RAHUL DRAVID – TIMELESS STEEL

Quoted by one of the best fast bowlers of all time, Brett Lee:

“If you can’t get along with Rahul Dravid, you’re struggling in life.”

Rahul Dravid was probably one of the last classical test match batsmen. Born in Indore on January 11th, 1973 into a middle-class Marathi family, Rahul had a pretty comfortable childhood. On 4 May 2003 he married Vijeta Pendharkar, a surgeon from Nagpur. They have two children: Samit, born in 2005, and Anvay, born in 2009. Dravid is fluent in MarathiHindiKannada and English. He grew up in Bengaluru and attended a catholic school. Rahul was an average student. He was a shy and introvert person. His father being a cricket enthusiast took him and his younger brother as kids to watch cricket matches at the stadium. It was at the age of twelve that Rahul started playing cricket. Soon he started enjoying the game, which further led him to falling in love with the game. It was in 1991 that he got selected for the Ranji Trophy, the prestigious domestic cricket matches. Five years of playing brilliantly there, came Rahul’s turn to play for India. His performance in the first few One Day International matches (ODIs) was abysmal. But his saving grace was test cricket where he shone brightly. Rahul played very well in domestic cricket matches and the Ranji Trophy.  Combining technical virtuosity with a legendary work ethic and near-yogic powers of concentration, he epitomised an old school guts before glory approach in an age increasingly defined by flashy stroke play and low attention spans. Dravid’s poor form in Tests continued as India suffered a 0–2 whitewash against South Africa in a home series. Tendulkar resigned from captaincy in March 2000 after the humiliating loss to South Africa amidst much speculations. Sourav Ganguly, the team’s vice-captain then, was promoted as the new Indian team captain and Dravid was appointed as his deputy.

Rahul Dravid played cricket in an era in which his cricketing achievements were almost always overshadowed by some of his more expressive and talented cricketing contemporaries such as Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. But his sheer dedication and hard work made him stand apart from the rest.

A word on his discipline first. Getting into the National cricket team of a cricket-crazy nation which has a population of 1.3 billion is easier said than done, leave alone cementing your position and then piling up match-winning knocks against oppositions with quality bowling line-ups. It requires a lot of sedulous and well-directed efforts to pull off the feats. Strict diet, late-night net sessions, fitness training, video clippings analyses, flight journeys to various countries – the list is just interminable. 

The newly appointed vice-captain had moderate success in the bilateral ODI series against South Africa. Dravid scored 208 runs in 5 matches at an average of 41.60 including 2 fifties. He also took 3 wickets in the series including two wickets in a single over in the First ODI at Kochi. His bowling figures of 2/43 in 9 overs remained his career best ODI bowling figures. It was also the best bowling figure by any bowler for that match. His series bowling average of 22.66 was the best amongst all the bowlers in the series. India won the series 3–2.

India played a tri-nation series in Sharjah immediately after the bilateral ODI series against South Africa. Indian team performed poorly and failed to qualify for the Finals. Collective failure of Indian batting in the series can be judged from the fact that Dravid, with a poor show of 89 runs from 4 matches at an average of 22.25, was still the 2nd best Indian batsman in the series. A week later, a match fixing scandal rocked the international cricket scene opening a Pandora’s box that eventually engulfed top Indian and South African cricketers including Azharuddin and Cronje.

He conducted his career in the enormous shadow of Sachin Tendulkar, but Dravid made the runs that counted. Beginning with one of the most famous supporting acts of all – to VVS Lakshman in an Eden gardens classic that set India on the road to the top of the test table – dravid produced star turns in landmark wins in Headingly, Adelaide, Rawalpindi and Kingston. Over his career he averaged two runs more overseas than he did at home.

“During a personal discussion, Dravid, in his classic self-effacing way, had confessed to being, for most part, an on-side player. The bowlers had come to know of his strengths and had stopped feeding him on his legs. He had to find another way to score runs, he admitted. Which was how he becoming one of cricket’s outstanding off-side batsmen.

As captain, he was adventurous and inventive, and as team man impeccably selfless – keeping wicket during the 2003 world cup and sacrificing his batting spot when called on. As first seen as a liability in one day cricket, he retooled his game to become an adept middle order finisher and ended with more than 10,000 runs in the format. As a slip fieldsman he had few equals: in 2010 he overtook mark Waugh as the most prolific catcher in the position. The following year, his penultimate test series in the game turned out to be one of his finest, when he made three centuries in England as his team mates fooled about him.

According to the Indian cricketers who had the privilege of playing alongside Dravid, he was the ultimate team man. Individual records were never something he had an eye on, all he wanted was to steer his team to victory and fill the hearts of a billion people back home with pride. At a point of time when India was captained by ‘Dada’ Sourav Ganguly, India could not afford to have a wicketkeeper who could only keep wickets as it reduced their batting firepower. At that time, it was Dravid who stood up for the team as their saviour and took up the responsibility of keeping wickets so that an extra specialist batsman could be accommodated in the playing eleven. He was the wicketkeeper of India for a total of 73 one-day internationals between 1999 and 2004 and mind you, the additional task of wicket-keeping did not hamper his primary responsibility of batting oppositions out of the game, the alibi of which can be found in the fact that he won several prestigious awards in the period.

Rahul Dravid proved his greatness when he put the nation’s interests above his own and announced retirement from both international and domestic cricket in the year 2012 though he was in good form in test cricket, since he wanted to make way for talented and hardworking youngsters who were waiting to don the national jersey.

With success comes recognition, and recognition brings awards. Rahul Dravid won several awards, some of the most prestigious awards being the Arjuna award which he received in 1998, the ‘Cricketer of the Year’ award in 2000 and 2004, the Don Bradman award in 2012 and many more. He was also conferred the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan in the years 2004 and 2013 respectively.

Coming from a middle-class family and performing very badly in the initial few matches, it was Rahul’s dedication, motivation and enthusiasm that made him improve his game and got him an irreplaceable place in the world of international cricket.

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2 thoughts on “RAHUL DRAVID – TIMELESS STEEL

  1. Stevie Haik says:

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