'Southpaw' Dravid's lessons for Krunal Pandya
Seven summers ago, roughly around this time of the year, Rahul Dravid had finally managed to get his name on the Lord's Honours Board. At 38, he had shown immense patience and determination to let his blade overshadow his slowing reflexes and creaking knees to amass three centuries in a single series in England.
During the India 'A' ODI team's practice at the National Cricket Academy grounds in Bengaluru, Dravid, now coach of the sides set to embark on their own England journey soon, was away from most of the action but was still the heart of it all.
Before the practice began, Dravid emerged from the NCA, ahead of the team's arrival, to assess the weather and the pitches. He went back in, just as the team bus entered through the gates.
While the players practiced, their hearty pre-net session laughter replaced with serious gazes as soon as they held bat and ball, Dravid was inside the NCA, not coming out even once, as the assistant coaches kept vigil.
One of the 'A' team members, Krunal Pandya has been earmarked for an India spot ever since he has been making waves in the IPL. His brother has graduated to the top-most level, but Krunal is still waiting in the wings for an India spot.
While his loopy left-arm spin was the highlight of the Mumbai Indians' title-win last year, his cameos down the order have been a useful contribution this time as well. The England conditions, however, could throw a whole new set of challenges at him.
To iron out any flaws, Dravid emerged, after the net sessions were complete, a small yellow notebook for company, and went straight to Krunal, who was having a long throwdown stint with Abhay Sharma. When Pandya was done with the knocking exercise, Dravid approached him and started a 20-minute long interaction on his driving technique, as well as his ability to play the short ball.
As he explained to Pandya, Dravid took the 27-year-old's bat and started shadow-practising, left-handed, going back and forth as he transferred his weight, his protege listening intently.
He then took a boxer's pose and started punching the air, showing Krunal how to keep a closed stance while batting.
Dravid then progressed to teaching him about the pull-stroke, turning right-handed this time, as he continuously gestured him to keep the ball down with his bat imitating the shot, just as fluently as he had played it throughout his career. What was especially eye-catching was the wrist position which forever wanted to keep the ball down, never allowing the fielders any chance.
Krunal was diligently listening to it, asking the odd question as he seemed determined to fix his mistakes. Earlier in the nets, he had struggled with the ball coming into the batsman, even getting beaten once off a young bowler, while he played spin.
Krishnappa Gowtham, one of the bright spots for the Rajasthan Royals in this year's IPL, joined Krunal, as the duo kept their ears open, Dravid continuing his lesson on the short ball.
Even as the rest of the team trickled out of the practice area, Gowtham and Pandya stayed, taking their own time to pack their kits while being engaged in a long-drawn conversation.
Within a month's time, when Krunal is facing swing on damp English wickets, Dravid's invaluable suggestions could well come to his aid.