Sunday, March 11, 2012
It was in 2003 and I had already failed in my first attempt to clear an exam in my graduation course. The next chance came on 16th of December that year, failing which I would get only one more chance to clear that paper. But there was something more important than the exam on that day. It was the 5th day of the 2nd Test match of India’s tour of Australia and India were standing on the brink of a historic Test match win. Rahul Dravid was at the crease unbeaten and we needed 233 runs. As much as I was unsure of clearing my exam, I was confident of Dravid’s powers to see us home. Inevitably I skipped the exam, made myself comfortable in front of TV a good 1 hour before the start of play. I would later have an almighty struggle to pass that exam but it was well worth it. On a gloriously sunny afternoon in Adelaide, to add to his first innings 233, Dravid stroked a masterful 72, finishing with a square cut boundary. Steve Waugh took the pain of retrieving the ball from the ropes and giving it to Dravid, for there was no one more deserving than him on the field to keep it. The point here is the assurance and the confidence he generated of an Indian win as long as he is at the crease, something which we are so used for 16 years but going to miss when the first wicket falls when India play the next Test match.
Test cricket is a game which not only reveals one’s character but also enhances it, and if ever you need a cricketer to prove that theory Rahul Dravid is the perfect specimen. The values he had in his life always shone through his batting. Honest and hardworking, durable and dedicated, calm and courageous. Nice guys all around the world took extra pride in his success because he showed the world that they can finish first too! They say that genius is nothing but the ability to take infinite amount of pain and Dravid is embodiment of that. The care and pain he took to prepare for each series, each match and each delivery has been exemplary. In his chat with Cricinfo, Abhinav Mukund reveals one particular moment when he found that Dravid changed his shoelaces and tucked them deep after he got out as the ball flicked his shoelaces in the previous match. Attention to detail has always been his strength and ally.
At the start of his career itself he has made his aversion to the opening slot clear, but whenever India find that they are a man down at the top, invariably Dravid steps up. He continued his wicket keeper role in one day cricket even when he was ridiculed for some of the mistakes he made behind the sticks, for he knew that it gave balance to the team. There were rumours from some quarters that he will be given a testimonial match - one last chance to shine, one last occasion to say good bye- but whoever has said that obviously doesn’t know the man. For him, it has always been team before the individual. He has built his career on pride and selflessness as much as on technique and temperament. From the moment he knew that it was time to hang up his boots, he would not want to drag himself to the field for the sake of a public adulation. It would have been so unlike Dravid.
He bids adieu as one of India’s all time batting greats. His position in the pantheon of India’s batting greats may be behind Gavaskar and Tendulkar, but for me he remains India’s best sticky wicket batman, even better than the other two. The two half centuries he scored on a minefield of a pitch at the Sabina Park to win the Test match and the Series were nothing short of legendary. Dravid always stepped up when the conditions are tough and bowlers on top. I have seen him taking blow after blow on his body in the now famous Headingly Test match and flinch not even once. Most of our glorious Test wins under Sourav Ganguly were built on Dravid’s impregnable defense and superhuman efforts. When India started winning Test matches abroad, you would always find an invaluable Dravid knock in the scoresheet. From Rawalpindi to Headingly, from Adelaide Oval to Sabina Park he remained the best Test batsman during that era. Six months down the lane, when India play the next Test match and whoever walks out after the first wicket, we are going miss the assurance he always radiated. But the good news is that skipping exams for cricket may become less frequent!