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Players must perform in Ranji Trophy for IPL call: Rahul Dravid

Legendary Indian batsman emphasises on the need for young players to perform consistently in the Ranji Trophy

He may have spent his first three years of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with his home team, Royal Challengers Bangalore, but it is the last three years with Rajasthan Royals that have brought out the best of Rahul Dravid in the T20 format.

Rajasthan Royals team mentor Rahul Dravid fields questions at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Amit Jadhav
Rajasthan Royals team mentor Rahul Dravid fields questions at a city hotel yesterday. Pic/Amit Jadhav

We may not see 'The Wall' as a player in this year's IPL, but the former India skipper has his hands full with his new 'team mentor' role. Dravid spoke to MiD DAY yesterday about Royals' strategy, the team philosophy, the spot fixing mess in the last edition and life post-retirement.

Excerpts:

On what he will miss as an IPL player:
I will miss my cricket. I loved being in a contest, loved competing and playing a fast bowler well. There is no doubt I will miss the adrenaline. I have been told that the adrenaline is never the same being a team mentor as compared to being a player… basically, the high you experience as a player. It is a different phase and I am looking forward to it.
One thing I will definitely not miss is the pressure and the horror feeling you experience in the stomach at times (during the match).

On Rajasthan Royals retaining young players:
It was important to retain our five players. All have a story with the Rajasthan Royals. (Shane) Watson has grown with this franchise. Sanju (Samson), (Ajinkya) Rahane, (Stuart) Binny and (James) Faulkner played at other places, but they have flowered with the Royals. People identify them as Rajasthan Royals guys. All four have played for the country after joining RR. These guys were part of the spirit and culture of our group, and I am glad it has worked out both ways.

On Indian uncapped players going into auction:
It is nice that the Indian uncapped players will be going into the auction this time. I have always felt that it was unfair that an overseas, uncapped player was in the auction and the Indian uncapped players did not get an opportunity to get a fair price. Now, it will be fair for all. The other thing it will do is force players to perform in the Ranji Trophy. The only way to get picked is through performance. You know the franchises won't pick you for the sake of it. So, there will be pressure on the young Indian players to perform, get recognised and noticed. If they do that, they will get a fair price in the auction. If some players believe that swinging the bat and scoring runs here and there would earn them an IPL contract, I think they better be surprised. Yes, the franchises would look to have certain T20 skill sets in a player, but they would also want to see how he has done in the Ranji Trophy.

On preferring a transfer window:
There is already a transfer window in place. The difference between foreign football leagues and the IPL is that firstly, there is no limitation on foreign players in football leagues. Like say, Manchester United or Arsenal do not need a (certain) number of English players. They can have 11 Brazilian players playing for the team whereas in the IPL, you must have seven Indian players (in the playing XI). We need the auction so that every team has an equal opportunity to buy players depending on their budgets. At the moment, this is the best system, but maybe in future they can come up with something where they do away with, or a part, of the auction.

On Royals' backroom staff:
We have a small, tight group working behind the scenes. Paddy (Upton, head coach) is coming back; Zubin (Bharucha, Director of Cricket), Monty (Desai, coach), (John) Gloster (physiotherapist), and now I will be assisting as well. We have a group of people who understand the culture in our team and our philosophy. They are integral in allowing youngsters to succeed. We have retained most of them (support staff) as well. Having retained these five key players and backroom staff, we should quickly be able to create another good environment that will help us succeed. I haven't yet decided about being in the dugout. But definitely, I would be quite involved in strategies and will travel with them.

On whether he quit the IPL because of the fixing mess:
No, not at all. I played the Champions League T20 after that. I felt I had a three-year contract with the Royals and it was the start of another cycle. I knew if I played another season, I would only be dragging myself. I became excited in the development of younger players. It was more exciting than facing Shaun Tait in the nets. When that starts happening, you know it is time to move on and do other things. I am also 40 now.

On whether the IPL spot fixing was his toughest phase:
It was a really difficult phase as we had invested a lot of time and energy on those players. When such things happen, it is very disappointing and you feel let down. There are a lot of good people in the system, but get tainted because of a few bad eggs.

On whether the measures to curb fixing are fool-proof:
Irrespective of the checks and balances, we need to be vigilant. There is nothing fool-proof. The BCCI and the ACSU (Anti Corruption and Security Unit) is doing its best, but a lot of this is an individual choice. Everyone is doing their best, even RR have done their best, but you still have to be vigilant. It's a challenge. One needs to understand that some of these players are with the franchises for only eight weeks. For the rest of the year, they are on their own in different places. It is easier to say that the franchises need to do something which they do try, but the reality is that they need to take personal responsibility and learn from mistakes. If you want to be corrupt, there is nothing that can stop you. We see that in life as well. There are some severe punishments, but we still see crime being committed.

On IPL being a soft target:
IPL is the most high profile tournament. While it garners a lot of publicity, it also gets an equal amount of negative publicity when things go wrong. It is just the nature of the tournament. It is also a reflection of how successful the tournament is. There are things you want to be improved and changed in every edition, but there is a lot of good the IPL has done. It gives so many young players an opportunity. It also benefits financially not just the players, but others as well who are connected with the tournament directly or indirectly. It is also a great platform for talent to get expressed in the T20 format. If you are talented, you don't need to rely on your state association. For example, you have a boy from Kerala play for Rajasthan or a boy from Jammu play for Chennai. We have seen with the likes of (42-year-old) Pravin Tambe that if you have talent and fit a role, you can play. You might be forgotten by your state association or not given an opportunity because of various reasons, but if you are talented, this opens a door for you to perform at eight other franchises. And if you cannot impress these franchises, then you are not talented (laughs).

On depriving Pakistanis from participating in the IPL:
It is not as simple as that. We want to live in an ideal world where everyone can play, but we don't live in an ideal world. There are a lot of other issues related with their participation. I am not privy to all the details. I just have to trust the people who know what is right.

On speculation of staging the IPL-7 abroad:
My preferred choice will always be India because IPL has its own charm, buzz and energy. A lot depends on the general elections and what the IPL Governing Council decides. We would have to go with them.

On life post-retirement:
I have tried spending time at home. I have done commentary as and when time is there. I also do a lot of stuff for my corporate sponsors. Now, I have a little bit more control over my schedule than I ever had before. It is challenging and daunting in some ways, but quite nice as well.

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