Rahul Dravid - The legend continues
As a cricketer, retirement is an inevitability. It is the end that is definitive in any cricketer’s tenure; the difference between great players and mediocre ones being the distance between the starting point and the ending point. Some of the more legendary, successful players are allowed the luxury of timing their exit, while others are not so fortunate.
Some blur into oblivion, even as others are forced into it for a multitude of reasons – arrival of a new generation and most notably, the dawning upon them of the fact that their services wouldn’t be required any more. Nevertheless, retirement signals a fresh change in a cricketer’s life, any cricketer’s life. It is like a red light, where you have to change directions after a brief stop. How you do it is what makes you stand out from the crowd. You can choose to create a glorious post-war life for yourself, or you can struggle to find your feet in what you find is the harsh reality of the outside world that a cricketer – especially in India – is so detached from. Many cricketers have been taken aback by the situation in the past and have found themselves out of depth. The attention span of the fanatic public is a shorter than you think, and before you know it, you are wiped out from their memory, though you live on in the books of the game.
It is but natural then for the average fans to wonder where their stars have disappeared, or what the legends who once rewrote the history books are doing now for a living – but not before the player has briefly escaped the minds of the follower. Google searches then are the way to go, for not all of the retired professionals are adept at other things, to be able to get featured in the visual or print media regularly.
It was a similar episode that took place in Indian cricket earlier last year. On a fine morning on March 9, one of the most solid batsmen on planet Earth – and the only misfit in the IPL Kingfisher jingle – turned up in a white shirt and a jacket, hair neatly in place, with an entourage of press and public at the KSCA. That week, the ‘Wall’ was the talking point almost everywhere in India. You could overhear middle-aged men voicing their concerns about who the next gentleman cricketer was going to be, and elder women talking about where the next perfect role model for their sons would come from. And in the world of tattoos and brief relationships, his retirement was arguably a more serious issue.
But something in the year that has passed since then and now, has left me as a lifelong fan of the great ‘Wall’ of Indian cricket. It has been a remarkable journey – even as another of his ended – and he has travelled it with such grace and dignity which was his forte throughout his Test career as well. I was never worried about what Dravid would do after retirement. He has always been a man of varied interests; even during his playing days, he would write guest columns, make speeches (his Bradman Oration has probably set the standard for years to come) and read books by molecular biologists (Brain Rules – by John Medina, fantastic read). He was not one given to a singular pursuit – he knew life was a variety of colourful choices that one could make. And he decided not to miss out on them. He is well educated, and has even said that he wanted to do an MBA from the London School of Economics once he was finished with the game. And so, naturally, one could be rest assured that he would land on his feet after he called the shots at the press conference.
And therefore, what has surprised me, is not what he has been doing this past one year, but how he has carried himself throughout this phase so far. Since his retirement, he has had a long, fruitful session with N. Chandra (CEO of TCS) at their campus, he has attended the Jaipur Literary festival and launched MAK Pataudi’s book along with Sharmila Tagore. He has been to the NASSCOM meet, been on the Achievers club show, commentated with fantastic success, been co-brand ambassador for the outstanding University Cricket Championship that kicked off this year, and has had a dressing room named after him at the MPCA. He has also been actively giving his insights on the matches India has been playing, and is writing about them with heightened proficiency. All this, just to name a few. There is more to the man than 13000 Test runs.
It will not surprise me if he goes on to do greater things off the cricketing field and charm the world even without a bat in his hand, for such is the legend of the man. He has grown gracefully and has seamlessly made a transition from one part of his life to the next. If ever there could be a case of someone excelling long after he was bound to, this would be it.
Someone famously quoted that the goal is not to live forever; it is to create something that will.
The legacy of Dravid is a fine example.