Growing up on the by-lanes of Basavangudi there are a few things that dominate your life- Watching Cricket, Studies(occasionally), watching Cartoons, playing Cricket, ogling at girls, being too shy to talk to them; discussing Cricket, playing Cricket and watching some more Cricket. Frankly, we didn’t follow any other international sport other than Cricket.
In view of all this here comes a guy, from the same by-lanes of Bangalore and scores a gritty 95 in his debut test in England, followed by an 84 in the second. He follows it up by going to South Africa and standing up to the likes of Donald and Pollock in the Tests. In the ODIs, when people say he is unsuitable for that particular version he becomes the highest scorer in the 1999 World Cup, with the highest number of Centuries by any batsman in the tournament. His name: Rahul Sharad Dravid.
I don’t want to get into how many runs he has piled on or how many very many great innings he has played. I don’t want to talk too much about how many times he has saved India’s ass and win matches when most players would be thinking about how to come back in the next match.
Dravid represented much more to me and my friends of my generation than a mere statistic. He represented us, each and everyone of us who grew up watching him play. Sachin failed at times, went through bad patches. That was unthinkable with Dravid. It was as if Dravid piling on runs and not getting out, with the help of his magnificent technique, was a given, taken for granted, no need to give a second thought to.
No where in India would you find kids from my generation arguing ‘Who is better Sachin or ?’, but in Bangalore. Dravid provided us the luxury of comparing him with the blue-eyed boy of Indian Cricket, another great- Sachin Tendulkar, whom the rest of India knows as batsman par excellence. Saying player A is better than Tendulkar was considered blasphemy, but in Bangalore.
It was not just the love for the people from Bangalore I admire Dravid, although I would have to agree that it is a contributing factor for my admiration for him, but the sheer number of successes at the top level.
Add to his Cricketing achievements, his humbleness, Gentleman-like behavior, his habit of putting the team first, propels him to the level of an Icon; someone whom you can look up to, who will never fail, who will never give up, one who will act with grace in the time of hardship, who will push the limits if it means donning roles that ill-suit you(He kept wickets in the absence of a good Wicket-Keeper-Batsman), who will never yearn for power but only success in the trade that the one is involved; someone who can talk like this:
Rahul Dravid, the quintessential family man, was never one to hog the limelight. Heck, people talked of him only when he scored all those runs to save all those matches India would never have won without him. He was never the one to talk back to his opponent even when they heckled him, abused him and tried to unnerve him. He would show his poker face and answer with his broad bat, by piling on misery by batting for hours on end, with shots that can easily be used for a Tutorial on Cricket. Getting out Dravid early was a rarity for the opponents.
Today, March 9th 2012, I get up, turn on the TV and hear the dreaded news- Rahul Dravid is retiring from all forms of Cricket. My Icon is not going to bat for India no more. My dream of watching him score a century in Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore from the stands will remain a dream.
He retires the way he played his Cricket – with dignity, grace and with a smile.
Good bye, Rahul, thanks for all the memories.
One last thing. Look at his stats. Cricketers would kill for such stuff. 10,000 runs at an average of 52 and 39 in Tests and ODIs, respectively, is what makes Cricketing greats.