Happy Birthday Rahul Dravid: They don't make them like you anymore
We bow down to the cricketer he was, the values he represented, and the person he is.
"Finally, I would like to thank the Indian Cricket fan, both here an across the world. The game is lucky to have you, and I have been lucky to play before you. To represent India, and to represent you, has been a privilege and one which I have always taken seriously. My approach to cricket has been resonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness, but also with pride."
I did not copy the above quote from the transcript of this speech. A speech, which was made in a press conference, almost six summers ago.
Instead, I typed it out from distinct memory.
These words have left an indelible imprint on my mind, one that would stay put for years galore. They came from Rahul Dravid on a quiet morning in March 2012, when he decided to hang up his boots after 16 years of service to Indian cricket.
Today, a youth team prepares itself to undertake a World Cup campaign, under his tutelage. From then to now, Dravid's dedication and loyalty to the game has not wavered by an inch. He continues to inscribe success stories for the next generations with his reserves of knowledge and experience.
There are a lot of things Dravid's name represents in world cricket today: persistence, poise, panache, power, propriety, and pain.
However, the qualities that truly made the former Indian skipper stand out from the rest was his zeal for self-improvement and his will to fight back from the toughest predicaments. He refused to let setbacks push him into a corner and whenever he was backed against the wall, he used it for support to come out swinging.
"I was given a talent to play cricket. I don't know why I was given it. But I was. I owe it to all those who wish it had been them, to give my best every day."
The man went through a gamut of problems in his career, but refused to let them take the driver's seat. He struggled to find a place for himself in the ODI setup in the initial phase of his international journey. His style of play was not suitable to the format and it looked like he would've had to settle for representing India in Test cricket alone.
Eventually, Dravid retired from limited overs cricket with more than 10,000 ODI runs to his name.
This stat, more than anything else, defines the kind of cricketer he was and the kind of person he is. He could've thrown in the towel back then and refused to acknowledge his shortcomings. Instead, he went back to the drawing board and worked incessantly hard to fit into the team. He did not just fit in, but was worthy enough to lead the Indian ODI side one day.
This is what success is. This is what pride is.
"I have experienced some unbelievable victories and crushing defeats in my career as a first-class cricketer. What I have realised with it is everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive."
Dravid, today, is a role model not just for aspiring cricketers, but aspiring professionals across all fields. In a world where ethics are bartered for fame, Dravid is a man who ought to be celebrated.
He would probably be irked by all that hullabaloo, though.
The former Indian skipper preferred to operate away from the limelight in his playing days, and continues to do so even in retirement. He does not believe in making noise, but instead, invests his energy in concocting a beautiful melody that will eventually be heard anyway, due to the perfection in its art.
His career gave a simple message for all those who look up to him: keep your head down, put on blinders to the distractions around you, give yourself in to learn and develop every day, stay grounded no matter what and keep your dignity through it all.
Chances are, you will succeed.
Dravid's incredible career shows that nice guys do not finish last. He made one and all bow down to the kind of cricketer that he represents. Simple but steadfast. Quiet but fierce.