The past week marked two pivotal events in Indian cricket. One was long awaited. The other was dreaded. While Sachin made his hundredth hundred in international cricket, Dravid retired. A lot is being written and said about Sachin. I dedicate this article to Dravid, the man who played for the love of the game and just that.
The precise movement of feet, the stillness of head, the opening of the stance to counter a swinging ball, the last-minute leave, the pivot of the heel, the perfect balance of the body at the moment of impact, the cover drives, the student like focused expression - well these are some things for which Dravid will be remembered, forever.
Dravid's ability and technique is only half the story - the half which has been told, and retold, again and again. But Rahul Dravid is much more than that. The other less used descriptions, which define him are dignity, fair-mindedness, eloquence, gentleness and determination.
He is the kind of man we'd want our son to grow into.
A selfless team man, Dravid could pop up in the most unlikely of places. He played at every position - from number one to seven in the test team. He opened the innings with Virender Sehwag in Pakistan, wore the wicket-keeper’s gloves for one-day internationals to let dada get the balance right. He even wore the captain’s cap for the team whenever he was asked.
Like a soldier, he did his duty. It was all part of Dravid’s unsaid commitment for the team. He was never too proud to seek advice. Greatness was not handed to him; he pursued it diligently, single-mindedly.
In spite of some incredible records, surprisingly, Dravid received only 14 man of the match awards in One Day Internationals, and 9 in test matches. These statistics have something incredible to say about this man. He never played for himself.
When Dravid scored 95 on his debut, it was Ganguly hitting the headlines for scoring his debut century. When Dravid scored 153 against NZ in 1999, it was Sachin’s 186 which made the news. And when Laxman and Dravid pulled off an unbelievable win in the Kolkata Test against the Aussies, Laxman 281 made the news, and not Dravid’s 180. Time and again he was there, like a wall, supporting the other player to climb over him. He silently stood like the wall between abject submission and victory. He was always there.
Although, not naturally aggressive in his batting, one of his most remarkable achievements was the way he continually changed, adapted and fine-tuned his game. He was a relentless student in the pursuit of perfection.
Cricket will never be the same without Rahul Dravid. We are lucky to have witnessed one of the greatest cricketers of the game who combined skill with grace, elegance and humility.
Soon, another batsman will be placed as the number three batsman in the team’s batting line up, but no one, absolutely no one, will ever be able to replace Rahul Dravid.
Take a bow, sir.
Photo credit: hitforsixcricket.com