Indian legend and NCA chief Rahul Dravid tells TOI how the fast track level 2 coaching course could unearth quality coaches
MUMBAI: During the course of his glorious career, Rahul Dravid has blunted many a dangerous attack with his impregnable defence. Despite the raging pandemic, the batting legend, in his role as the head of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), is striving hard, along with his team, to provide continued online support to India’s cricketing ecosystem.
Just before the second wave of Covid, Dravid got the NCA cracking with a first-of-its-kind initiative – conducting two Fast Track Level-2 coaching courses for former international and First-Class cricketers, who have played more than 75 games. Amongst those taking part were former India players Wasim Jaffer, Ramesh Powar, current national selector Debashish Mohanty, L Balaji, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, and several others.
In an exclusive interview, Dravid shed light on what purpose these courses serve to India’s cricket coaching community.
The NCA has recently conducted two coaches’ courses for former India cricketers and those who have played over 75 First Class games. Do you see more and more Indian coaches taking up important positions in big tournaments like the IPL?
Having been involved in the IPL and in Indian cricket in all these years, I certainly feel that there are quality Indian coaches in the system and people equipped to take up important support staff positions in tournaments such as the IPL. It’s nice to see that some of the coaches who attended the courses are already involved in the IPL and are doing well. In terms of technical knowledge and understanding of the players, I feel that our coaches are some of the best in the world. The proof is in the pudding. If you look at the number of young cricketers coming through the system, the technical ability and game awareness just amplifies the fact that there is a lot of good work being done by coaches at the grassroots levels. When you couple that with the fact that the BCCI conducts over 2000 games a year at all levels, our coaches and cricketers get exposure like no one else in the world. It would be nice to see them get the recognition they deserve.
Will these Level-2 coaches be available for coaching at the grassroots level?
A lot of these coaches, because of the fact that they’re experienced and some of them have played international and First-Class cricket, are already in important coaching positions. For example, Jaffer, L Balaji, Powar, Sairaj, Abhishek Nayar etc. From our perspective, it was a good opportunity to support them and give them the opportunity to do a Level-2 course and enhance their knowledge and learning about the subject. There are some others, who’re also doing commentary, and have other options. Then you hope that this kind of a course will then inspire them to take up coaching also as a career. Let’s be honest, international players, and players who’ve played a lot of cricket at the First-Class level have quite a few options.
The BCCI’s office-bearers were very keen that we try and get them involved in cricket.
This course was the first of the many courses that we’re now reviving. So, all those coaches that come through in the next batches after this – will be coaches who have already completed their Level-1 refresher, and who’re coaching in state associations. Now they will be taken up on a seniority basis, starting with those that have completed the Level-1 refresher first. Those courses should be starting in a few weeks’ time.
Some of these newer state associations feel that conducting courses on a seniority basis will deprive their coaches of a chance to learn at the NCA. For example, someone from Mumbai who has done a Level-1 course in 2009 will be preferred to someone from Pondicherry.
For some of the new states that have just started playing the Ranji Trophy, the BCCI has already conducted a few Level-1 courses. Even during the lockdown, one of the major things we were able to do was conduct the Level-1 courses in a hybrid (online and onsite) format. During the lockdown, we completed the online version of the Level-1 course for 10-11 state associations. Of course, the practicals and the assessment must be done onsite, that cannot be done online. And that would be only done once things open and improve. There is one day left (of each of these courses).
We need to address the backlog that is pending already. This Level-2 course, which we’ve started conducting again, wasn’t conducted for the last seven years. So, there’s a pending backlog which needs to be addressed. Otherwise, what will happen to those coaches who’ve done their Level-1 six-seven years ago. We need to go in some order. Eventually, the idea is to cater to everyone in that backlog. It will take a little bit of time, but it’s very gettable. In terms of Level-2, because we haven’t done the course for seven years, we’ve a backlog of close to 150-160 coaches.
Can you explain what this concept of hybrid coaches’ course is?
Hybrid means nothing but a combination of online and onsite. In the past, what we’ve done with our Level-1 course is that it’s been an 8-day onsite course. So, we go through the state associations. The state associations request for a Level-1 course. Our faculty goes there, and they conduct a course over a period of eight days. So, what we’ve been able to do now is do six days of it online, and one day of assessments and practicals, which will be done onsite. That is from a Level-1 perspective.
From a Level-2 perspective, it used to be an eight-day onsite course. The Level-1 coaches who’ve qualified for Level-2 would come (to the NCA) and do the course over eight days. So what we’ve been able to do with the support of Sujit Somasundar and the education team at NCA, is that the work that would get covered purely in the classrooms earlier is now covered over the four days of the online version of the course. So, a lot of the theory, soft-skills material, we’re able to teach it online over four days. And then, for the skills and practicals portion, we’ve four days of onsite teaching. Even for the former international players, we did four days online and four days onsite.
What’s the number of coaches you are aiming at, in terms of a pool of top cricket coaches in India?
In a country like India, the more the number of qualified and good coaches we have, the better it is. We at the NCA can’t guarantee them jobs, but hopefully we can support the development of more coaches and have more quality of coaches out there for the respective state associations to select from. That in turn will also benefit the girls and boys that they train.
If you consider the fact that there’s 38 state teams and 7 teams per state, that means that there is a requirement of 266 coaches. Let’s assume each team has a head coach and assistant coach then that means that 532 coaches will be in the system. The responsibility of hiring and employing the coaches with the respective associations is the responsibility of the state units. The NCA doesn’t get involved in that.
Would the NCA qualified coaches be inducted in their state academies?
The list of names that we get for the Level-2 course comes from the state associations. One of the QRs (Qualification Requirements) to be eligible for the Level-2 course is that they should be working in some state unit. I am sure that if these state units are sending names of the coaches for the course, then they would find ways to utilize them.
During this pandemic, how difficult has it been to keep the NCA going?
One of the most challenging things is that we’ve had to change the way we conduct our courses, because the chance of doing it onsite, the way we would do earlier, is not possible. But in the way it has driven us, it’s been a great opportunity to learn, grow and to be able to do this online and now be very confident in our ability to deliver this course in a hybrid model. It has forced us to learn and adapt. It’s a credit to the NCA’s education team that they’ve been able to execute this.
One of the things that the office-bearers told me when they took over is that they were very keen to revive these courses. And increasing the number of faculty. One of the things that holds us back from getting more and more coaches in the system is the limited number of faculty that we currently have. To conduct these courses, we need a lot of very good faculty to do it. Coaching is one thing, but to be able to deliver a course is almost another skill on its own. Before the pandemic started, we identified about 10 individuals whom we were hoping then to grow and develop as our faculty members, to do more and more of these courses. Obviously, the pandemic has come on, and we have been working with them virtually and have taken them through various training programs so that they too can deliver some of the courses online.
How’s been the support from BCCI during these tough times?
The support from all the office-bearers has been good. They’ve given us permissions to do a lot of these courses. Obviously, some of our most important work, conducting camps for various age groups has taken a hit because of the pandemic but this is where the support has been great with other cricket related activities such as conduct of the courses.
The office bearers in fact were quite keen to revive the Level-2 courses, courses which hadn’t been conducted for seven years.
When will the NCA conduct a similar coaching course for former women’s cricketers?
Honestly, we would’ve finished that course by now, if not for covid. We’ve done the four days of the online version of the course. So, when I was talking about the hybrid model, the course for 24 women (former) international cricketers has already been conducted. We were supposed to conduct the onsite version from April 12, but unfortunately, we had to cancel it because of covid. As soon as things open, we will finish the next four days. We are keen to support the development of women coaches at all levels and would encourage more women to take up coaching.