Why he’s the best choice to be head coach for the U-19 team at the World Cup.
When I was a kid, most of my friends wanted to be like Sachin Tendulkar. I promised myself that I will always remain loyal to the great man. I did. But there was something about this other guy. The one they eventually called The Wall. In a country filled with mad love for the game and a team filled with celebs, he stood out. Not just for his skill but for being so wonderfully simple and so refreshingly patient.
Rahul Dravid’s climb to the Indian team had been a steady one. From school to Ranji, he played at every level, readying himself for the big stage. Perhaps that is what instilled so much patience in the man. For more than a decade and a half he donned the Indian shirt and proved why cricket is a gentlemen’s game. And why he is that gentleman.
I can’t remember anyone ever saying anything bad about him. He did not leave people in awe with his skill, but more with his humility while honing that skill. How can someone so gifted be so humble, I would often ask myself.
Rahul Dravid playing his signature square cut. Image source: khelnama.com
Well, I grew up. And to no one’s surprise I was nothing like Sachin. A dream that many wanted to live but none ever came close to, no matter how many times they tried. I don’t think its fair to ask kids to be like him either. It wasn’t easy for him to shoulder a billion hopes. But if I ever advise my kids, I wouldn’t need to tell them about Sachin. History will do that. I’ll tell them a different story. About a man who played for the team and not for any personal glory, never craved the spotlight and always respected those around him. He was the nice guy who finished first. A title aptly given to his biography.
I remember the iconic game at the Eden Gardens in 2001. India was battling at 115 for 3. Already following on, we had a huge mountain to climb against the Aussies. Every cricket fan knows what happened next. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid stitched together 376 runs. Laxman had scored 281 and took the Man of the Match trophy. While in the background, with a solid 180, The Wall did what it does best – offer support. Glory went India’s way and the spotlight shone bright on Laxman. But to Dravid, that wonderfully selfless magician, victory was enough.
Laxman during his iconic 281-run knock vs Aus, with Dravid in the background. Image source: betthomas.com
To me, Rahul Dravid will always be more than just a role model. He was brilliant in his field. But what mattered more was how it never got to his head. The head that always remained calm and composed whenever called upon. And it was called upon quite often.
Like when we were short on wicket keepers. They handed the gloves to him. Did they think that this is the man who probably stays at the crease the longest in test matches? Making him keeper would mean that he would spend too much time on the field. Won’t that take a toll on his body? But then, that’s Dravid for you. So long as he could contribute, he would do whatever it takes. It also shows the trust the team had in him. He wasn’t brilliant from the word go, behind the stumps. But just like every other time, he stepped up because he needed to.
His service went beyond his career as an Indian cricketer. Right now, for instance, he serves as the Indian U-19 team as head coach. India face Australia in their opening game of the Under 19 World Cup on 14th January. Do you remember who the coach was when Yuvraj Singh or Virat Kohli won the U-19 World Cup? In all likelihood, you don’t. Because no one talks about them. Dravid won’t be handed superstars, but boys he can turn into stars. For his sake, I really hope they perform. For his sake, I really hope we all remember.
Dravid, the coach, at a press conference. Image source: hindustantimes.com
Steve Waugh once said, “Rahul is the kind of person youngsters can look up to; not only because of his skill but also because of the way he conducts himself.”
Proof of his humility is everywhere. A few weeks ago, he was spotted at a Science fair, standing in queue with his kids and not being hogged by the media. The reason is simple, they know he never craved it. The essence of being Dravid lies in the fact that he wants to blend in. Not because that’s the right thing to do, but because that is what comes naturally to him.
Rahul queueing up at the science fair. Image source: hindustantimes.com
I don’t think we realised how important Dravid was, until he retired. Personally I find it heart-breaking not to see that defence anymore, not to witness the slow and steady destruction of the opposition. He would fit in any team, in any era, at any time.
It all boils down to commitment and conduct. The hunger to make yourself available for the greater good is something he swore by. He was not just THE team player, sometimes he was the team. His demeanour made his determination quiet but firm. They called him a proper test cricketer, and yet he scored over 10,000 ODI runs at a strike rate of over 70. That’s where his passion came into play. He modified his game whenever required. I remember when India were playing Pakistan in a test and Dravid was at the crease playing his signature defence strokes. Arunl Lal, the commentator, said, “Knowing Dravid, he’s not going to go over the top. Risk-free cricket. That’s what he favours.”
The next ball went over the rope and into the stands. Why? Because that was exactly what we needed.
Dravid, coach of the U19 team, at a press conference. Image source: dnaindia.com
Sadly, the generations to come will not witness the greatness that was Rahul Dravid. Kids of the future will not learn how a man of his stature remained simple till the very end of his career. They will not see the purest form of the cover drive. They will not fall in love with someone beyond looks and talent.
Many claim that Virat is the answer to the void left by Sachin. We certainly have found a talisman in him. Men like Sachin and Virat come along once in a generation. But men like Dravid, perhaps, once in a lifetime. It is said that Sachin was an emotion and Kohli is an experience.
So where does that leave Rahul Dravid? To me, the man was, rather is, a virtue. One everyone should emulate, but so few ever could. They don’t make men like him anymore. He was never a celebrity, but a hero. Like Superman but only without the cape, because that would garner attention.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com
By Akarsh Mehrotra
Cover photo credit: zimbio.com