In the last of three Willow Talk columns this week distinguished former first-class cricketer and coach of international players Dr V. V. Giri, who conducted High Performance coaching sessions for MCA last year (and made a huge difference to the performances of the Academy’s fortunate youth players), bids farewell to one of the all-time great batsmen. For more on Dr Giri, check out MCA’s Profiles page.
THE ‘GREAT WALL’ OF INDIA
Rahul Dravid: ‘Wall’ on the field; ‘Wonder wall’ off it.
It is not easy to be called the most technical batsman in the world.
It is not easy anchoring an innings with remarkable consistency over 15 years.
It is not easy to be called Mr. Dependable
It is not easy to be called “The Wall” by even the most ardent critics time and again, and…
It is not easy being Rahul Dravid.
A mammoth 343 matches and 317 innings, in which he has faced over 15,000 balls, to score close to 11,000 runs, may define Dravid the cricketer. Numbers and the sport alone cannot ever define Dravid the person. What defines this man is three-fold:
Approach to the game,
Approach to the team and
Approach to life.
For all who may have seen Dravid in person and on television, humility would be by far the most apt adjective on their mind. Never once has it appeared that success has taken this man’s feet off the field and into the glitzy world of glamour or the mucky world of controversies.
So when skipper MS Dhoni was 15 and an 8-year-old Virat Kohli and a 10-year-old Suresh Raina would have probably just begun to know what cricket is all about, Dravid announced his arrival on the international stage. For all the criticism early on about Dravid not being skilled enough for the 50-over format, that match against Sri Lanka in 1996 gave India a star.
It is simple to glorify a player on his retirement. It is simpler still if the player is Rahul Dravid. The 38-year-old may have been-there-done-that like most international cricketers, but take a slightly closer look: Jammy is miles apart from any of his contemporaries. No sledging, no controversial statements, no scandals and absolutely no implications in any racket. Those who have claimed innocence when charged with demeaning allegations, meet Mr Rahul Dravid and learn how not to get implicated in slander.
In many ways, a focus on the game and how to improve may be seen as the main reason for Dravid’s excellence – on and off the field. After all, from ‘not that good an ODI batsman’ to becoming the highest scorer in a World Cup (1999 with 461 runs) is a journey not many have managed to complete. To complete it with added responsibilities of being a wicket-keeper is just another plus in a long list of additions.
Even today, I am unable to understand how on earth the then selector, Mr Vengsarkar, found fault with Dravid and criticized his captaincy and role in the ODI team!! Jammy was the darling of the entire nation, (except of course for Mr. Vengsarkar!)
Why not? He was the only senior who got along well with Greg Chappell and followed his instructions meticulously, while the others – Ganguly, Tendulkar, Kumble, Bhajji, Sehwag, Yuvraj & Zaheer Khan ganged up and betrayed the coach. When Ganguly refused to open the batting in tests (he was a regular opener for ODI), Dravid, as the captain of the national team, opted to open the batting and saved the face of the team in Pakistan.
His speech at the Don Bradman memorials recently in Australia says a great deal about this gentleman. True, his image took a beating after his failure in tests against the Aussies. Yes, it could happen to anyone, even to the Wall. That’s one of the glorious uncertainties of the game.
Memory may dwindle just a bit but perhaps the only two things that Dravid did not do were to bowl and to lead the team longer (over a period of time at least). An excellent slip fielder, Tests now will be the only format that will continue to bask in Dravid’s presence.
Having said that, no one man is greater than the game itself. Dravid isn’t either. He is only someone who will be remembered as one of the biggest exponents of the gentlemen’s sport that we know still as cricket.
Now tell me, who deserves “Bharath Ratna”