Saturday, March 17, 2012

He came, he saw, he conquered—and how!

I’ve never been an enthusiast of nicknames, especially misbegotten ones. I’m happy to say that my idol of 10 years is also not very fond of the sobriquet bestowed on him—The Wall.  “I’m indifferent to it,” he said, and I agree. It sounds like an insult, anyway. While Rahul Sharad Dravid is the strong and silent builder of innings, that does not make him a “wall.” That technically makes him the foundation.

On Friday afternoon, the Indian cricketing fraternity, one of the oldest and the most revered in the world, bid farewell to that strong and silent warrior after 16 years of a glorious cricketing career (tests, ODIs and T20s included). And it was only fitting that I had to be there in person. 

The name Dravid sends people into a tizzy. I remember the many heated arguments with friends, family and complete strangers I have had on how Dravid is not just good in Test cricket, but in all forms of the game. Years later when he made his T20 debut against England, he made me proud by hitting three consecutive sixes off Samit Patel.

Can you think of any other player who would’ve opened the innings, batted at Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 and kept wickets at the beck and call of a captain? This adaptability and versatility is what sets Dravid apart—it differentiates him from the routine and the mundane. 

Who said Dravid doesn’t take risks, or plays it safe and by the books? In fact, those who bat in a settled position are those who don’t take risks because Dravid has done it all. Hell, he has even tried his hand at bowling!

Which is the one innings that stands out the most in my mind? Adelaide. 2003. I can still visualize that day in December when I came home from school just to watch Dravid bat. I didn’t eat, didn’t change; I bunked my tuition classes and sat on the chair watching Dravid bat, watching him make those exquisite cover drives with a flick of the wrist and elegant shots in the midwicket before he got out on a splendid 233. I rose with the crowd in Adelaide and applauded. 

Each time I needed a sense of calm and peace, I’d look up his batting videos online and be content. It reassured me and bizarre as it may sound, it was as if Dravid’s batting spoke to me: everything’s going to be all right. 

One of the reasons I wanted to become a writer was so that I could interview Dravid. After reading numerous columns about Dravid, I made up my mind to somehow become a journalist-cum-writer, interview Dravid, get it published and then quit my job. That was enough, that one interview, one meet where I could confess I was his biggest fan. And on Friday, when I was clicking his photograph despite all the professional photographers pushing me away, I stood my ground and clicked away, not caring about the light, the frame or the shot. And when he glanced at me, my heart skipped a beat: I was overjoyed.

Patience, resilience, perfection, an eye for detail, perseverance, dedication, consistency…I could go on, for the words that describe Dravid are endless and no lexicographer could make an exhaustive list. It has been an honor watching him bat, and I wish it could go on, but I’ve heard that all good things must come to an end. So long, Dravid, and for your many admirers across the world like me, you will always serve as an inspiration.
The same was published in my college website

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