Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
Rahul Sharad Dravid has retired from International cricket today saying he wants to enjoy the simpler things in life; with this he is denying me the greatest pleasure that I have had till date – watching him play! He has chosen to go as quietly as he came. Just a press conference and one of the best retirement speeches the world will ever hear marked his farewell. No gaga, no riding on team mate’s shoulders, no salutes; just the quiet dignity that he likes.
He was not talked about when he made his debut at Lords. He was constantly overshadowed by others when he reached his milestones. Yet, he made those milestones, like all of us do in our everyday lives. He was not flamboyant like Tendulkar, he was not as elegant as Lara, he was not the hitter that Viv Richards was; he was the best there was/ is/ can be and hence there can be no comparisons. Quoting Harsha Bhogle, “Dravid batted at No.3, the benchmark for which is the benchmark of batting itself.” I would call him as would many others – The Don Bradman of our times. Often splendour overshadows class, but then class is class and Rahul Dravid is arguably the best in that space. He is elite when it comes to gentlemanly behavior on and off the field, putting the team and the game above himself, being humble and other such noble traits.
He possessed awesome will power, an undying passion for cricket and exemplary attitude among many other qualities. He had the ability to focus on the game for long periods, unwaveringly; he had the courage to face and come out of failure. The fervour with which he played for Team India has few similes.
For 16 years, the India cap stood proudly on her greatest son. In my opinion, he is the greatest player to have worn the Indian colours. What is the Indian team without Rahul Dravid? I cant see another person walking in at No.3.
If someone had told me greatness takes human avatars, I wouldn’t have believed it. But then I have seen Rahul Dravid – a perfect combination of perennial class and brilliant mind. And hence, I believe it!
It is not the quantity of runs (which he has in plenty) that made him nonpareil, it is the quality of his conviction, his brilliant technique and his unreserved love for cricket that make him irreplaceable. The quality that endeared him to me most is his willingness to do anything that the team asked for. Open the innings, batting at No.3, No.7, keep wickets, captain, on a rare occasion even bowl. I have seen in his rise a very structured approach, a very constant improvement; something that every man must have, not just in cricket, but in everyday life.
As a child in Class 4, when his teacher questioned them what he wanted to become, Dravid had replied, “I want to play cricket for India.” What else would you expect from such a man?
He is the one the team has turned to when faced with utter turmoil including the forgettable Guru Greg era, the numerous scandalous overseas performances without Dravid and many more. He has always responded positively. Many of his beautiful knocks, long stands and centuries have come in the toughest of conditions. He is an epitome of character and mental stamina. His batting DVDs are lessons for any aspiring cricketer.
I love every run of his, nonetheless, my favourites are the feat at Rawalpindi, the one at Adelaide 2003 – 2004, the century knock at Johannesburg, his centuries at Lords and Jamaica in 2011 and that unforgettable match winning act at Kolkata. There is a definite something that his bat does other than just hitting runs. In ODIs, I love his exploits in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, his centuries in Sabina Park and New Zealand and the wonderful runs he made in Chennai against Pakistan, albeit to a lost cause.
Other pens, blogs and mouths will describe his achievements too, much better than I will ever be able to. Some of which he will read and hear, some of which he won’t. I know mine will belong to the latter. Yet, how can I not talk about my idol, my favourite cricketer, my greatest strength, my hero?
I am still not able to come to terms with his retirement. It is a wrench to think that I will never see those classic cover drives, that lovable, rock solid forward defence, those graceful leg glances, the spectacular square cuts and superb flicks off the pad. The world has lost its best batsman today. No other public event has made me shed tears. I suppose then, that this loss is greater than all others.
I get angry if after just 7 years in an IT company, they ask me to prove my worth. Here is a man who has consistently proved himself at one of sport’s highest stages. It is easy to appreciate and criticize Rahul Dravid, but it is just impossible to BE Rahul Dravid. Like Sachin has rightly summed, “There can only be one Dravid and I salute him.”
He is not the God of cricket, he is not the Prince of Kolkata, he is not Punter; he is Cricket itself. According to me, cricket has retired today. With his retirement, I feel that there is nothing left to watch barring perhaps Sachin’s 100th ton. He surely is, much more than just The Wall.
Who said good guys don’t come first?
Close on the heels of the splendid Bradman Oration comes his final note – with sadness and with pride – Finally, I would like to thank the Indian cricket fan, both here and across the world. The game is lucky to have you and I have been lucky to play before you. To represent India, and thus to represent you, has been a privilege and one which I have always taken seriously. My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.
He has been one of the finest sportsman that the world has seen thus far. He has played like a true legend, grew into a veteran and is now entering into the realms of eternal glory! Very deservedly so!
To one of the best ambassadors of Indian cricket and sport in general, I raise my hat and toast – Thank you Rahul Dravid! What would Indian cricket have done without you?