To analyse Rahul Dravid's game, there is probably none better qualified than Keki Tarapore, his coach and greatest influence in his impressionable years. The 78-year-old Tarapore who, like Dravid, was also born in Indore and attended the St. Joseph's Boys High School in Bangalore is a former Ranji Trophy player himself. He made his debut for Mysore against Madras at Bangalore in 1945 under the captaincy of PE Palia.
Tarapore's foray into coaching began when he joined the Rajkumari Sports Coaching Scheme in 1959 at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay, now known as the NIS (Netaji Institute of Sports). He was posted to Jaipur for six months to coach the Rajasthan team and later shifted back to Bangalore to work under the aegis of the Mysore Cricket Association. From 1960 to 1991, Tarapore worked as coach to the Mysore (later Karnataka) team.
From 1977 to 1991 he was also involved with the national camp conducted by the BCCI every summer, first under Col. Hemu Adhikari as chief coach, and for the last two years under Hanumant Singh. During this period a number of future Indian stars like Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Kiran More, Shivlal Yadav, Roger Binny cut their teeth under Tarapore's watchful eyes.
During his service to Karnataka, Tarapore was involved in the early development of many exceptional players like EAS Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar, GR Viswanath, BP Patel, SMH Kirmani, Sadanand Viswanath, Anil Kumble and of course Rahul Dravid. In 1991, he was honoured with the Rajyotsava award for lifetime achievement in the field of coaching, bestowed on him by the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In this conversation with CricInfo, Tarapore makes a thoughtful appraisal of the current Indian vice-captain (and future Indian captain as he suggests).
When did Dravid first come to you and when did you first spot the talent in him?
I first saw Rahul when he was a 11-year-old boy and a student of St. Joseph's Boys High School. He attended a coaching camp conducted by the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium where I was the only coach. He was a boy with tremendous determination and eager to learn the right technique for a batsman. He first started to represent the state at the junior level. Once he started playing Ranji Trophy for the state and consistently produced runs, I could recognise that he had a chance to play for the country. He was always very hardworking and consistent in the matches played at the camp.
Was he always a batsman from the beginning or did he also bowl a bit or keep wickets?
He came as a pure batsman, later on he took up a little bit of wicket keeping and started bowling off breaks. That's why even now he keeps wickets for the country in case of an emergency. As a fielder he is quiet competent, especially in close positions which he has proven.
What were the specific areas in which you fine tuned his game?
From the beginning Rahul concentrated on the basics of the game. Even now whenever he is not in form I advise him to go back to the basics. The most important factor in his career has been that he was always ready to learn and take proper advice and apply the same on the field.
What do you think are Dravid's strengths and weaknesses?
Rahul's main strength has been his sound defence and his weakness even now sometimes has been his tendency to play too far across which has cost him his wicket.
Do you agree that he does not have the ability to dominate the bowling?
I don't agree with that. In some circumstances, for the sake of the team he has scored fast but normally he plays the role of an anchorman. When the side loses early wickets, Rahul's contribution has been beneficial to the team.
How would you assess his leadership qualities? Do you think he is a future captain of India?
I noticed in Rahul at a young age that he had a natural ability to captain the side. Whenever he got the opportunity to lead he showed good promise. Given the opportunity to lead the Indian team, I don't think he will fail in his duty as captain.