From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.35 :: NO.13 :: Mar. 29, 2012
End of an era… Rahul Dravid at a press conference at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore where he announced his retirement.
The last time I sent a mail to Rahul Dravid was after his superb Sir Donald Bradman Oration in Canberra. There was no response to the mail, so I thought the man must be too occupied with his preparation for the Australian tour.
Knowing Rahul's impeccable temperament and his eye for detail, I kept my own counsel and decided to follow his and Team India's fortunes via the media, both electronic and print.
Two days before he formally announced his retirement, Rahul called me up — as was his wont to contact all his team-mates who had played with him throughout his splendid career — to convey his impending decision. While it was kind of him to keep me informed, I'd have had no complaint if I had learnt about his retirement from the media — like millions of his fans. But the fact that Rahul called left me pretty much dumbfounded.
I was speechless when he reminded me of a scholarship that he got — most deservingly — as an under-16 player from SAIL (Sports Authority of India Limited) when I was working for that public sector organisation. He thought I was promoting him then, while the truth was that I was only acknowledging his enormous potential. It is also true that I would not have remembered this had he not reminded me of it. Gratitude is a hallmark of all greats and Rahul is no exception!
I've often thought that Rahul would've been a great golfer or a tennis player simply because his level of personal commitment was exceptionally high — which, at times, can get clouded or even lost in a team's cause. Reading all the accolades that have come his way, it is impossible to believe there was or there would be a better team-man than our own RD. And yet, as I recollect all the sweat pouring from every pore of the man, included the peak of his Indian helmet, I wonder how this man could survive without cramps.
Quite clearly RD had set himself very high standards of physical fitness, which was duly complemented by enormously great mental strength. That is exactly why I felt RD pitted against a Tiger Woods or a Roger Federer would have made for a heavenly contest. But our own, very own RD decided to take up cudgels on behalf of some of the lesser mortals who'd have never protected themselves in an individual competition.
Much has been written and said about Rahul's single-minded devotion to his batting, his indefatigable urge to pursue excellence for the team's cause and also his mind-boggling statistics — both at home and away. We cannot help but salute the man's imperious virtuosity in keeping alive the basic character of cricket.
Well, if I may suggest, Rahul Dravid is cricket and vice versa. The way the individual and the institution merged into each other is the most colourful phenomenon that we had been blessed to witness in Indian cricket. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see David grow into a Goliath without having to destroy the latter!
A lot many have said that we'll miss Rahul Dravid. I don't think so. Rahul's legacy will linger as long as cricket is played in our country. Artists never fade away; they keep coming back in thoughts and deeds, and in various forms of discussions. They say RD is one of the greats of Indian cricket. I'll not challenge that, but I'm entitled to say that he is the greatest cricketer of our times (please, can we put aside all the stats for a moment and just contemplate the numerous causes that Rahul took upon himself because the team demanded so?).
Rahul batted in all positions specialist batsmen are expected to plus kept wickets when called upon to do so. I'm not too sure how I'd have felt bowling with Rahul behind the stumps!! But then I was hardly a one-day cricketer. Once he finished with his batting gear, Rahul was quick to don the slip-catching role with aplomb. His concentration switched from facing the ball to facing the edge of the bat and day in and day out our man did it without flinching, always keeping in mind what is human life but a game of cricket?!
It was Rahul's overall attitude that made him such a wonderful student and thereby a lovely servant of the game.
In full flow… Rahul Dravid plays a shot during the Mumbai Test against the West Indies in November 2011. “Rahul's legacy will linger as long as cricket is played in our country. Artists never fade away; they keep coming back in thoughts and deeds, and in various forms of discussions,” says Bishan Bedi.
Rahul has been God's gift to Indian cricket — or are we now analysing the sheer selflessness of the man? Perhaps both. I've not had the privilege of meeting Rahul's parents, but it is easy to make out that he acquired all his cricketing values from the warmth of his middle-class Maharashtrian family atmosphere — a lot like Sachin Tendulkar.
Both Rahul and Sachin are outstanding examples of maryada purshotam. Where Rahul edges past Sachin is his powerful urge to know and read about the history of cricket. The urge is almost never ending. This and many other facets of Rahul's character make him a very special personality for yours truly.
If I have a small grudge, and it's only a small one, against RD, it is that he did not smile enough or fool around on the cricket field. I don't wish to take liberties for our RD is no laughing matter!
Finally, I'd have liked to know from RD himself as to why he relinquished Indian captaincy. That is a bit of a mystery in an otherwise fabulous cricket career. I suppose we will get to know the truth from the man himself — sometime in the not too distant future, I hope.
Meanwhile all we can suggest to Rahul is that life really begins after retirement! God be with you Rahul, now and always.
ODE TO RAHUL DRAVID
Not for nothing was he called The Wall
As he could bat on and on with his eyes firmly fixed on the ball
His powers of concentration was admired by one and all
And his (rare) early dismissal was treated by his opponents as a windfall
He was readily available at the nation's beck and call
Determined to contribute his part, however small
With his simplicity, humility and civility, he walked tall
At the Bradman Oration, his wit and humour regaled everyone in the hall
His thirst for knowledge took him to many a book stall
While his drive for perfection made him train till nightfall
He will always be remembered as the one who strode in at a wicket's fall
And batted as if his life depended on it, ball after ball...
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