Rahul Dravid – the wolf who lived for the pack

Rahul Dravid :- A bowler is running in and the noise in the crowd is increasing with every step of the bowler. The bowler goes wide of the crease, right arm over the wicket, the ball is coming in with the angle on the off stump. The batsman’s trigger movement is indicating he is about to play a booming cover drive. Ohh but wait…. the ball is changing its line. After coming in and pitching on off stump it has started to leave for the fourth stump. A double bluff, cricket’s most dangerous delivery, out swinger.

The batsmen is in danger. The crowd can sense it. Slip cordon is ready to pounce on the edge. The batsman is coming forward to, the inevitable is about to happen. The ball is about to take the edge and will settle in the hands of slip cordon

But wait…Ohhhhh… what was that?????? The batsman comes forward and lifts the bat… Oh nooooo. How on earth the batsman managed a picture perfect leave. The slip cordon gives a wry smile. And the ball thuds into the keeping gloves. The bowler is feeling insulted.

The bowler in this case is the fastest bowler to play the game Shoaib Akhtar. And the batsman who left the ball is “The wall” Rahul Dravid.

His debut was as dramatic as its get. There cannot be a better debut than scoring a century at Lords. And there cannot be a heart-breaking debut than getting out on 95 at lords. The first was a debut of Ganguly where he scored a century and second was a boy from Bangalore, Rahul Sharad Dravid.

That 95 on his debut was eclipsed by Dada’s century. But in that 95 Dravid showed the glimpses of what was about to come in the next 14 years. His forward defence and his elbow position was a textbook in itself. Many people said he was born to play Cricket. But Dravid was born to defend. He missed the chance to get his name written on the honours board but on his next visit he conquered Lords. What Sachin, Lara, Ponting, Kallis couldn’t do in their career, Dravid did. Getting a name on the “Honours Board” at Lords.

Unlike the current crop of players who graduate from the limited overs format to the test cricket, Dravid started his career as a test specialist and he conquered it like no one else. He loved the test cricket. Test cricket seduced him to the core. He romanced with it. For hours and hours, he stayed on the crease, watched other teammates failing to spend time at the wicket. But nothing stopped him. He faced more balls than any other batsman in the history of this bloody beautiful game. And he played with a flawless technique. A perfect feet movement with an equally perfect elbow position.

There is a thumb rule in cricket, the number 3 is the best batsman of the team, and for nearly the decade Dravid ruled the number three spot in the test format. He is the only man on the planet to score 10,000 runs at number 3 spots.

But why Dravid is different than other stalwarts of the Indian cricket. There is a big reason for this. For Sachin, we remember the Sharjah storm. For Ponting, we remember the whirlwind knock in the finals of 2003 World Cup. But in case of Dravid, we remember his double century in Adelaide, where he spent 853 minutes at the crease. His 180 in Kolkata Eden Gardens against the invincible Aussies. His 270 in Rawalpindi against the mercurial Pakistan where he battled for 720 minutes at the crease. His 140 in overcast condition at Headingley. The difference is Dravid may not have the dazzling innings in ODIs like others, but his test career is filled with such marvellous innings.

He never played for the galleries but the galleries used to hold their breaths when he was batting. His cuts were delicate. His pull shots were ferocious. His drives were gorgeous. But his defence….his defence was unbreachable. And aptly he was given a nick name- “The wall.”

And from then he never looked back. He tormented the bowlers with his water tight defence. And he set the world on fire with some fine test centuries overseas. His career was blossoming. From Adelaide to Headingley. From Johannesburg to Colombo. He batted, batted and batted.

But unlike his test career, his ODI career went down after initial failures and he was dropped from the limited overs team. But Dravid being Dravid, was not satisfied by only playing in one format. So he worked on his batting style, strike rotation and ended up scoring staggering 10889 runs in ODIs. This is a outrageous record for a player who was labelled as too slow for limited overs Cricket.

At his time Indian cricket was blessed with many batting Maestros but nobody had the better batting record overseas than Rahul Dravid.  For a team which was labelled as home track bullies, it was Dravid who gave them belief that scoring runs in Australia, England is not impossible.

But this man is not just about stats. If Cricket is a gentleman’s game then Dravid is that gentleman. A quiet personality who never craved for the limelight. Sachin may be one of the most popular Indian cricketer across the globe but Dravid is one of the most respected cricketer in the cricketing universe. Brett Lee summarized Dravid in one line. “If you can’t get along with Dravid, you are struggling in life.”

His illustrious career ended after a disastrous tour down under in 2012 where he was bowled 6 times out of 8 innings. The bricks of the wall were falling and Dravid realised this was the right time to hung his big boots. No farewell match, no emotional speech, nothing. He retired in his own way.

But Dravid was too good a cricketing mind to not to be utilised by BCCI. So BCCI offered him the Indian teams coach position but being in the limelight was never Dravid’s style. So he took the coaching job of India A, and India U19 team. Denying the coveted India job. And it worked wonders. Dravid is shaping many budding young cricketers. He has created a bench strength like never before.

Not only that if a cricketer is out of from the Indian team he goes to play for India A, works with Dravid and comes back as a better product. Look at Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Shreyas Ayer, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Kedar Jadhav. They are blossoming under Rahul Dravid. BCCI knows what they have got in the form of Rahul Dravid and they are utilising him to the fullest. And as long as Dravid’s concern, he is happy to be behind the scenes, away from the limelight and nurturing the young talent.

Rahul…a typical Bollywood name, glamorous name in Bollywood.. But ironically he was everything but glamorous just like the method actors in Bollywood movies are overshadowed by Stars. Dravid has always been overshadowed by Sachin’s illustrious records. Many say he was born in wrong country, because he never gets his due as an elite cricketer but Dravid never complained.

If the term team man needed the face, it would be Rahul Dravid. Even Sachin was reluctant to give up his number 4 position in Tests and his opening position in Odis but Dravid batted on the position from 1 to 7. He holds the record for most number of catches by a fielder other than the wicketkeeper with 210 catches. When Ganguly asked him if he could keep wickets so he can add one more bowler in the team he did. He became a wicket keeper. For a cricketer who never ever kept wickets in his young days, Dravid donned the wicket keeping gloves for more than 70 matches.

He did everything what his captain asked from him. A wolf who truly lived for the pack. Harsha Bhogle aptly summed it up “Ask Rahul Dravid to walk on water and he will ask, how many kilometers?”

 

Indian cricket has been blessed with some of the legends of the game. From G Vishwanath to Sunny, from Kapil Dev to Bishan Bedi, from VVS Laxman to Kumble, from Ganguly to Sachin. But Dravid is different in his 15 year’s career, he was never in news for wrong reasons. Controversies considered Rahul Dravid as a taboo. They were allergic to Dravid. He started his journey as a studious young boy who had a compact technique and a solid temperament. And in the long run it’s the temperament that separates the men’s from the boys.

His technique was flawless. If Sachin’s marvellous straight drive fetched him thunderous applause then Dravid’s perfect forward defence garnered a sense of belief among the spectators. With 13288 runs in test cricket, and 10889 run’s in ODIs his batting stats are fabulous but the jaw dropping stat is he faced 31258 balls in test cricket. More than any player in the history.

His batting was poetry in motion, calm and soothing.

And his defence….well…..

If a perfect forward defence is an art then Rahul Dravid is Picasso of it.

A true gentleman of Cricket.

A wolf who lived for the pack.

 

Writer :- Deu Gaichor

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