Rahul Dravid and the art of playing second fiddle

2nd Test Australia v India Day Three

Rahul Dravid has retired. An era has ended. There have been glowing tributes flowing around the cricketing and the non-cricketing world to praise this truly great man. And he deserves each and every ounce of praise being showered on him. He has been the man I idolized not only for what he brings to the team on the cricket field, but for how he has conducted himself off the field. So I am sad for sure that he has gone off the field, but what gives me a bit of assurance is that he’ll still be around as a human being to look upon. I will still miss his intense eyes, with all seriousness, immersed in any situation on the field but would still be following his each and every move (post retirement) with the same level of interest and awe that I did while watching him bat.

One of the interesting remarks that I heard on Twitter was “Rahul Dravid is not just a person but he is a philosophy in itself.” So, it would be a gross error on my part to talk about his entire personality in one post. It might actually require a complete book, so the focus of this post is just one area which I have learnt from him.

Let’s go back into history a bit-

Lords 1996: Rahul Dravid – 95, gets over-shadowed by another debutant Sourav Ganguly- 148Kolkota 2001: India beats Australia, breaking their streak of 15 matches. Rahul Dravid- 180, gets over-shadowed by VVS Laxman‘s score of 281Hyderabad 1999: Rahul Dravid- 153, gets over-shadowed by Sachin Tendlukar- 186. Both share world record partnership of 331.Taunton 1999: Rahul Dravid-153 gets over-shadowed by Sourav Ganguly- 183. Both share second highest world record partnership of 318.

This list would go on a lot longer if I flex my memory muscles a bit more. This list clearly tells one more thing that Dravid, despite coming up with a brilliant performance himself, was left on the sidelines as his more flamboyant partners did better on the field on that particular day. This is something that happened with Dravid for most part of his career.

I have heard that sportsmen have great egos and it is something that helps boost their performance on the field. It just amazes me how Dravid maintained his calm and dignity and let others take the honours when he too slogged and slogged hard to achieve what he has in the above listed (and many other such) instances. The lesser mortals would have criticized their luck, made their angst clear on not getting the much acclaimed credit, expressed displeasure, be burdened with jealousy, would have had the mind filled-up with negative emotions – but not Dravid. He just managed to remain on his own and found some sort of contentment within his zone as if he didn’t care what was happening outside the realms and boundaries of his mind, as long as his performance has satisfied his own standards. If this behaviour is not iconic, nothing else is. I remember he once said that as long as he can face himself in the mirror with the feeling that he gave his best at work, he has done his job. How people perceive it is beyond his control. That’s pretty much the way he has managed to deal not only with the failures and successes but also the situations where he did well but didn’t get the limelight he ought to have had. Though there were many such situations throughout his 15-16 year career where his good efforts were dwarfed, the way he reacted to those situations certainly earned him legendary respect.

Australia v India - Fourth Test: Day 5

Again, as I move forward my thinking to our work lives, there can be some situations in which you would be required to play second-fiddle. Like, you get to share the credit of the work with someone else which (you believe) was mostly done by you, or you get to split and share your work responsibilities with someone, especially when you think you are doing well in your role, When you, despite being more experienced, have to learn a new skill from a new-comer and so on. Most of the times, such situations are usually enforced upon you by circumstances at work and are not by choice. These situations could happen to you because either you deserve it or it could be simply because life is not always fair or it could as well be beyond your control. While it is important to understand the reason why these situations are happening to us, but at the same time it is not quite possible to eliminate these situations altogether from our work lives. So, our reactions to such events are actually important and often set the course for the future (including influencing the career specific decisions like leaving the organization etc.). I have been in such situations at work myself much like almost pretty much like everyone.

It is in these situations one can take heart from how Dravid conducted himself on and off the field. Some of my thoughts below on how we can apply “Dravid-like” philosophy in such situations-

- He handled such situations keeping the overall big picture in mind. Rather than getting influenced by how others are judging him, he tended to rely more on his self-assessment of the situation, having his own high standards and judging by his own yardsticks. Most of the organizations do have performance evaluation processes and philosophies. While it provides the framework for judging employees, it often more useful and practical for employees themselves to have their own sense of “where there are vs where they want to be” to put things in right perspective. Become your own benchmark.

- Another thing that Dravid did extremely well in such situations was to give the team more importance than self. This helped him put things in right perspective when credit moved away from him. Rahul Dravid said, in Harsha Bhogle’s book- ‘The Winning way’, “I have noticed that good team players view success very differently from the rest. They are motivated without really worrying about the credit.”

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One can always argue that Dravid was playing for the country, which is obviously not same as the situation when one works for the organizations. That’s a fair enough point but what is common in this situation is the commitment an employee exhibits to the overall cause. If one takes longer view of time, the same employee may get credit for something he has not really contributed much towards, at some point in his career. So things generally tend to even out (as they did in Dravid’s case eventually) in most of the cases. Dravid had this rare ability to turn the spotlight on to others which is an essential quality while playing second fiddle.

- One more thing I think Dravid did extremely well is living this philosophy- Focus on what’s on your control (performance), not on what’s not (who gets the credit) . If we inculcate the habit of seeing every situation though the right lens, focusing on what we can control is often more practical. If an employee chooses to focuses on the things that he/she cannot influence, that’s something that often causes significant dissatisfaction and stress.

Prakash Iyer makes a mention of Randy Pausch’s story in his book “The Habit of Winning”. The story revolves around Pausch during one of his first Football sessions- when his coach arrived at the session but without the ball. The kids were puzzled and one of them gathered the courage to ask him about the missing Football. To which the coach responded- “How many players are there on Football field?” Twenty-two was the response. “And how many footballs on the field ?” One- Responded all the kids in unison. “Right”- said the coach. “At any point in time, only one man has the ball. Today, we are going to learn what the other twenty-one people do on the football field.”

That’s exactly what happens in life too. While all the eyes are on the man with the ball, it’s the other twenty-one who make the difference.

If Rahul Dravid would have ever played football, he would have probably been the guy not in possession of the ball all the time but probably someone who would have helped create chances for the goals. For sure, he would have been best at that too. That’s the character of a man. He just knows how to be in a hopeless situation and turn it around by his sheer will and determination.

He is a hope to not-so-gifted people around the world that great heights can be achieved in any of the chosen endeavours by just the sheer power of human qualities.

Rahul Dravid is indeed a philosophy in itself. There’s a Dravid inside all of us, it’s more a matter of searching for him and bringing him to the fore.

While I sign-off on this article, Dravid has peacefully retired and another great man has scored his 100th 100. This might hog the limelight again from Dravid since the appreciations are still pouring in after he retired. But like the man has always been, he would love to play a second fiddle now as well.

Thank you Rahul for the way you are!

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Edited by Staff Editor
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