By Abhishek Purohit
New Delhi–Veteran Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has backed batting legend Rahul Dravid to step in as the Indian cricket team’s head coach, should the former captain get the cricket board’s nod for the vacant post.
“At the starting point, there is no doubt about the quality of person Rahul Dravid is. I was very fortunate to know him well while working with him at Rajasthan Royals (first as the captain) and (later as the) mentor and then learning about his cricketing abilities,” Watson told IANS on the phone from Bengaluru on the sidelines of P&G’s flagship Corporate Social Responsibility programme, P&G Shiksha.
“There is no doubt that he will do an incredible job if he gets the chance to coach India and also with Virat Kohli who is continuing to grow in this IPL as a leader. He is an incredible man. He has an amazing amount of experience to pass on to the youngsters,” added the 34-year-old, who quit international cricket after the 2016 WT20.
The top post has been lying vacant for more than a year following the departure of Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher. Ravi Shastri was serving as the director and his contract ended after the conclusion of the World Twenty20 championship held in India in March-April.
After the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), the national team has a busy schedule, packed with Test series against the West Indies, New Zealand and England till December.
Moreover, calls have grown louder to appoint a proper head coach and Dravid has been heavily rumoured to take the job.
He has earned accolades for training Indian Premier League (IPL) sides — the now-suspended Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils. He has also served as the head coach of the India A and Under-19 sides — the latter finished runners-up at the World Cup earlier this year.
Many, including Sunil Gavaskar and Harbhajan Singh, have declared that they would like to see Dravid taking one of the most important jobs in world cricket.
And Watson, who played under Dravid in Rajasthan, feels that the former right-handed batting star has the necessary attributes to do well with Virat Kolhi as captain in all the three formats – once Dhoni steps down as the limited overs’ captain.
Dravid had captained Kohli at Royal Challengers Bangalore in the maiden edition of the IPL in 2008.
Watson, who played for Rajasthan from 2008 to 2015, is now working closely with Kohli in this edition of the IPL at RCB, who have reached their third final of the cash-rich tournament.
Even though he hasn’t had enough batting opportunities due to the success of the top order trio of Kohli, Ab de Villiers and Chris Gayle, he isn’t complaining. He has played a crucial part in bowling, with captain Kohli asking him to operate his medium pacers in the death overs.
He is on top of the bowlers’ chart, picking 20 wickets from 15 games with an economy rate of 8.07.
“I am happy with whatever roles I have been assigned at the RCB. My batting hasn’t been required too much (due to the success of the top three). Virat chose me at crucial and important times and in the majority of the times it has worked and sometimes, like it happens in Twenty20 cricket, it hasn’t worked out exactly according to the plans.”
“But I have contributed pretty well in a lot of the games while bowling. I feel great responsibility with Virat calling me to bowl those (crucial) overs. And with my experience, I try to do the best possible job,” he added.
When Watson, who scored 3,731 runs and took 75 wickets in 59 Tests and played 190 One-Dayers taking 168 wickets and scoring 5,757 runs, decided to retire at the age of 34, many felt it was a pre-mature decision.
But the Queenslander feels it was right to quit the game as he plans to do off-field activities alongside playing the Twenty20 tournaments across the world. Moreover, he plans to become a coach.
“I feel I still have got a few years of playing, especially these Twenty20 tournaments throughout the world. I would like to play IPL a few more years — I have always had incredible time over here,” said Watson, who was the Player of the Tournament in the 2008 IPL.
“I could have played a few more years of international cricket but I have decided to do some off-field initiatives. There are a lot of down-time after the T20 tournament and in this period I would like to study physical education, children education from (learning) the coaching point of view.”
“That’s why I always say that education is extremely important and a kid, whatever he does (play any sport), should study — that will help him take the right decisions at the right time and also help in the post-retirement careers,” Watson concluded, leaving a message for the youngsters.