Friday, September 16, 2011

The Wall That Stood Tall – A tribute to Rahul Dravid

It was one of those days that have become all too common on this tour — intriguing, confounding, depressing all rolled in one. Before play began on the second morning of the friendly match against Northants came the news that Rahul Dravid had been reinstated in the one-day squad which play England after the Test. Why would a World Cup-winning team want to turn the clock back almost two years was the buzz in the morning. It goes without saying that Dravid’s inclusion is not bereft of good reason. On this tour yet, Dravid has looked the most secure batsman in the team. English conditions are also unlikely to allow flat track strikers to thrive, and a player who can hold the innings together is vital and who better than Dravid for that job. Today at Cardiff, Rahul Dravid will play his last one day international; one last time in blue jersey.
A man who first stepped into international cricket when unorthodoxy was at its peak with pinch-hitters scoring runs defying the standard shots of cricket; Dravid has been truly head and shoulders above everyone when it comes to technique and style. Every time India has been staring down the barrel, Dravid has stood out like a lotus in the muck or a solitaire among the brick bats. Undoubtedly, Dravid has been one of the main pillars of the Indian batting line up with his blend of right technique and stylish shots. April 3, 1996, India was up against Sri Lanka in Singapore and it was the second match of the ‘Singer cup’. With the opposition in driver’s seat and the scoreboard reading 58/2, Dravid made his way out to the middle with a willow in hand to try and manoeuvre the team’s ship out of choppy waters which years later was going to be bread and butter stuff for him. His debut innings wasn’t anything of note, falling to Muralitharan for a single digit score and it’s fair to say his first couple of years in ODI’s weren’t anything to write about. It was only after that epic partnership with Sourav Ganguly in the world cup match against Sri Lanka at Taunton that he made his mark in ODI arena.
Initially seen as a liability in the one-day arena, he retooled his game over the years to become an adept middle-order finisher. Yes, the swashbuckling strokes which are so synonymous with the shorter version of the game didn’t come to him naturally but he certainly had all the makings of a solid middle order batsman who could hold the innings together with utter ease. For a player whose affluent essay came out of perfection, temperament and technique, Rahul Dravid has been India’s go-to man in pressure situations and till date he has served the team’s cause with whole hearted devotion. He has been undoubtedly the best that India has ever produced–in terms of technique, skills, grit and above all dependability. The skills are as solid as they were 15 years ago, the style seems to have got better and better with each passing year but one thing never seems to change and that is his grit and concentration–Those have been rock solid as ever.
In a nation like ours which is so obsessed with the game of cricket, where cricketers are demi-gods and everyday a new controversy pops up, Dravid’s sheer down to earth nature and humble attitude has helped him stay away from controversies in-spite of so much media scrutiny. Rahul Dravid started off as a shaky batsman with an apt technique, then came a phase wherein he became the sheet anchor and others played around him scoring runs freely and now with the advent of t20, Dravid seems to have moulded himself into a new avatar–a player who now keeps pace with the innings, who not only smacks the bowlers out of the park (pretty unlike the real Dravid) but also possesses an attitude that would make him reach the skies. Dravid’s greatness however is not limited to the number of runs he scores on the field. We certainly need to let that number roll off our tongues a bit more often because it is a colossal figure. His greatness is a potpourri of character, hard work and a genuinely good heart. Talent and character join hands to make consummate greatness-Dravid is a glittering example of that. A deeper scrutiny of his character shows his commitment towards Indian cricket–A selfless soul who always has been a team-man and whose personal records have been overshadowed by team heroics.
When Dravid retires today, the country will lose the greatest no 3 batsman it ever had, fans will be robbed of the privilege of watching this artist at work, media will mourn that he never got his due but most importantly, his departure will take away with itself a bit of gentle-manliness that the game tries to still portray as its inseparable element. He is a legend no matter what critics say–He has been the man responsible for taking India to new heights of success. Pressure can make a batsman crumble or can make him doughty and more confident. Dravid has time and again shown us that he enjoys such challenges. Demanding situations have seen him rise to the occasion and perform even better. He is known as the WALL for reasons which are pretty much self-evident.
So for one last time, let us enjoy seeing those toes which rise sweetly in sync with the pace of the approaching ball, standing tall and majestic and in control before disdainfully whacking the ball through the backward point. Let us enjoy how he bats and bats and bats and saves the team from a moment of crisis. Let’s get awed by his mastery over something we will always run away from–STRUGGLE. He indeed is a true-blue hero.
Hats off Dravid!!
Avi for DieHard Cricket Fans
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