Hi, after some hiatus. It is spring time in India and generally in the northern hemisphere. In general, a pleasant time with nature greeting you in its various hues and birds chirping away. They have been my alarm clock for the past week or so and it is certainly a blessed feeling to be able to appreciate that. However, the spring time also brought in the ultimate decision of Rahul Dravid to hang his boots and call it a day from international cricket and as he mentioned during his presser, it was to allow the spring of young talent to express itself.
I'm not going to refer to him as Wall except in this note. I've not been particularly fond of that stupid (for want of a better word) nickname. Rahul Dravid has personified dignity, grace, skill and determination to me. A trip down the memory lane is essential to put things in perspective. When he came in, the Indian team pretty much looked like a Karnataka team save for a couple of faces from elsewhere. We used to joke about how it was Mumbai a couple of decades ago that used to account for most of India caps and now it was the turn of Karnataka. There was also the cynical talk of how the great GRV's stint as chief selector is enabling this. However, you could not argue much on that line looking at Rahul or Kumble or Srinath's performance. Others didn't stand the test of time in any case.
This man was born with a liking for shadow. And so while he played superbly for his 95 at Lords on his debut, Sourav Ganguly eclipsed that with a hundred. He batted out of his skin in 2001 for 180 against Aus at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, only to be shadowed by a very very special knock of 281 by Laxman. Instances galore, everytime he scored a hundred we rejoiced, not just because he played well, but also because statistically there was a chance of another Indian doing it even bigger! They called him unsung hero, it didn't matter to him. We were rescued time and again by his willow. In his times, test cricket had evolved in its pace, so much so that teams won games at rapid pace and by the same coin also lost games at rapid pace. They just didn't know how to save matches. To me, Dravid was among the few cricketers of his time who knew and could manufacture a third result - that of saving the game. People can argue that was boring. But that also saved the ignominy of defeat for the team. And that brought out the fighter in the man. He fought hostility of the bowlers and adversity of the conditions with elan.
Being Rahul Dravid must have been tough. He must have had extraordinary self belief to continue doing what he did best and at the same time adapt himself with time. I remember the early days when he used to get cramps by the time he touched the 70s/80s. He remarkably worked on his fitness to get past that. Then there were days when we recommended him to the Defence Research Development Organization as a man with technical know how of how to find a target with unerring accuracy - yes we are talking about the fielders. He worked on his game and became the lynchpin of Indian batting for close to a decade. For someone that the average fickle fan scorned as to no good for a one day game, he has more than 10000 runs to his credit. He stood the sternest of tests - that of time. In doing all of this, I have never seen a public expression of bitterness any time. I have only seen equanimity and poise. I have only seen grit and determination. Therefore I feel, in his retirement, we will miss a gem that adorned the Indian dressing room and more by his practice rather than precept he held out lessons for the youngsters. I hope the tributes of today will inspire a Kohli or a Raina to imbibe the character that made Dravid. To sign off, my best pic(k) of Rahul, one that gives me goosebumps even today. So, we'll miss this man who probably didn't have magic but had method in ample measure. In any case magic is fleeting. Well done, Rahul Sharad Dravid. You can look back at those tapes and achievements with pride. God bless.
VVS and Rahul walking back undefeated on the fourth evening at the Eden after McGrath, Gillespie, Fleming and Warne threw everything at them, but couldn't conquer. Stuff you can recount to your grandchildren