Long before Rahul earned the sobriquet The Wall, he had a coach..

Making the 'Wall' of fame

- By Vedam Jaishankar

Long before Rahul earned the sobriquet 'The Wall', he had a coach who helped to lay the foundation for his solid play.

Harbhajan Singh
Rahul Dravid

In his pre-teens Rahul had no formal coaching as such. His father Sharad passed on the odd tip or so. Most of the early cricket he learnt was through discussions with class mates and neighbourhood friends, including Santosh Bhavani, brother of Sadanand Vishwanath. The garage door served as their wicket and all the cricketing lessons about firm top hand, loose bottom hand, playing close to the body, etc was learnt on the streets of Indiranagar.

Rahul was close to 13 years of age when he attended his first formal camp, at the KSCA stadium. PS Vishwanath, former Karnataka batsman and vice-president of KSCA, was looking after the KSCA nets at that time. He remembered Rahul's father Sharad, with whom he played recreational badminton, telling him of his son's interest in cricket.

"I asked him to send Rahul to the KSCA camp. Those days there was very little coaching for young boys. I used to be the director of the Regional Coaching Camp at Sree Kanteerava Stadium. We had three-month long camps throughout the year for all games, not just cricket. Suddenly the state government decided to bring this under the Directorate of Youth Services and Sports. The coaches all became government officers and the camp just died.

"It was then that I requested C Nagaraj, erstwhile secretary of KSCA, to start at least a summer cricket camp at KSCA.''

Those days, KSCA conducted nets and camps only for boys selected into State teams, and even that only during the season. It was left to the private clubs to spot youngsters at inter-school level and work on their development.

"There was no direct contact between KSCA and the hundreds and thousands of children who wanted to play the game. Besides there were no private coaching camps like the ones that have sprouted all over the State these days,'' said Vishwanath.

The summer coaching camp was KSCA's way of direct contact with the young aspiring players. Initially, KSCA club members' children were inducted into these camps. They brought along their friends and relatives and the camp soon grew into unmanageable proportions. It reached a stage where KSCA had to conduct selections to choose trainees for the camp.

In this scenario, when Rahul walked into the camp, Vishwanath directed him to Keki Tarapore's net.

Tarapore was an off spinner. He had played for the then Mysore State in Ranji Trophy against erstwhile Madras in 1945. He was a member of Bangalore United cricket Club (BUCC), one of the more influential clubs in the State. Dr. Capt. K Thimmappiah who had the distinction of scoring the first Ranji Trophy century for Mysore State was the president of the club. He was also the KSCA president, a post he took over from M Chinnaswamy.

Now Thimmappiah had a monopoly on selection committees. He was in all selection committees, whether it was to select the state schools side or the Ranji Trophy team. He had an eye for talent and was not shy of airing his views. Thimmappiah and Tarapore had a good rapport. The latter would be on the look out for talented youngsters and alert Thimmappiah whenever he came across any.

Tarapore took to coaching and underwent the Rajkumari Sports Coaching Scheme in Mumbai in the late 50s. He served a brief stint in Jaipur before being transferred to Bangalore. There, he was on deputation to the erstwhile Mysore State Cricket Association.

In Bangalore, for the next three decades Tarapore literally breathed cricket. Being a Parsi, he could stay at the Parsi Apartments, just a stone's throw from the cricket stadium. He was at the association grounds early in the morning for the nets. Later he would travel in his moped or scooter from ground to ground to watch his wards play either inter-school or inter-club or any match, for that matter. In the late afternoon he was back at the club or state association nets.

Cricket, for Tarapore, was everything. Over the years, a number of Test cricketers ranging from VV Subramanyam, EAS Prasanna, BS Chandrasekhar, GR Vishwanath, Brijesh Patel, Syed Kirmani, Roger Binny, Raghuram Bhat and Sadanand Vishwanath attended his nets.

(Tarapore's son Shavir too played a bit of cricket before venturing to cricket umpiring. He is in the national panel and has stood competently in a number of One-Day Internationals.)

In the late 70s and 80s, long before the advent of the National Cricket Academy, the Board used to run a national camp for promising youngsters. Former Test cricketers Col Hemu Adhikari and later Hanumath Singh used to be the chief coach and Tarapore assisted them. A number of outstanding cricketers like Kapil Dev, Yograj Singh, Bharath Reddy, B Arun, K Srikkanth, Ravi Shastri, Kiran More, Sadanand Vishwanath, Raghuram Bhat, Shivlal Yadav, Roger Binny, et al were put through their paces by Tarapore.

While Tarapore certainly had a big hand in the moulding of Roger Binny, Raghuram Bhat and Sadanand Vishwanath in the Karnataka line-up, the one cricketer he groomed from scratch was without doubt Rahul Dravid.

Coach and pupil struck an excellent rapport right from the start. For Tarapore, Rahul was everything he wanted in a pupil and for Rahul, Tarapore's word was the gospel.

Rahul trusted Tarapore totally. His implicit faith in him was so strong that he accepted without question his instructions.

``Keki (Tarapore) moulded him. I can say this without doubt,'' said Sharad Dravid.

He had such tremendous interest in Rahul's cricket that he often set up special nets for him. Tarapore, who was a good communicator with youngsters, ingrained in Rahul the ethics of the game. By default it also became the ethics of his life.

Rahul, in his teens, grasped these lessons quickly. Along with the values his parents, school and college teachers taught him, and the literature he was getting exposed to, he was turning out to be an upright, principled and very fine sportsman. In fact these traits are unmistakable in him and anybody who has come in contact with Rahul over a period of time will easily vouch for it.

Extracted from Rahul Dravid A Biography by Vedam Jaishankar.