David Ogilvy the advertising legend wanted that rare breed for his advertising agency “gentlemen with brains”. The greatest gentleman that ever trod the cricket field – Rahul Dravid called it quits from all forms of cricket at a farewell press conference at Bangalore on Friday. Even as encomiums pour in from all and sundry from different parts of the world, I thought I would write a few words about Dravid the cricketer and the person. His deeds on the cricket field have been well recorded. The nickname “the wall” was earned after years of playing some of the finest bowlers in the world in every cricketing country in the world and even as Indians earned the justifiable nickname of “lions at home and lambs abroad” Rahul Dravid stood head and shoulders above his more celebrated and written about colleagues – as he simply batted better abroad. More than his batting was his selfless attitude of team first, something that individual record obsessed Indians never fully understood. When he first declared the Indian innings with a desire to win a cricket match when Sachin was short of his century (though he was truly dawdling at the crease), Dravid copped a lot of criticism. But he soldiered on – always taken for granted, never truly appreciated to the extent that he should have been.
For team balance he opened the batting though he was arguably India’s greatest number three ever. He kept wickets so that the team could accommodate another batsman. He shuffled himself in the batting order when he was captain when quicker runs were required. He never “whined to the press” when the BCCI dumped him from the captaincy. He was upset when he was recalled to the one day side a few years after being dropped and was constrained to announce his retirement. A lesser mortal might have felt used by Indian cricket and justifiably so. But the great gentleman and the wonderful cricketer he was, he took everything on his chin.
A master who is still a student of the game
Rahul Dravid is a great role model for young cricketers. He usually was the first person to enter the nets and the last to leave it. In today’s world of cricketers who think they are God the moment they get an IPL contract, he has been a model of modesty despite his phenomenal achievements. Success rested lightly on his broad shoulders and his sense of humor enabled him to keep things in perspective. When Shane Warne announced to the world that he had discovered a chink in his armour, Rahul just smiled and said “Warney is upto his usual tricks”. The next day he smashed him all over the park in his own quietly efficient way. He did a few endorsements too because any brand which was honest, reliable and something that would not let you down fitted the man to a “t”. He was a keen student of the game and would constantly be found with a book in his arm, something that is rare in a world which appreciates physical prowess more than the mental one.
The words of the Walter Scott poem “unwept, unhonoured and unsung” come to mind as a possible epitaph to Rahul Dravid. While that has been the truth so far, I think history will recognize the value of the man and the cricketer. I will miss him on the field and hope to meet him more often now that he will not be living off suitcases and be in Bengaluru, the city that both of us belong to.
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