New Delhi: Rajasthan Royals skipper Rahul Dravid says dealing with the turmoil caused by the spot-fixing scandal, which has left his team's reputation in tatters, has turned out to be as tough as handling "bereavement in some ways".
"I would not lie it was a very tough phase for us. It was a blow to the team. It's something I have never experienced anything like it. It's like bereavement in some ways," Dravid told reporters after his team beat Sunrisers Hyderabad to enter the second qualifier of the IPL, on Wednesday night.
Rajasthan Royals secured a four-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in a thrilling low scoring 'Eliminator' to book their place in the second Qualifier where they will be meeting the mighty Mumbai Indians in Kolkata.
Dravid, for the first time, seemed like opening up to the fixing chapter as he talked about the subject and allowed his emotions to flow. RR were a team gone haywire after three of its players, including India pacer S Sreesanth, were arrested by the Delhi Police for indulging in spot-fixing.
"You feel real sadness, disappointment and anger. There are so many emotions. We had a day (after the Mumbai Indians match) and the next day, we were playing Sunrisers in Hyderabad and everyone was in a daze. It was a difficult week for all of us," he said.
Dravid informed that two days they spent in Jaipur after their match against Sunrisers Hyderabad helped them unwind and engage in "honest" discussion with each other.
"I think the two days we had in Jaipur after that game was fantastic. We spent two-three days in Jaipur and there were some really open, honest conversations among the players, among the coaching staff.
"A lot of emotions were shared. In some ways, it was amazing for me to see the way they came out and expressed their feelings. There was range of emotions that we had experienced over the last few days," he said.
The former India skipper thanked Royals coach Paddy Upton and the support staff for reuniting the group just ahead of the crucial play-off stage.
"Paddy and the coaching staff slowly handled this campaign. We knew we had four days and we gave a couple of days to people to let go emotions. We started focussing on the team day before yesterday and then zeroed down our focus on to this game," Dravid said.
"We enjoyed our time in Jaipur, just the night before the game we landed in the city (Delhi). I can't thank my support staff enough, Paddy and his team and everyone around the Rajasthan Royals. The way they managed the last four days was great," he added.
Throwing more light on Upton's role in shaping up the team, Dravid said he had always wanted to work with the Indian team's former mental conditioning coach on a "one-on-one" basis.
"Paddy has been really useful. He has been fantastic for us. Not only in the last week but I think the whole tournament. I was always very keen on working with Paddy, working with him on a one-on-one basis. We are glad that he's been with us this year (he was the performance director of Pune Warriors in IPL 2012).
"The boys have really enjoyed Paddy's company. They have loved him, so many guys came up to me and said he is fantastic. Paddy has played a great role in creating a good team environment.
"We have a very small support staff, Zubin Barucha and Monty Desai (Royals coach for the last two IPL seasons), just three of them. They are our unsung heroes and add so much value to the side. We don't believe in having bowling coaches and fielding coaches. These people have done a fantastic job for us," he added.
Dravid said the win against Sunrisers Hyderabad was important for the team after what had happened over a last couple of days.
"It was an important win regardless of what has happened. It's the knock-out stage of the tournament, you lose and you pack your bags and go home. There are no second chances in these types of games. It's nice to get over the line and win the game. We are still alive in the tournament," he said.
The 40-year-old also lavished praise on T20 specialist Brad Hodge for the way he anchored Rajasthan's victory over Sunrisers with his brilliant unbeaten 29-ball 54.
"We needed something special, I think we were dead and buried. We needed something absolutely special and Brad Hodge provided that. I think it was one of the finest T20 innings in a low-scoring game chasing the target I have ever seen. We needed something special and Hodge's innings was special," he said.
On fielding an all-pace attack for the match despite knowing the slow nature of the surface here, Dravid said, "I would make a joke if I tell you the truth. We were short of spinners for various reasons. We had Praveen Tambe injured as well; in fact we did not have anybody to choose from."
"It was not an ideal combination for this track but the game shows our resilience. We knew an ideal scenario should have been playing a spinner but with injury to Praveen, we did not have that option also. I think the bowlers did a really good job to restrict them to 133. They were a dangerous team and our team did a good job," he said.
Asked about their next match against the formidable Mumbai Indians, Dravid said, "Mumbai are never easy, they are a very good side. There are all stars. There's nothing to lose, go out there, have some fun and see what happens."
Dravid said if they win the tournament, it would be a fairytale for Rajasthan Royals.
Dravid, who was popularly hailed as the "The Wall of Indian Cricket" said he will decide on his future as a cricketer after the IPL gets over. Rajasthan along with CSK and Mumbai Indians have qualified for the Champions League with Wednesday's win.
I don't know, there are couple of games. I have not given it a thought that this would be my last IPL and there would be no more cricket after this. There is couple of months' time before the Champions League," Dravid said.
"I don't know, let me finish this T20 tournament, then I will sit down with the franchise and see what they want to do. But I am also mindful of the fact that we also need to start looking ahead as a franchise as well. Let's see," he added.
Dravid also described the sixth season of the IPL as a fruitful one for the franchise as they were able to find some new talents like Sanju Samson among others.
"It's been a really good season from that point of view, whenever we found ourselves on the back-foot, whenever we found ourselves in trouble; somebody has stood up, put his hands up. I think that largely also due to the environment created around the team, it's been a really good team environment.
"I would like to believe that youngsters feel pretty comfortable out there, there's not much of a pressure, we don't have big stars, there are not many people breathing down their necks, we have given them a lot of freedom, we have given them a clarity of roles what each one has to play. That makes easier for them to perform," he signed off.