Rahul Dravid, A legend says goodbye
Rahul Sharad Dravid. The name might not strike fear among the bowlers as a Viv Richards or a Sachin Tendulkar would. But every bowler running up to bowl to him would be rest assured that he would have to earn this wicket. Not a dominating batsman, but effective none the less. A man who consistently put the team above himself, Dravid stayed in the shadows of Sachin Tendulkar for most of his career as he quietly went about doing what he does best, bat. His contribution to India’s rise as a cricketing superpower is as much as anyone else.
Dravid started his test career with a 95 at the holiest venue of them all, Lords’. His performance was overshadowed to some extent by a century on debut coming from the bat of Souarav Ganguly, but the major aspects of his game were very much on display in that innings – determined and resolute, rock solid in defense and willing to fight it out for every single run. These very traits formed the foundation of his future exploits and earned him the nickname, ‘The Wall’.
Dravid, along with VVS Laxman, forged together the most significant partnership in the history of Indian cricket. An epic 376 run stand at the Eden Gardens against the mighty Australians who were on a 16-match winning streak, enabled India to bounce back and secure a spectacular victory after being asked to follow on. Dravid’s contribution was 180. In the years to follow, Dravid played a pivotal role as India rose up the ladder and eventually became the numero uno test team. His contributions in victories abroad have been priceless.
The 233 at Adelaide gave India its first test victory in Australia in 23 years, the 148 on a seaming Headingley track, the 270 at Rawalpindi that clinched the series against arch-rivals Pakistan, the captain’s knocks of 81 and 68 at the minefield in Sabina Park and most recently, scoring three centuries against an English attack that no other Indian batsman could stand up to. It is safe to say that Indian cricket would not have been what it is had Dravid not graced it.
Dravid will not only be remembered as one of the most technically correct batsmen to have held the cricket bat, he will also be remembered as someone who without a second thought put the team before his own interests. As Navjot Singh Sindhu has once said, “Rahul Dravid is a player who would walk on broken glass if his team asks him to”. He took up the gloves in one-day cricket so that the team could play with seven frontline batsmen and without hesitation he came out to open the innings whenever the need arose. One could never have imagined that Dravid could be a top class one-day cricketer, but sheer determination and hard work helped him knock of 10,000 runs in the limited overs format. His credentials as a batsman often led to people overlooking his catching ability.
A slip fielder of the highest caliber, he retires as the most successful catcher in the history of the game among non wicket-keepers. During a two year stint as captain, he led India to series victories in West Indies and England. And though, India were knocked out in the very first stage of the 2007 World Cup under Dravid, till date he remains the second most successful ODI captain for India.
Dravid played the game the way it should be, as a gentleman. Like every cricketer, he too had his share of criticism. And like all legends have done, he let his bat do the talking. Just when ‘experts’ had started chaliking out his retirement plans, he replied in typical fashion, ending 2011 as the highest run-getter in test cricket.
His oratory skills received due acknowledgement too as he became the first non-Australian to be invited to deliver the Bradman oration in 2011. In a scintillating speech, Dravid put forward his concern regarding the future of test cricket and put forward his views as to how test cricket can be preserved. He also gave an insight into the much talked about life of cricketers in India. He descended from the stage to a standing ovation, leaving the audience with plenty to ponder about.