How difficult is it to play cricket at the highest level and not get carried away with the stardom, in a country that is crazy for the sport? The right man to answer this question would be Rahul Dravid.
“That is how Rahul Dravid is. You tell him he played well and he will tell you that somebody else played well too. I don’t know if he is a human being. How can a human being be so selfless.” – Harsha Bhogle.
How difficult is it to play cricket at the highest level and not get carried away with the stardom, in a country that is crazy for the sport? The right man to answer this question would be Rahul Dravid. The former Indian captain turned 45 today. Fit as ever, Dravid is in New Zealand with India’s Under-19 team to take part in the World Cup, starting January 13.
In every era, we had batsmen who played out of their skins, gave hope to their respective nations, won numerous matches for their sides and were worshipped by the fans. The legacy of Sir Don Bradman, whose incredible record makes him the best in the world without any threat, was followed by Allan Border, Sir Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, AB de Villiers and is probably, now in the hands of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. Everytime time a book on cricket is written, these guys will definitely get a mention.
But, one man who deserves a chapter in every cricketing book is Rahul Dravid, the selfless warrior who served the sport in the purest form. Commitment, consistency, class are the traits of this legend who was overshadowed by teammates like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly throughout his career, despite playing a number of match-winning knocks.
Think! If Dravid had not decided to keep the wickets for India, would Ganguly have been able to play an extra batsman in the 2003 ICC World Cup? If he had not decided to be flexible in team selection, would Irfan Pathan have ever turned into an all-rounder? These are only a few examples of Dravid’s selfless play.
There were a lot of other times when he was actually forced to make the sacrifices for the country and he did it, without complaining. “I am what I am. I have not deliberately built an image for myself,” the great man once said, speaking a lot about his character.
It remains a matter of debate that was Dravid’s biggest strength. Those who know cricket well will say his temperament, others might suggest that it was his simplicity but to a large extent, it was actually Dravid’s understanding of the game and himself. He knew that he isn’t in the same league as Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara.
So what did Dravid do? He created a league of himself. A niche that only he mastered. “Dravid Could play attacking cricket like me but I could never play like him,” said the six-hitting machine Chris Gayle and he couldn’t have been more honest.
The sight of Dravid perspiring in India’s heat, holding his end and defending some of the fastest bowlers in the world with ease, is still fresh in the memories of every 90s cricket fan. The thing with players like Ponting, Sachin or even Lara was that they gave you a chance to pick their wicket, even if it came as a by-product of increasing the run-rate. But, Dravid was different.
Once in, he was there to stay. This attribute was best described by former Australian captain Steve Waugh who had been on the receiving end of two of Dravid’s most important Test knocks (Kolkata -180 and Adelaide 233). “Try to take his wicket in the first 15 minutes, if you can’t then only try to take the remaining wickets,” Waugh once said.
Yes, there were a few controversies Dravid was a part of. Most notably, his declaration against Pakistan when Sachin Tendulkar was batting at 194 runs. This was followed by the Ganguly-Chappell saga following which Dravid was appointed as the captain of Team India. The man he is, Dravid never spoke about these incidents in public.
Even though India was knocked out in the group stage of 2007 ICC ODI World Cup, Dravid’s captaincy tenure was a successful one. He promoted youngsters like Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni to build a team for the future. Under Dravid, the team also won Test series in West Indies and England.
Now, away from the noisy corridors of cricket, the man is busy passing on his greatness to young guns. He has nurtured players like Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, Khaleel Ahmed, Unmukt Chand, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Sarfaraz Khan and Avesh Khan among others.
However, Dravid’s most beautiful gift to Indian cricket team could be Hardik Pandya. The Indian all-rounder once said, “I can’t but thank Dravid enough for his contribution. I understood that there is a mental aspect about the game that needs to be worked upon. He (Dravid) made me mentally stronger.”
We wish Rahul Dravid a very happy birthday!