Epochs do come to an end;
Eras do come to a standstill
For the barest second
Time does halt…
Allowing the world to soak it in,
Facts as they resonate
Allowing a glimpse of the future,
In the present to percolate
Of a difference,
Of a chasm
Huge and wide
Never to be bridged,
Of sheer subtlety and class;
Of awing strokes and shots
Never to be replicated
But in memories
Those that’ll linger
To reality until now
Fading away quickly
To a past,
A time-span bygone…
In cricket crazy India, there has never been a dearth of cricketing favourites for the sport’s lovers. Long-winding and endless, the list carries on with illustrious and iconic names dotting the fans’ everyday life. As a fan, my life too hasn’t been any different than this prevailing norm with a succession of cricketing names marking the passage of my life, from childhood to adulthood.
Of these then, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid hold quite a unique distinction. Though I have to admit, I have always been a grey-shaded follower of the former – sceptical of the shenanigans that invariably seemed to follow him – as much as I was, and still am, a hardcore believer of the latter. As anyone who was around watching Indian cricket in the 90s, could attest, these two – along with a few other giants – epitomised the best of Indian cricket.
They made heads turn with their batting skills, conjured up shots of brilliance out of the most annoying deliveries and made oppositions rue their professional existence. When riled verbally, they riposted with the bat – Yuvraj’s six sixes had nothing on Sachin and Dravid taking on the invincible Australian bowlers – and when taunted cheekily with deceptive incomers, made the taunts harrowing rejoinders for the opponents to swallow. They were experts and stalwarts, who could take on anyone and everyone, anywhere and everywhere making the sport come alive at all times.
The timing of each of their curtain finale may have coincided, but when it came to their playing styles, there were no parallels at all. Of the two, where Sachin could play with aggression taking charge when the team needed him, Dravid never wavered from his trademark patience however critical the situation.
Sachin could unleash sixes as he did the boundaries – the 2003 World Cup match between India and Pakistan still gives me goose-bumps – but Dravid’s shots always involved more number of twos and threes than sixes. Yet one could watch them endlessly for the sheer brilliance that they evoked while at play in spite of their vastly dissimilar tactics.
The start of their respective careers too was equally dissimilar. Where Sachin was earmarked for greatness right from the time when he made his debut as a 16-year old, Dravid was touted as an uncertainty whose very first impressive performance was shrouded by Ganguly’s ‘century-on-debut’ at Lord’s in 1996.
But at no time, did the two compete against the other, or against anyone, chasing records. Records became secondary, elevating the country’s representation in the sport an utmost priority. A fan can’t forget the relatively single-handed heroics of Sachin to inspire India to the semi-finals of the 1996 World Cup or the forbearing double-century that saw Dravid thwart the advances of Australia to rescue India Down Under.
Indian cricket today is blessed with the perfect team composition with no worries about any player. This is perhaps the biggest difference between Indian cricket in the 90s and in the new millennia. From the top-order down to the very last rungs of the lower-order, the Indian cricket team comes across as a well-balanced unit with no player having to take-over dual roles to ensure that all gaps are covered and well-hidden. Due credit to Sachin and Dravid then, for they played at a time where one had to fulfill the role of a part-timer with the efficiency and lethality of a full-timer and the other, had no choice but to don wicket-keeping gloves to solve the problem of the best team composition.
Jugglery it was, at the then captain’s behest. And juggle these two did with panache, not letting the team down at all despite the inadequacies that plagued it. They were in for the long haul, going with the ups and downs that the team faced. Unfazed by the harshest of criticism, they poured their heart and soul for the team – for Indian cricket – taking whatever came their way in their stride, without clamouring for more.
Imperfect as any other mortal being, yet Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid outlined the very definition of perfection. Their striving to constantly improve themselves, their ability to stay grounded in spite of all the acknowledgements deeded to them and their utmost passion for the sport – as it continued to evolve – made them perfect in every way possible. All that remains of this perfection now is memories and remembrances.
Rewinding back to the past may then be laborious, futile even, considering that memories don’t really have an impact on the present or on the future. But, if memories are all one is left with, there’s nothing left to do except relive them at every opportunity one gets. For even these are invaluable, when associated with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.