The biggest misconception of ardent cricket lovers across the globe is that Rahul Dravid always lived in the shadow of the Great Sachin Tendulkar and how he never got his share of recognition. The greatness of jammy lies in the fact that he never wanted the adulation and fanfare of a Rockstar. He craved for neither attention nor shock value. He never wanted to be the talk of the town. He never wanted women to scream his name in their sleep. Every day he would get up from bed, do his bit for the country and quietly retire to his private life - which mostly included bonding with his family. He's also one of those few world cricketers who despite being the No.2 run-getter in Tests (before Ponting overhauled him) had to constantly prove his worth as a reliable one-day batsman. But despite scoring over 10,000 runs with an average of 40 in this format, he fell out of favour with the selectors in place of players whose only contribution to the team were a quick pair of legs. And as if that insult wasn't harsh enough, recalling him after 2 years of forced-ODI-retirement (and thereby automatic non-T20I-consideration) in a tough English series (apart from being forced to make a T20I debut) was outright preposterous. While most cricketers in the twilight of their cricketing careers concentrate on only one aspect of the game (or retire from one format of cricket), RD doubled-up as a wicket-keeper to accommodate an extra batsman in the team. In the best interests of the team, he has batted in positions 1 to 8 without grumbling. Through all this insult and manhandling, RD has maintained his humility and dignity throughout. And that speaks volumes of his character. Never once has he spoken ill of anyone or anything - not even against Greg Chappel who has now become India's sworn cricketing enemy. With RD, I finally understood the meaning of a corporate world saying “if you are indispensable, you cannot be promoted”.
Statistically speaking, RD is the only batsman to feature in the only two 300+ partnerships in ODI cricket. And for those who say RD doesn’t know how to hit a six, there’s the occasion of him hitting three consecutive sixes in his only T20I match. He is also the second fastest Indian half-centurion.
RD in my opinion is the complete package when it comes to the making a cricketer. If Cricket is a gentleman's game, then yes, RD is a shining example of it. Not only does he have a truck load of cricketing shots, but his intellectual acumen is equally worth mentioning. The Bradman Oration is only one example of his verbosity. The innocent insinuations of projecting to the world that Indian players are not the bullies - on and off the field - indicates his command of Her Majesty’s native tongue. The fact that the Aussies chose RD to be first non-Aussie to speak at this prestigious event shows the kind of respect he commands across the world.
If Saurav commanded the area across the pitch on the off-side opposite to God, then RD was the beginning and end of the No3 position in Tests. If Sachin was/is God of perfect strokeplay, RD was all about being dead-set defensive. If Sehwag oozes flamboyance, then RD was the re-incarnation of patience. If Laxman was all about class, RD was the master of technique. If Yuvraj was all about aggression and arrogance, RD was humility-personified. If Beaven was the finisher then RD was the carrier. If Ponting was… well... Ponting, then RD re-invented himself in every new role and slot. If Jayasurya was the Destructor, then RD was the singles-sneaker. The list goes on…
The only blemish one can think of, in an otherwise flawless and illustrious career was the 2004 ball-tampering episode where he was apparently seen rubbing a candy on the ball. Whether he was actually guilty of the charge and if so, what prompted him to do it, will remain a mystery - unless he plans to reveal it in a tell-all tale that is now in vogue with retired cricketers these days. But knowing Rahul, he will take that mystery to his grave. The other haunting question that will never be revealed is just how and why did he declare that 2004 Indian innings against Pakistan, leaving Sachin stranded and (dumbfounded) at 194.
|One word to describe RD - "Sweat"|
So while the world mourns the retirement of RD, I will rather celebrate. I will celebrate because RD taught us so many lessons in Dedication, Patience, Resilience, Perseverance, Stubbornness, Adaptability and above all Humility and Dignity. He has served his time for his country and he has retired gracefully without being a burden and also paving the way for fresh talent to fill up those huge boots... metaphorically of course. It is now time for him to lead a relaxed life with his family albeit with some tense moments while watching rookie Test cricketers play with the long handle and an impatient mindset. As for me I’m just proud that I grew up in the era of Rahul Sharad Dravid.
PS: While this blog is a tribute to RD, it should not be automatically construed as a Sachin-bashing blog. That will come in a later posting :)