20 June 1996 could be referred to as a landmark day for Indian cricket, as two players who would go on to become cricketing greats of their country made their debut on that very day at Lord’s, England.
One went on to become the most influential captain in the Indian cricketing history (calm down Dhoni fans), and the other was your hero, Rahul Dravid. Dravid became “The Wall”, proverbially and literally, one structure that held the key to nearly every single historic Indian triumph outside the subcontinental conditions. But, apparently, that is not enough for you guys, because, according to you, ‘he never got what he deserved’ and ‘his performances got overshadowed by his contemporaries’.
This is as meaningless as Virender Sehwag’s son asking him to score a big knock in the Indian Premier League to prove himself. Dravid has over 24,000 international runs to his name, in addition to 416 catches.
Legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne once said about him: “Rahul Dravid being known as the Wall is pretty much spot on. The fortress could also describe Rahul, because once Dravid was set you needed the bowling equivalent of a dozen cannon firing all at once to blast him down.”
He is the fourth highest run-scorer in Test cricket, but his greatness lies in the fact that he was involved in 738 partnerships, the most by any batsman in Test cricket. His success cannot just be measured by how much he scored but also by how much he helped his partners succeed, taking the shine of the new ball and tiring the bowlers in the process.
He has taken 210 catches in the 164 Test matches that he has played, i.e., 210 wickets credited to the bowlers, which is a world record for a fielder (excluding wicket-keepers). He is the only player to have scored a century in all the Test playing nations away from home.
Cricket fans would forever remember him for the 2003 Adelaide classic: his scores of 233 and 72* led India to an elusive Test win in Australia after a span of more than 20 years. Against England, when all the other batsmen were finding it difficult to put bat to ball during the infamous 2011 whitewash, he scored 3 centuries in 8 innings, thereby ending up as the team’s leading run-getter.
In the Nottingham Test of that series, when he was sent out to open the innings in place of an injured Gautam Gambhir, he carried his bat throughout the innings, scoring 117*, to become only the 3rd Indian batsmn to do so after Sunil Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag.
Unlike in Tests, he had to battle hard even off the field to make it big in One Day Internationals, fending off critics who deemed him unfit for the faster format. It takes a lot of guts for a player to transform from being someone who was criticized for not being able to play big strokes to one who will end up with 10,889 runs to his name.
He has never played for personal records. He even donned the wicket-keeper gloves when the team wanted him to do so and pulled it off amazingly well. Navjot Singh Sidhu said: “Rahul Dravid is a player who would walk on broken glass if his team asks him to.”
He may not have a World Cup, but he has something that even Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t have: his name on the Lord’s honours board list. Life came a full circle for him when, after having missed a century at Lord’s on his debut by 5 runs, he made a 103* at the same venue in his last tour to England.
Some would say Tendulkar’s performances eclipsed his equally valuable knocks, but you know the Karnataka batsman is no lesser when the Master himself said: “He (Dravid) is a perfect role model for youngsters. He has set a great example for all of us to follow. We are all trying to follow that path.”
Interestingly, his debut T20 was also his last, a match that he only played because the team was struggling to put together a playing XI. The 41-year-old led his IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals to the play-offs despite playing 3 players who were later accused of spot-fixing,
Back with the same team as a mentor this season, his real victory lies in the success stories of Ajinkya Rahane, a 41-year-old Pravin Tambe and several other youngsters. Almost as if a man with a Midas touch, his handpicked lesser-known players to represent the Rajasthan-based franchise all came good.
People often complain that he didn’t get the farewell he deserved. But his decision to quit Test cricket after the Australia series in 2012 was completely in line with the way he had conducted himself for years, giving up on a lucrative home season, as he didn’t want to block a youngster’s place in the team.
Now that India is touring England again, captain Dhoni and head coach Duncan Fletcher wanted him to have a few interactive sessions with the team before the first Test. In the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel’s own words: “He has had so much success in England that no one can tell the current lot better about technique and temperament than Rahul.”
No points in guessing what Dravid would have said to the offer: positive.
He doesn’t need your sympathy because you cannot pity the legends; they are to be respected. As the saying goes: “If Sachin Tendulkar is the superman of Indian cricket universe, Rahul Dravid is The Dark Knight.”
Saying that he didn’t get what he deserved is an insult to him because he has achieved what he wanted in life, through sheer hard work. Cricket will always be grateful to him because he decided to play this game when he could have easily chosen some other sport and still succeeded. The game can only hope to find a gentleman like him again.
Indian Cricket Fan