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Wit and wisdom at Rahul Dravid's Saturday laughter club - snapshots from a press conference

Ahead of the Super 4 game against Pakistan, the India coach's media interaction was a mix of candour, wariness and dry humour

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Rahul Dravid's expressions as he walked into the media conference on Saturday were typically studious. But it took less than five minutes of him fielding questions for those expressions to change. Over the next 20 minutes, he was witty, entertaining, happy to play along, all while keeping the media typically at an arm's length over tactics and combinations.
Is Dinesh Karthik the first-choice wicketkeeper ahead of Rishabh Pant? Has Ravindra Jadeja been ruled out of the T20 World Cup? Will you continue to, err, experiment? How do you react to guys who play outrageous shots, considering you hardly played those in your days? The questions flew in thick and fast.
Dravid answered them all patiently. And in between serious answers, he triggered peels of laughter. Then, when he was asked if Pakistan's fast bowlers were better than India's in their opening game, his expression changed again. There were slight creases on his forehead.
Was he annoyed? Perhaps not. He was more bemused, it seemed, at the "zyada mazboot tha" (they were a lot stronger) description.
"Pakistan's bowlers bowled well, I accept that," he said. "They are a very good bowling side. But we also restricted them to 147 through good bowling. The number you will see, sometimes someone has bowled 145 kph or 147 kph but, at the end of the day, bowling analysis is the most important thing. Whether you're bowling at 135 or 145 or 125, swinging the ball or not, you are judged by the results you produce.
"Bowling analysis of our fast bowlers was also pretty good. I respect their bowling, certainly, but I am very confident that we have a very good bowling attack as well. One that produces results. It might not be as, umm… I want to use a word, but I can't use it here. The word I want is coming out of my mouth, but I can't use it here."
Anyone walking into the press conference at that instant could've mistaken it for a Saturday laughter club. Several Instagram reels were being readied right there. Social media was shortly going to explode with funny memes. As the laughter subsided, people tried to coax Dravid into saying the word. He was mischievously asked if he meant "exuberant".
"No, not exuberant," he laughed again. "Four letters, starts with S... It's okay. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that we might not look glamorous, but in terms of productivity, we are producing the results. And that's all that matters."
Hmm, a more starry feel to the Pakistani attack? Perhaps... He's done now, you thought. Wrong. There was plenty more to come.
"Yesterday, we saw you and Virat Kohli having a long chat at practice. What were you discussing with him?" he was asked next. If Dravid was taken aback by the brazenness of the question, he didn't show it. Instead, he expertly clipped it off his pads to the boundary with dry humour.
"We might not look glamorous, but in terms of productivity, we are producing the results. And that's all that matters."
Rahul Dravid when asked if Pakistan's bowlers were better than India's in their previous meeting
"It will take a long time [to explain] here," he said, half-jokingly. "[But] what conversations happen between a player and a coach is not something I'm going to come here and reveal in the media. That's obvious, clear no coach will do that."
And then he switched to Hindi.
"Yeh bhi baat karte hain ki Dubai mein khaane-waane cheez kidar ache milte hain, ache restaurants kidhar hain yahan. Uske paas bahut advice hain, woh advice kar rahe hain idhar jao udhar jao!" (We also talk about where to eat in Dubai, which are the good restaurants. He has lots of advice, he says do this, go there!)
Cue in more laughter. Also cue in the inevitable question about experimenting ahead of the World Cup. Roughly a fifth variation of things touched upon earlier, but Dravid held his poise.
"I'm not really experimenting. I don't really know why people feel we're experimenting. If people get injured, I have to try out other guys, no?" he asked. "We're not actively going out and looking at this as some kind of experiment."
When Dravid answers in Hindi, there's a bit of shuddhta to his sentences, a pure and polished version of the language, slightly different to the colloquial form commonly spoken. He introduced Indian cricket audiences to "vishesh tippani" (expert opinion) during his playing days. On Saturday, he added dayitva to the dictionary. He was speaking of his dayitva (responsibility) as coach to communicate clearly with his players on selection matters.
Then towards the end of the interaction, it was almost as if Dravid was anticipating the final question arriving in his mother tongue, Marathi. When the question came, from a scribe he'd known for years, he offered a sheepish smile. He paused, probably wondering whether to answer in Marathi, but eventually began in English and then switched to Hindi.
As he finished, he picked up his backpack, took a deep breath, and rushed off to the nets. The media session was over and gigabytes of footage soon exchanged hands and flew over cloud spaces. Dravid, meanwhile, was back to giving his reserve players some vishesh tippani at the nets.
It was business as usual. For everyone.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo