A few months back, when the BCCI announced that it would employ the services of ex-cricketers to guide Indian cricket, the first question on everyone’s mind was ‘where is Rahul Dravid’? The list featured the names of Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly but Rahul Dravid’s name was conspicuous by its absence. It is another matter that the aforementioned names have met just once and their role in the scheme of things is hazy to say the least. It seemed more of an announcement to keep fans and followers happy and make it look as if the board was keeping Indian cricket’s best interests in mind.
But where was Rahul Dravid?
When Duncan Fletcher’s tenure ended after the World Cup, many names were thrown in the fray for the role of the India coach, Dravid’s being one of them. Those rumors were quickly quelled by the man himself.
He resurfaced, as a coach. And just like he did in his playing days, he got back in the trenches and away from the spotlight, to coach the U-19 team.
Good bosses are a luck of draw and the current U-19 team has to thank their stars for having the good fortune of calling Rahul Dravid their boss. Ever since he retired, he has donned the hats of commentator, IPL captain and mentor. The Rajasthan Royals found an unlikely mentor in Rahul Dravid who after playing for 3 years for an egomaniacal owner at RCB, moved to Rajasthan Royals to take charge after Shane Warne quit. In hindsight, Rajasthan Royals seemed to be an extension of Rahul Dravid, underrated, unglamorous, but hard working. The team policy of sourcing and promoting young talent has given Indian cricket Sanju Samson. The 2015 edition of the IPL gave us Deepak Hooda who lit up the IPL with his pyrotechnics. Ajinkya Rahane has made huge leaps as a cricketer and hasn’t been shy about speaking about Dravid’s impact on his development.
Rahul Dravid played his final innings in Indian whites in January 2012. By all standards, it couldn’t have been a worse farewell series for India’s best no.3 batsman. For someone who prided himself on his defence, his mode of dismissal in his final series was getting bowled. After having tasted a glorious English summer scoring 3 centuries and getting his name on the honour’s board at Lord’s in what was otherwise an English winter for the Indian team, the Australian summer held no such delights.
The 2013 edition of the IPL was a dark one. It opened up a pandora’s box that eventually began the process of cleaning up Indian cricket. What was hard to digest was that 3 of Dravid’s team mates found themselves in the net of the police and were paraded as criminals, their faces hidden from view. There couldn’t have been a sorrier sight and in his press conference, his pain was evident. One of cricket’s most respected ambassadors was like Julius Ceasar stabbed by Brutus. The fallout of that mess was complete when the Rajathan Royals themselves were suspended for two years when its team owner was accused of betting.
The Rajasthan Royals were a young team that danced to a different beat and whose efforts were laid to waste by team owners who had no business owning a cricket team.
Adveristy and Rahul Dravid can never to be far for too long I guess.
For most of his career, Dravid played under the shadow of one Sachin Tendulkar. Their parallel journeys have raised the inevitable debate of which one was better. Trying to compare two legends is largely an academic exercise. Statistics may point to the efficacy of one over the other in certain conditions but if two greats play in the same manner, one of them is redundant. Which is why India’s greatest batting generation inspired so much awe – Tendulkar’s mastery, Laxman’s wizardary and Dravid’s tenacity. Using statistics to define greatness is like using wealth to define happiness. By that standard, Pranav Dhanawade must already be ranked as a great for scoring a 1,000 runs. Dravid and Tendulkar have scored over 6,000 runs together in partnerships and Dravid has joked that the crowds would always wait for his wicket so that hey could see God walk to the centre.
The Mohali fiasco in which Dravid declared six runs short of Tendulkar’s double drove a slight wedge between them, but not one that erupted into a volcano. In a conversation with a colleague, we were debating on who is the bigger hero, Dravid or Tendulkar. This much is clear, if Dravid had played for as long as Tendulkar did, he would have been test cricket’s highest run getter. While the 90s were the sole custody of Tendulkar, the 2000s were Dravid’s baby. Dravid took pleasure in blunting the opposition, Tendulkar got his kicks by taking them to the cleaners. Without Dravid, there would have been no Kolkata 2001, Adeleide 2003 or Rawalpindi 2004.
Would you want your child to emulate Sachin or a Dravid?
That’s a tough one.
In the recent MAK Pataudi lecture, he spoke about a cricketer’s evolution and how Tendulkar’s rise was a freak one where genius, support, hard work and opportunity all came together to create an icon of unimaginable proportions. On the other hand, Dravid’s entry and rise wasn’t as spectacular. His rise was much like how he played his cricket, hard-working and understated.
It is easier to relate to a Rahul Dravid than a Sachin Tendulkar as only a precious few are born with gifts such as special the ones that the little master was bestowed with. Tendulkar’s rise coincided with India’s rise in the world. His was a journey in which so many things fell into place that it would almost make you believe in unbelievable things like karma and destiny. Dravid’s rise came with sheer and back breaking hard work. It didn’t seem as if he was ordained to be a star.
An event from a couple of years back put a lot of things into perspective for me about Rahul Dravid. Of the few things that I can boast of is studying in the same school as him and as luck would have it, he paid a visit to school for the annual reunion. After the group photograph, he was thronged by students, young and old, for photographs and autographs. He didn’t demur, patiently signed whatever he could and got back to talking to his set of friends. There was no security detail to watch his back, no sense that a star was amidst us. And then it struck me that Tendulkar could never walk as freely as him anywhere in the country. From the age of 16, he has lived in cocoon and however much he tries to break away and lead a normal life, it will always elude him.
In that sense, Dravid is someone who wears greatness lightly on his shoulders and in Rudyard Kipling’s words, can talk with crowds and keep his virtue and walk with kings without losing the common touch. In the professional world, you see people whose achievements are inversely proportional to the weight they throw around. And when I saw standing in front of me someone who has scored over 13,0000 test runs and 10,000 ODI runs, walking around like just another regular Joe, it taught me about humility and perspective.
In the biblical version, Goliath the giant is beaten by a much smaller David.
But Rahul Dravid taught me that you can be a Goliath and still behave like David.
Or in this case, a Dravid.