Matches (15)
ENG v WI (1)
WCL 2 (1)
MLC (2)
LPL (2)
TNPL (1)
ENG v SL (U19) (1)
T20 Blast (5)
Asia Cup (2)
Feature

If Dravid the coach is anything like Dravid the captain, be ready for unpopular calls

There's no doubt he will have had more than one difficult conversation by the time Boxing Day dawns

"It's never an easy one to leave out players. We've got some real quality in our squad. Every one of the 18 players that we're carrying here is a really good player, so obviously we have to make decisions and only 11 can play, and sometimes we have to make calls, but yeah, it's just the way it is. We're not scared to make those calls and make those decisions, but we'll not be carried away and make decisions as well."
"Sometimes you have to have difficult conversations with players, and when I say difficult […] telling a player any time that he's not playing, irrespective of who it is, it's hard. Obviously everyone wants to play, everyone wants to be part of the playing XI, but everyone's professional as well. […] I don't expect everyone to be not disappointed, because I think one of the things that make people succeed at this level is, you want to be playing, you want to be competing, you want to be part of the action, you don't want to be sitting out. But how you take that fact that you have to sit out and how you respond to that, that's really a test of your attitude and so far I've had no complaints, and everyone's been fantastic about it."
This was Rahul Dravid on the eve of his first overseas Test match as India's head coach. At no point during his press conference did he go into detail regarding who would play or not play at Centurion, but there's no doubt he will have had more than one difficult conversation by the time Boxing Day dawns.
It's the nature of the job, especially when you coach a team with India's player resources. And Dravid has come into the job at a time when these conversations could become more difficult than they have been for a while. Run your eye over India's squad in South Africa: seven of the 18 players are 33 or older, and it would have been eight had Rohit Sharma made the trip. Five others are in their 30s. Some of the over-30s and over-33s are in the middle of prolonged slumps in form. This when Indian cricket is brimming with youthful talent in all departments.
Even if a transition is not imminent, it's not far away.
But even before it comes to that, Dravid will have to sign off on tricky individual calls that will be judged - by the wider world, at least - largely through the prism of results. It's blatantly unfair, because a reasonable decision doesn't become a bad one because it didn't yield the desired results, and because captains and coaches usually have to choose between two or more equally reasonable paths, each of which involves someone's career.
It's blatantly unfair, but it is what it is.
Dravid knows this well. Depending on which side of the fence you occupied, his captaincy tenure was characterised either by senior players swimming in needless insecurity, confused tactical meddling, and a shockingly early World Cup exit; or about young players getting the opportunities they deserved, brave strategic decisions, and two overseas Test series wins.
When things went wrong, much of the blame went to Greg Chappell. Dravid's self-effacing public persona often shielded him from the worst of the flak the coach copped, and it may well continue doing so as he assumes the Chappell role, but don't be fooled - there's no way anyone can be captain or coach of a high-profile team and not want and have a major say in decision-making. Chappell, remember, was a full year away from taking over as coach when Dravid made arguably the most contentious call of his leadership career, of declaring with Sachin Tendulkar on 194* - this when he was only standing in as captain.
If Dravid the coach is anything like Dravid the captain, expect the Dravid-Kohli era to be as full of unexpected and unpopular calls as the Shastri-Kohli era was. Boxing Day 2021 could well bring one or more of them.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo