Rahul Dravid retires!!! What does it mean to the great game of cricket, to world cricket, to Indian cricket in general and to the great Indian cricket fan in particular. I being a great fan of this game, am at a loss of words to describe the sense of loss I feel at this point in time.Cricket has lost one of its most faithful servants and the game will not be the same without Dravid walking in at that customary No.3 position that he has made his own over the course of a brilliant career.
I was not a great Dravid fan when I started playing this game about 16 years back (incidentally the life-span of his career) and found him drab and boring and very conservative with his approach towards the game. But having grown up playing & watching & understanding this game over the years, I concede I was too naïve and dumb to have not followed this unassuming, sometimes shy but superlative intellectual and one of the great learners of the game more closely. A lot has been said about the gentleman he is, the dignity he has brought to the game and his grit and determination to battle it out in the middle, but I would say what enabled him to bring all this and more to the table was his quest for constant improvement. He never stopped being a student of the game even after he was inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame. If this quality can be emulated by each one of us we would be better human-beings/individuals in all walks of life.
I remember that fantastic day at Eden Gardens when he and Laxman pulled off the greatest come-from-behind victories of all times by batting out the entire day. Laxman, deservedly, was the man of the match but there were passages in that game when Dravid absorbed all the pressure from one end which allowed Laxman to play the way he wanted to. Infact I remember a feisty spell from Jason Gillespie that day (that would again go down as one of the greatest fast bowling, but luckless, exhibits of all times) and it was Dravid who took it on the chin and faced most of the deliveries (in some ways shielding Laxman). This ability of his, to absorb pressure and put a price tag on his wicket, has been a great contributor to the resurrection of India becoming a formidable force overseas. His game allowed others to play around him.
The golden period between 2001 and 2005 saw Dravid coming into his own and stamping his authority on both forms of the game thus enabling India to win games overseas. When he played for Kent in the English county championship, his teammates were stunned to see an overseas player so humble, unassuming and gentle without any airs that they had become accustomed to see in other overseas player. Magically this guy could transform himself into the fiercest competitor on the field of play and would give no quarters or ask for any.
We all remember the 95 dogged runs he scored on his debut but the greatest thing that happened that day was this young man walking off after having nicked the ball ever so slightly to the wicket-keeper even without waiting for the umpire’s decision. Any lesser mortal would have atleast waited for the umpire to decide but not Dravid. That showed the stuff that he was made of and that day the world saw a gentleman cricketer’s birth.
No doubt that the void created by his exit cannot be filled in quick time, it is like this sentence which has encountered a comma but does not have anything succeeding it. Again the time of his retirement shows the selfless character he is because he had it in him to continue and contribute immensely to the team for atleast two more years but went out wanting to pave the way for youngsters. With great sacrifices come great opportunities and I hope the youngsters realize this and grab the opportunity that would make his sacrifice worth it.
Rahul Dravid, you will certainly be missed and the game is poorer by your exit but I just hope that the precedent that you have set will be carried forward and the baton that you have passed on will be carried forward with the same zeal, conviction, dedication, discipline and respect that you always showed to this great game of cricket. Thank you for entertaining us for 16 long years…… Will always remain a great fan of yours.
<PS: Written by the husband. Hence tagging it under borrowed words, for these are definitely not mine>