Rahul Dravid: The greatest servant of Indian Cricket

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Timeless Steel: Rahul Dravid

“If no one hates you, you are doing something boring.”

How many times have we encountered this quote? We come across this more often than not and it depicts the situation of a lot of cricketers. Virat Kohli, although arguably the best batsman in the world has succeeded in receiving hate from all corners of the world and from many people in his home country itself. MS Dhoni, the same way, receives so much hate from Indian Cricket fans. He is hated not only now but he was hated, back when he was made the captain over Yuvraj Singh. Hate is a negative emotion though, a sign of weakness.

However, in Rahul Dravid’s case, something doesn’t seem right. Rahul Dravid took over the captaincy from Sourav Ganguly in 2004. The Indian team’s track record under him isn’t one which will be treated as his legacy. But certainly, Rahul didn’t receive the hate that MS received for the failure of the team’s international performances. Rahul was one of the slow batsmen who people don’t usually like to see, unlike Virender Sehwag who would want to hit every ball for a boundary. Then what was Dravid's aura?

Rahul has tormented oppositions a lot when he was batting. A bowler, no matter how provocative or how fast he is, toiled hard to get past Dravid. He wouldn’t be beaten in his patience in any case. Dravid didn’t play anything exotic particularly. He was one of the orthodox players, playing regular shots and running as anybody would run. Even while donning the wicket-keeping gloves, his reflexes weren’t the best and certainly, he wasn’t the quickest on the field.

Perhaps, Dravid wasn’t hated by anybody because of these things that seem boring in a sense. After all, Test match cricket, where Dravid excelled, wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

There is a quote which says, nice guys won’t finish first. But Rahul Dravid was an extremely nice guy and there is little doubt to whether he finished first or not. He was the ICC Test Player of the Year in 2004 and he won the Sir Garfield Sobers trophy the same year. Competition around him had several “bad guys” amongst them. Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Sourav Ganguly and a not-so-bad Sachin Tendulkar among others. Dravid is a testament that success can be achieved while being nice. Dravid always held the reputation of a nice guy. Someone like Sourav Ganguly was always under the opposition’s watchful eyes because he was so vocal and he loved it. Rahul preferred being silent. It didn’t matter to him whether, the opposition is making comments on him, or the bowler is trying hard to get under his skin. He always did one job and that is to defend. The best form of attack was defence, for Rahul and he believed in it and continued to do the same thing throughout his career. There won’t be many differences when you see his first century vs South Africa and his last century against West Indies. That was his consistency, he didn’t change, no matter what happened around him. He didn’t change for the sake of perceiving that he is doing something new.

Being such an important part of the team, the number three spot was handled brilliantly by Dravid. And yet, never once he created a doubt over his batting position or his contributions. With all the importance he had in the team, he didn’t seem worried about him being in the debate about the best or being a little cocky because he was inevitable.

Humbleness was his utmost quality. He didn’t want to be known as the best.

“Even if my children don’t remember that I scored over 10,000 runs, they would remember I played with Sachin Tendulkar”- Rahul Dravid

Dravid wasn’t a better cricketer than Sachin but few accept the greatness of others. And coming to Test cricket, dare I say, Dravid’s approach was the best approach to play a test match. Even better than the great Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid’s humble attitude is the reason he is in the debate of top 10 cricketers ever. He doesn’t need to claim that he is great, his performances speak volumes.

He has abided by three things in his career throughout that is Dedication, Determination and Discipline.

His discipline doesn’t need to be commented upon. Everyone knows how calm he was on the cricket field. His dedication to the game was something visible widely. How else can you explain his will to bat out the full day during a heat wave? How else do you explain his ability to walk out to open after spending the whole day on the pitch, until the final wicket fell when the follow-on is enforced. That is his dedication. How will you explain his mental strength to keep the innings together and score a century while England are chipping away at the other end? That is his determination.

The England tour in 2011, explained all the qualities possessed by Dravid and during that tour, he bid adieu to limited overs cricket. But not before, slamming a half-century and three consecutive sixes of James Tredwell in his debut and ironically his farewell T20 match.

Dravid’s service to Indian Cricket wasn’t going to end with his last ever match. During his tenure as captain and mentor of IPL team Rajasthan Royals, Dravid brought young talents like Unmukt Chand, Karun Nair, Harmeet Singh and Sanju Samson to the fore. Dravid’s major contribution has been during his current stint as India A and India U-19 team coach. Dravid was offered a position in the BCCI’s advisory panel better called the Cricket Advisory Committee. But he refused the post and resorted to coaching and working with the youth.

And has Rahul Dravid been successful? In the two U19 World Cups held, he led the team to the final twice and won it the second time. How many talents has Dravid provided to Indian Cricket? Hardik Pandya was under the able guidance of Rahul Dravid after his one good knock against CSK. Dravid saw a talent and he moulded him into a good all-rounder. The players from Dravid’s maiden U19 World Cup? The next big thing in Indian Cricket, the man who scored over 500 runs in IPL 2018 and now has scored a century in the whites for India. Rishabh Pant, who else? The captain who Dravid trusted? Another gem, Ishan Kishan, who isn’t far away from the first team.

Who else knew Syed Khaleel Ahmed before his spectacular performance in the quadrangular series? Dravid had him under the radar from the 2016 World Cup itself. Avesh Khan outperformed Khaleel in the tournament but now Khaleel has been etched into a better bowler and now has broken into the first team.

India’s pace battery has been a big concern. But what about now? The 2018 U-19 World Cup revealed that Indian pacers can outperform anyone. Thanks to Dravid, India will now look forward to Ishan Porel, Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna and Kamlesh Nagarkoti for their future ventures. The tours of England in times like 2021 or 2022 will be wonderful for Indian bowling.

What more has Rahul provided? Prithvi Shaw, Dravid’s chosen captain for the 2018 World Cup has performed at the highest level and will be a valuable addition to the opening department. His other partner Manjot Kalra is as impressive and needs to perform more in the domestic circuit to get into the team. The world cup was also the revelation of Shubman Gill, as a top-class batsman. India has already got its second fiddle ready in case of any needs.

India has got a young pool of players ready to represent them in the 2023 World Cup. And within that time Dravid would have a newer set of talent ready, which will be craving to go and perform. Dravid has gifted India some amazing talents, some lessons on being patient and a big lesson on winning with discipline. He has mentored his youngsters to behave on the field which is very important.

The love that Dravid gets, or the reason no-one hates Dravid, is not because he is boring but because he is unique and we never get tired of seeing him. Dravid's biography is called Timeless Steel and rightly so. His impact is not corroded after the end of his career, he keeps it coming even now.

All these qualities, along with nearly 12 to 13 years of service with the bat. Spending almost a month on the crease in the total of his test matches. These attribute to making Rahul Dravid, the greatest servant of Indian Cricket.

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Edited by Glenn Joseph
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