Rahul Dravid: The Defier of Norms; Not Just The Wall!
For most fans, Rahul Dravid’s greatness stemmed from the number of runs that he scored. And truth be told, he scored plenty of them- 13,228 in Tests and 10,889 in ODI’s. On top of it, he struck 48 international hundreds, 36 of which came in the longer format.
There are those who consider him an icon for the qualities he epitomised in the top-tier cricket: patience, persistence and perseverance.
But maybe time’s come to actually acknowledge the reason why the legend of the batsman has soared over time instead of fizzling away.
Forget the runs, the daddy hundreds and the tough conditions in which they came; Rahul Dravid was a defier of norms.
The simpleton who excelled in solving the complex
For a batsman who was labelled a touch slow in one-day cricket and as a matter of fact, deemed even unsavoury for the format, Dravid stands fourth on the list of most runs scored for India.
To touch a batting average of 40 after featuring in 314 limited-overs innings is a sign of unfailable consistency. Dravid brought curtains to his ODI career (circa September 16, 2011), though not before that gem of a 69 versus England on an average of 39.16, to be precise.
That Dravid not only made runs when India so needed, but actually played the chief disruptor in ODI’s through knocks like that 22-ball-50 against New Zealand was firm evidence that he could achieve about anything he put his sights on.
For a batsman who didn’t possess Lara’s flair or Tendulkar’s elan, it was Dravid who top scored in the 1999 ICC ODI Cricket World Cup, scoring 461 runs. In so doing, he constructed a monument of remarkable patience given his 145 during his astonishing partnership with captain Ganguly as the duo wrecked Sri Lanka.
Yet, when questioned about what he’d say to those who considered him unfit for the format, he practised restraint instead of verbalising his emotions.
There was a calmness and unsullied class about Dravid that can’t ever be matched
It’s not that Dravid didn’t get angry or upset.
Surely, a dropped catch, and he’s taken 406 himself, would bring him grief. But the thing about the mild-mannered Indore-born was that he didn’t make a show of emotions.
Even when elite members of the celebrated Australian team such as Slater stooped to a level such as claiming a catch in the 2001-02 series in India when the ball had clearly touched the surface, Dravid didn’t let it out on the opponent.
That’s when Michael Slater had already let out a few colourful expressions that you won’t let your kids hear.
But there were always batsmen who fought fire with fire, blokes that took the opposition head on.
You think of a Hayden, Afridi, Gibbs and Lara in that regard.
And then there was Dravid who drained out his opponent by abstaining from expresion
And yet, it makes perfect sense when “Haydos” stated in no uncertain terms that all that’s going around in the name of aggression isn’t, in fact, aggression at all, and that if one wanted to spot aggression, it could be seen in Rahul Dravid’s eyes.
Perhaps an Allan Donald sensed it when his lighteningly fast bowling coupled with that cold-blooded stare failed to move Dravid on the crease in 1996-97.
Few felt it better than Shoaib, who tried everything in his might, whether in the 2003 ODI world cup or the 2004 ODI series in Pakistan to distract Dravid’s monumental focus, but only in vain.
Many had their versions to describe the man India perhaps didn’t quite cheer on the way it cheered Sachin.
On the contrary, here was a batsman whose dismissal in Test cricket was excitable only since the next man in was none other than the Master Blaster himself.
But maybe even the Dravid basher instantly realises his worth when none other the ‘God’ says India cannot ever find a greater contributor to the team’s cause than Rahul Dravid.
And just how does one disregard that ever?
The team player
How often has one seen a single player do everything possible for the team’s cause caring ever so little for one’s own interest.
Maybe for the die-hard Indian cricket fan the 2011 and the 1983 World Cup triumphs will mean an incredibly lot for such victories turned stern eyes into moist ones.
But when that cricket-fanatic, Test-loving 90’s kid would narrate to a much younger generation the importance of Rahul Dravid, he’d surely cite the example of the 2011 tour to England.
In a series where nothing, absolutely nothing quite went right for India, Dhoni’s team losing each of the four Test it played, only one man stood up to weather the storm.
That wasn’t Sehwag or Gambhir. Not Yuvi, VVS or Sachin either; it was Rahul Dravid
Finding a way of scoring 461 runs and against an attack that didn’t only feature peak Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad but the very threatening Chris Tremlett, Dravid single-handedly defied the acrimonious English attack.
He negotiated swing, soldiered on, on brutally fast pitches, struck a hundred at Lord’s and even struck a 146 and managed to remain unbeaten in the end.
Few images have etched the psyche of the cricket devotee as much as that scorecard from the Fourth Test at the Oval, where Dravid carried his bat until the very end, scoring nearly 50 percent of India’s score.
Tireless and unflinching in his powers of concentration, Dravid batted on for 378 minutes on the very crease where stalwarts in a famed Indian line-up collapsed like ninepins.
Not that he hadn’t witnessed dejection before; the 2007 ODI World Cup’s heart-crushing loss to Sri Lanka, inexplicable that it was, served as the final nail in the coffin to India’s chances.
But Dravid would contribute and do his part even in lowly occasions; back then his 82-ball-60 proved to be India’s top score. Sachin made a duck and Sourav just 7 in the same game.
And then there were highs, intimidating ones at that!
Of the least celebrated Dravid feats is the fact that not once from 1997 until 2006, which is a decade, did the right-hander average under 45 in a calendar year in Tests.
In the years that were prime in carving the legend of the Wall, Dravid stood as a colossus of consistency going as far as managing a batting average of 100 in the year 2003, the cricketing summer most remembered for his 233 against Australia.
Ian Chappell was spot on when he once famously claimed, “team in trouble, who do you go to- Dravid!”
But then nor was the fan in England who proudly wielded the poster that said it England vs The Wall when it all came down to Rahul saving us from a labyrinth of embarrassment.
Just when he could’ve chilled or stepped back having retired on March 9, 2012 having the luxuries to spend life with, Dravid got back onto the field, mentored and captained Rajasthan Royals to profound respect, cultivated friendships with a Warnie and Watson and KP, all of whom have regarded India’s wall.
And even when he had the option of pausing once and for all, Dravid didn’t relent; he used his cerebral mind and the gift for extracting the right talent to spot a Pravin Tambe for India and used his Dronacharya like wisdom to mentor a younger generation.
Whether it is a Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer or Sanju Samson, there’s an unquestionable element of Dravid that resides in them all.
And probably that is the greatest gift of Mr. Dependable that when he could’ve lived for the self, he gave a bit of himself to those whom he thought would matter to India. He still does.
Which is why it won’t be such a bad idea if the youngsters from the contemporary fold gathered around coach Dravid to give him a present.
And it might not be a terrible idea if it were a movie, a film rightly meant for a legend India’s been lucky to have; one appropriately titled: “To Sir, With love!”