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Growing up with Dravid

I typed an 800 word piece, what was intended to be this piece. I hit the submit button. The internet got disconnected. I hit the back button. The content was gone. I panicked. It felt like India playing a test without Rahul Dravid. There was no assurance; no backup.

The name of this piece is the same. The content is vastly different.

The world cup had just ended. They were playing at Lords. One leftie scored a century. Another fellow fell short by 5. For a 9 year old, test cricket does not really hold any significance. The colours of ODI cricket swayed him. Whites were dull, drab, boring and slow. The 9 year old only watched because he was too young to have a monopoly over the television at dinner time or past it. The moment was insignificant.

The world cup had just ended. The colours still held sway. For a 12 year old, watching Sachin was the zenith. Watching Ganguly dance down the track came a close second. Watching Rahul Dravid strike at 80 ranked very low in the list of priorities – somewhere between a Pepsi commercial  and a maiden over. In a Pepdi commercial, Shah Rukh Khan walked into the Indian dressing room in search of a Pepsi, saw Dravid and said, ‘Saurav, peele peele.’ The 12 year old laughed at Dravid.

A 14 year old is in a better place to understand cricket. He begins to realize that test cricket is not the bane of the Earth and that there is indeed some merit in watching it. The Eden Gardens, every 14 year old knew, was something special. It was to witness a Very Very Special innings. A knock 19 short of 300 runs. The 14 year old witnessed this. He failed to fathom the 180 at the other end. After all, it was not even a double century.

A 16 year old understands cricket more. He understands the nuances of cricket a little better. He is able to appreciate that ODI cricket is as much about building an innings as it is about going gung-ho. He also understands the sacrifices that a batsman makes for the team. He understands what it means to keep wickets. he, however, is still immature enough to criticize the wicket-keeping. He is still a child.

As the years increase, the fan learns to appreciate test cricket. He understands what it means to be shuffled up and down the order. he understands what a one-drop is. He also understands what an opener is. He begins to understand how different these two roles are. He gets to grip with the fact that there is one person who seamlessly plays both these roles. He understands that these are not by choice but by choice -not his choice, the team’s. The team, after all, comes first. Always.

The fan begins to find out why these cricket crazy lunatics harp on a person who has the nickname of a stack of bricks. He observes technique. He appreciates a ‘well left.’ He sees what slip fielding is all about. He sees the sweat pouring down from the helmet. He begins to study concentration. He begins to more closely study a study in concentration.

The fan observes the quiet mumblings in the ear of the captain. He begins to look at how the field strategy is planned. He looks at the legs slightly parted, cap on the head, arms folded with one arm perpendicular to the other and the fingers on the mouth studying the game. He observes the absolute minimum fuss that is made.

The fan grows more fascinated. He marvels at the cleanliness of the technique. He is stunned by the adaptability to T20s. He, for the first ever time, takes his side publically when, out of the blue, he is called back into the ODI team after years in the wilderness. He then outrages when he is promptly dropped. The fan marvels at how, with all else crumbling around, he maintains his poise, calm and technique to triumph in the country where it all started for him.

By this time, the fan is all of 23 years old. The fan understands cricket. He knows that he has missed something special. He scours YouTube for clips of yore. He watches Star Cricket for old matches. He curses himself for not having had the sense to appreciate the understated genius earlier.

The fan does not know how to write or what to write. He writes this.

The man retires. The fan adores him. The fan has grown up. Grown up with Rahul Sharad Dravid.

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