the team to balance. 3. Provide tools for captain to use.4. Give small roles to each player so they are capable of doing it. 5. IPL everyone looking for money so asking one person to do too much is counter productive.

  • Alex on July 16, 2016, 8:00 GMT

    Coaching methods can not be written in a book. For a coach to win , there has to be so many things has to go for him. Kirsten who won world cup , if people look at it thinking he was great coach. Devil in the details. He has india's greatest captain and great bunch of players. Sehwag may not may have scored but he upset opposition by his mere presence. Then you see kirsten coaching really good SA team. he struggled. Why? You have to start with good captain. If you are not a good leader , you really can't be good captain. Warne looked great in his IPL first season but he need freedom and captaincy need people who wants to build a house in where ever they go. You do not want people who likes to roam , travel or anyone who do not like to be tied to something. A good coach is damn lucky in that he had good captain. I like dravid as great stateman and person but he is also learning this art of coaching. Coach need to find a smart guy who is not afraid of street fighting. contd....

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