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Cricket's nicest guy bids adieu

It would only be apt to say that Rahul Dravid gave cricket a good name.

Rahul Dravid has the knack of throwing up unexpected surprises. After the tour of England in 2007, he relinquished captaincy. Four years later, he announced he was quitting ODI cricket. Now following India’s tour of Australia, he has announced retirement from international cricket. While the first one came as a bolt out of the blue, the ODI retirement was on expected grounds given the way the selectors toyed with him (first dropping him for the ODI tri-series in Australia in 2008, then bringing him back for the 2009 Champions Trophy only to drop him again and recalling him yet again for the ODI series in England in 2011). Now the Test retirement is not too surprising considering the performances in Australia which called for a rolling of heads.

A pertinent question is “Why only him and not the others” ? Dravid throughout his career has never been one to shy away from responsibilities and has almost always put his hand up when the situations demanded. Rescuing the team from a troubled situation, keeping wickets during the 2003 World Cup, taking up captaincy in Sourav Ganguly’s absence and then during his axing, opening the innings in England 2011 are some cases in point. So much so that Harsha Bhogle described it thus “Ask him to walk on water and he would ask ‘How many miles’ “. Now it seems a bit odd that when there are calls for phasing out the seniors he is the first one to lead the way.

Dravid reasons that there are talented youngsters waiting in the wings and that the time is right for them to make their mark. Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma debuted in ODIs under Dravid and Virat Kohli, after his successful stint as U-19 captain in 2008, played under Dravid in the 2008 IPL before going on to make it big in the international arena. Now as Dravid captains Rajasthan Royals in 2012, Ajinkya Rahane(playing for the Royals) may be the next one to join the other three as the future of Indian cricket. A stint under Dravid should help. In the 2003 WC match against Pakistan in Centurion, Yuvraj Singh took India to victory in the company of Dravid, after the dismissal of Sehwag, Sachin, Ganguly and Kaif. Later in the Super 6 match against New Zealand, chasing a below par total of 147, Mohammed Kaif played his part to perfection in the company of Dravid. This was after Shane Bond had created havoc with his bowling, accounting for Sehwag, Sachin and Ganguly.

For much of his career, Dravid was overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar. He once jokingly said about his No.3 batting position in Tests “People sometimes expect me to get out soon, so that they can watch Sachin play”. Consider the 331-run partnership the two put on for the second wicket against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1999. The 186* of Sachin gains more prominence than the 153 by Dravid. During the 1999 World Cup match against Kenya, Sachin’s 140*, scored in emotional circumstances is more talked about than Dravid’s 104*. Being the true team player that he is, he would not mind the accolades his partner gets as long as his knocks help the team’s cause. Example of this is the 318-run partnership with Ganguly against Sri Lanka at Taunton in the 1999 World Cup. The latter hogged the limelight for his 183 in a must-win game leaving Dravid contented with his 145. But perhaps the most fitting example is the debut at Lords. His 95, coming in at No.7, has not generated as much buzz as the 131 by fellow debutant, Ganguly. It is only fitting that words like ‘selfish’, ‘money-minded’, ‘personal gains’ etc. are not used on him.

Dravid’s captaincy had both bright and dark spots. The win against Pakistan at Multan in 2004, the Test series win in England in 2007, the win in West Indies are some of the highlights while the 2007 World Cup and the controversial era under coach Greg Chappell remain low points. But his contribution to the game of cricket remains unparalleled. He commands deep respect in Australia. He was the one to predict that Ricky Ponting would play a big innings in the recent Test series. Last year, when he was in poor form, it was Ponting who urged him not to retire and stay on. Shane Watson is currently eager to play under him in the IPL. That Dravid was the one called upon to deliver the Don Bradman oration during the recent tour of Australia says a lot about his contribution to the game of cricket. That Dravid was the one who wrote the foreword for Steve Waugh’s autobiography ‘Out of my Comfort Zone’ is proof of the respect he commands from fellow cricketers. “Steve Waugh gave grit a good name”, writes Dravid. It would only be apt to say that Rahul Dravid gave cricket a good name.

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