Without doubt, he was one of the finest cricketers that Indian cricket has ever witnessed. His wristy flicks and stylish drives could never be forgotten by anyone who has followed cricket in the last decade or so. An average of nearly 46 in 134 Test matches is no less to be regarded as an outstanding one. His innings of 281 runs against Australia in Kolkata was one of the Wisden’s all-time top 10 innings in Test cricket, India’s only one.
Surprisingly however, he never had a strong and committed fan base like Sachin or Sourav. Even though some people who say he had not done enough to be treated on par with the other three, this comes as a shock, because players like Virat Kohli have a better fan base. This may be because his style of play, like himself, was not so entertaining but was classy. He has never been flamboyant both off-ground and on-ground. It is surprising to note that even in his heroic knock of 281, he did not hit even a single six. On the field, he was never seen as an enthusiastic guy thanks to his lazy running between the wickets.
He was never considered as a captaincy prospect because of his image of being an introvert. It seems he had chosen to stay out of the limelight and unfortunately succeeded in doing so. This might be the reason why he did not associate himself with any brand like others.
On a professional front, his career graph was not so promising when you compare it with the other three. The obvious reason was his batting position of No.5 for the major part of his career. He had to play with the tail-enders in many matches which prevented him from scoring too many runs and also winning man of the match awards. It could be further stated that his entire career has been overshadowed by his historic innings of 281 runs. After putting up a show like that, one needs to achieve consistently to live up to expectations. But he could not score a century after that innings for next 14 months and the press and public has forgotten him.
Even though he performed decently in One Day Internationals, he was not selected for the World Cup in 2003 because his only talent is batting. As the team had a dream run in the tournament until the finals, no one did really protest about dropping him. He ultimately became one of the bunch of players who were emerging at that time. His form has deteriorated in the following years and of course he came back strongly, but not enough to gain the lost charisma.
Even the IPL could not get him the much wanted fanfare, instead it has tarnished his image. He was named captain of the Deccan Chargers for the first season and he had drastically failed as a captain as the team stood last in the points table despite having arguably the strongest team on paper. This further established his image of ‘Test-only’ player.
His test average 46 is not considered to be so great by many critics who compared him to others like Sachin, Dravid and even Sehwag who have averages above 50. Moreover, he has really good averages against only few opponents like Australia and New Zealand, but not against all the teams. These facts have provoked many critics not to call him as legendary.
But I feel, at the end of the day, it’s not just about numbers. He might not be the greatest batsman or a star but is surely a legend because of the values he had practiced over his entire career. He had not preached anything or motivated anyone by words but he had shown how to maintain composure in tough situations which was the primary reason for his success against the Australians. He has left behind a legacy in terms of moral values which is hard to keep up for the upcoming players.