Monday, March 12, 2012

Rahul Dravid - Mr. Nice Guy of World Cricket !!!

The below is a blog which I had drafted long back during the forgettable Indo-Englad series where we were thrashed with a whitewash. For some reason or the other I was not able to complete it and have it posted.

With Dravid announcing his retirement, the timing of posting this wouldn't have been any better....

29-Jul-2011: Its been too long since I wrote a blog. I did not want to lose out on the habit of writing. All this while I had been racking my brain on what topic to pen down. Everytime I attempted one, I would be stuck up half-way without knowing how to continue. Finally I gave up my futile attempts to blog and decided that unless something really sparks up, I will not login to blogspot. Days passed by and nothing really motivated me to login again. I was content in spending my day with a routine visit (I repeat VISIT, not work) to office and roaming around doing nothing worthy. The start of the Indo-England series helped me while-away my idle time. Cricket in England is the best a cricket-lover can ask for. The beautiful ground, seaming track, top-notch TV coverage and some quality cricket on the field, all makes it the best viewing experience. As expected, Rahul Dravid was at ease in the seaming conditions where the rest of the batsmen struggled to survive. He came up with yet another laborious century at Lords. Even at that juncture there was nothing that kindled my lazybones. It was the second test last session, the little partnership between Dravid and Laxman to see through the day, thats when the spark happened. To be precise when Dravid faced the 5th ball of the 8th over from James anderson, a delivery that kicked off from 'just-short-of-good-length'. It was a similar kind of delivery that Praveen kumar had earlier bowled to remove Graeme Swann in the England innings. It was what one would call as an "unplayable delivery". The fact that Dravid managed to defend even such a lethal delivery made me go restless. It was as if, I immediately wanted to connect to internet and pen down all the good things that I could think of this great man, who time and again resurrects Indian batting. For a man who has a mention in WISDEN book its immaterial to have found a place in a junk blog page which is run by a jobless nomad. However being an ardent lover of test cricket, the least I could do was to write an ode to this wonderful human being who still manages to play the game "the gentleman way". The below is a humble attempt of mine to summarise the kind of feeling this man evokes when he walks onto the crease, the respect he commands by his impeccable behaviour on and off the field, the awe that he brings by his sheer tenacity and mental toughness, the list is endless.

For me watching a Dravid building his innings is more interesting than seeing a highlights of him knees down to drive the ball through the covers for a boundary or his trademark flick towards midwicket. The sight of him leaving the ball closely shaving the stumps is a sight to behold than see him come down the track to a spinner. It is not his batting that impresses me. It is his approach towards batting that makes me feel great about this man. He is not a dashing player like a Sehwag or a flamboyant, gifted one like Ganguly or an elegant, artistic batsman like Laxman. He is not one who can score a boundary at will or send the ball soaring into the stands. He has his own limitations. He is a normal batsman who firmly holds onto the guideliness of batting manual. His defence is his strength. He tries nothing extravagant, instead plays to his strength, which is defence. His simple theory is to tire the bowlers and reap benefits. Unless the ball is in his "playable zone" he is content enough to leave it aside or defend it. Its because he rarely gets tempted to play away from his zone, the bowlers are forced to feed him what he wants. Its just that the above process takes a mammoth amount of time to be spent on the crease, which he is patient enough to do. Seldom will you find his innings to be flashy, filled with audacious shots and rocketing strike rate. Instead it will be an innings punctuated with solid defence, deft touches, a blow in the body, calculated leaves to keeper. Each innings of his is a result of hours and hours of concentration, focus and skill at work. Ask him to score 15 runs off one over, he might fail. Tell him to bat the entire day, he will do it. For people who assume that the latter is easy, think twice. Winning a 100 meters race within a short timeframe is easy or winning a marathon ? I know both tasks have its own difficulties. But the latter requires more strength, more endurance and determination to not giveup in the middle. Thats what Rahul specialises in. Thats the reason he is more effective in the longer version. I, being a purist who believes Test cricket is real cricket, a version that, as the name suggests, tests the skills of the players, tests the endurance of the players, tests the longevity of a person, cannot look beyond Dravid to name my alltime favourite batsman.

Being a kid who had grown up witnessing Rahul's rise from a half baked mortal batsman to a highly accomplished cricketer in all forms of game, his cricketing story is a lesson, an inspiration of what one can become if you are adamantly focussed about making it big. Right from his pathetic first ODI, to the dream debut in Test, till his bradmanistic batting display in England recently, his is a career of a comman man, who through his sheer hard work went onto become the most respected cricketer of the era. He is not only a role model with respect to his batting techniques, but also for the way he conducted himself on and off the field, the way he played the game, the way he handled the media, the way he kept himselves away from controversies.... A thorough gentleman and Mr. Nice guy in all aspects. A selfless person who did whatever it takes to contribute for the team's success. Anything that the team demands, he is there to deliver it to his best of capabilities and utmost sincerity. Be it being a stop-gap keeper or being asked to open in bowler friendly pitches, being shuffled across various batting positions, being made to fight a lone battle when everything around keeps falling apart. He is the ஆபத் பாண்டவன் (Messiah) of Indian cricket. When things are in dire straits he is the man who can be counted upon to make us reach shore safely. His presence in the middle brings a sense of self-assurance to everyone that the match is in safe hands.

For any person who wants to write about Rahul Dravid, the first thing that would find a mention is his solid batting technique. But for me the striking aspect about him is his unrelenting attitude, determination and the willingness to fight it out. Watching him play would make one feel "how much does this man do, to keep his wicket intact". He values his wicket a lot. Never one to throw it away. Seeing him battle it out ball by ball and build an innings, its like watching a sculptor at work. Slow, tiresome, laborious, skillful, patient and determined. It might sound boring. In this fast-forward world anything that takes a long time is boring. Yet at the end of it all, when you see him finish the day with success you are a live witness to the process of hard work and determination resulting in success. His innings teaches you what hard work can result in. What determination and willingness to fight can lead you to. Watching him bat is a learning beyond cricket. Its an inspiration.

Thank you Rahul. For all that you have done to Indian cricket, for all those patiently grafted innings that time and again helped India recover, for being the perfect ambassador for Indian sport, for being a living example of what discipline, focus, hard work and determination can do to a person. Its been a privilege and honour to have been able to witness and follow your international career. Howmuchever I talk about you, its tough to express the amount of respect and awe that you bring in me. You are a true legend indeed...... Wish you had chosen to don the whites one last time before announcing your retirement.

All these years I was never bothered about it, but now I feel proud to belong to this race.... the Dravidian :-)

After I was done with this post, when I read back, I notice that the words endurance, hard-work, determination have been repeated umpteen times. What to do...... an expression about Dravid, without any of these adjectives will be incomplete !!!!!!!


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