We have heard this line so many times in the last 16 years and it feels sad that we will never get to listen it ever. If Sachin has been the symbol of greatness, Dravid has been the symbol of perfection. It has been orthodox, copybook cricket that he has played all his life. He has been so good in this business that he has been nicknamed, “The Wall”. Rahul has been always known as a Test batsman and some feel his style of stroke play to be boring and slow and hence unfit for One-Day cricket. But alongside his 13,288 runs in Tests, he has scored 10,889 runs in ODIs as well. So much for boring stroke play, huh!
Soumitra Chatterjee, Manna Dey, Andy Roddick, Rubens Barrichello, Chaminda Vaas, Edwin Buzz Aldrin, Rahul Dravid. What’s common between these names?
These are all greats who didn’t get their due share of adulations because of the presence of another peer in their respective fields. Uttam Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Roger Federer, Michael Schumacher, Muttiah Muralitharan, Neil Armstrong and Sachin Tendulkar being the ones who got the spotlight.
But let’s not talk about what more Rahul Dravid could have got. Let’s talk about what he has got and what impact it has on our lives. And that’s quite a lot.
Way back in 1996 when Rahul debuted in England with that brilliant 95, India had got a batsman of calibre who could support Sachin because at that time the team followed the adage, “Sachin gaya, Match gaya”. The best quality about Dravid was that he was very patient and had the highest level of concentration. He will stay calm in situations where the whole team became restless and frustrated. And he was ably supported by Sachin and Laxman at many a times. His mental strength and dependability earned him another nickname, “Mr. Dependable”. The last decade has seen many matches where the victory rode on others’ stroke play but the fellow who stood there till the end to see the team through was Rahul Dravid!
Michael Hussey is accredited with “Mr. Cricket”. But, Rahul is no lesser a student of the game. He has studied the game to utmost perfection and there is rarely any instance where he has not gone to the field without the complete knowledge about the opposition. For a simple bystander fan like me, who knows less about the nuances of the game, his domination of the opposition allows writing about his knowledge. I remember two instances which show his knowledge about the rules of the game. One is when Steve Waugh handled the ball. Another is when Inzamam obstructed the field. On both occasions, I remember Rahul to appeal the first and the most.
Another aspect of his nature is courage and determination. When India was not able to settle on the formula for a perfect playing XI, Saurav Ganguly came with the idea of Rahul as the wicket-keeper. Rahul was not a natural wicket-keeper and his ODI batting at that time was being severely criticized. He was not a natural stroke maker and sixes were not his forte. It seemed that it would be doomsday for his ODI career. But he converted this disadvantage into his own strength. He not only kept the wickets with fairly good accuracy but also balanced his lack of stroke play with a lot of twos and good placements all over the field. Along with the Number 3 spot in the tests, he cemented his Number 3 spot in the ODIs as well. Many term Rahul as stubborn as he never improved on his stroke play and seldom hit sixes. There were jokes that Rahul’s boundary is the 30-yard circle. But he took all this in his stride and adapted to ODI and then to T20 in his own impeccable style. On the passing it must be mentioned that Rahul had the record for the quickest ODI 50 by an Indian with a strike rate of more than 200.
His patience and physical strength is something worth envying and emulating. He played 93 consecutive tests and missed the 94th because of gas and not injury! When he used to come to the field, the opposition along with the spectators knew that it would be quite some time before he will leave! Getting out him was very difficult and that is the reason why his Test match average is 52.31 and that too after playing the highest number of balls in Tests, 31,189, and spending 735 hours, 21 minutes at the crease. If we take that on an average a middle order batsman stays for 5 hours at the crease for one innings then that’s 147 innings (51.4% of his 286 Test match innings). Even to think about these number gives makes me jittery. He deserves a separate round of accolades just for this feat.
We are always told to learn the basics correctly. A person whose basics are correct can never fail and Rahul Dravid is one of the best examples that one can have. It is this reason why he easily scored runs in IPL (Sachin and Kallis being the other two). That is how he reciprocated Douglas Marillier when the Zimbabwean had clobbered us in the previous match.
It would be really difficult to imagine an Indian Test match scorecard without Rahul’s name in it! I will just end with few tributes from his fans:
- Rahul Dravid retires, proof that decent and well-rounded men can excel at the highest levels of sport. — Derek Pringle.
- Rahul Dravid retires… cricket loses one of its finest batsmen; sport, one of its finest gentlemen. — Jeffery Archer.
- Rahul Dravid retires.. the world’s most respected cricketer over the last 20 years. — Michael Vaughan.
- Not often do you find a person as exceptional as his achievements. — Sanjay Manjrekar.
- He’s probably the nicest guy – no, he is the nicest guy – that I’ve met in cricket. — Shane Watson.
- Some succeed because they are destined to, but Rahul Dravid succeeded because he was DETERMINED to. — Navjot Singh Sidhu.
- He’s not only a great cricketer, but a great man. — John Wright.
- There was and is only one Rahul Dravid. There can be no other. — Sachin Tendulkar.