Rahul Dravid has left us in a confused and unresolved state of mind. A year back he was sinking. Sweat dripped down his eyes, the movements were unusually fettered and run making seemed labour. Was it time to manufacture a new number three? But you can’t clone a Dravid; just vainly hope that someone ticks the qualities for that slot.
Now he’s expected to divinise clay. Build run citadels like he would in his prime. With more than 1100 runs in 12 Tests in 2011, five hundreds (three of those in England), four fifties and an average of 57.25, he’s doing it all over again. In England he looked unflappable even as India’s other batting Goliaths couldn’t survive a session. The discerning readers of DNA have noted the point and voted him as the sportsperson of the year.
It all started in the Jamaica Test when Darren Sammy dropped him at second slip. For once, the fates were gracious. He went on to score a hundred, but where would he have headed had he failed then?
Even as good times have begun to roll we ask ourselves a question we’d rather avoid. Is India ready for a life without Dravid?
Three years since Sourav Ganguly retired, India haven’t found a stable number six. To expect something remotely close to a Dravid replica is being too ambitious. Do a quick scan of domestic cricket’s top bats. Look for one batsman with that forward stride.
All you find are power beasts.
Sometime — possibly very soon — Dravid will have to finish. The moment could come as early as the next year. It’s being heard that he might reassess his career after the tour of Australia. He’d confided in a friend that he would still like to play on for Karnataka.
Win the Ranji Trophy for his state one last time.
Somehow Karnataka cricketers are driven about their states. Gundappa Vishwanath continued playing for Karnataka after he was done with international cricket. They don’t forget their cricket because they don’t lose connect with their roots. Just like Dravid hasn’t.
His teammates reveal how he trained himself for long hours of concentration from his under-19 days. J Arun Kumar, his old-time friend and former Karnataka opening batsman, says, “He was a compulsive reader and would always immerse himself in a book when we travelled by train. We’d try to distract him with jokes but not once would we succeed. Nothing could move him expect his favourite song those days, Field of Gold.”
As Dravid walks the last lap of his international career, we yearn to know more about the man. Is it a myth that he’s a closed book, difficult to understand, never outspoken as Ganguly was? That he never gives himself fully?
His Karnataka colleagues disagree.
There’s a lovely story about the Karnataka-Hyderabad Ranji semifinal in 1998. Karnataka, needing only 157 to win, were down nine wickets. They had put aside their lunch unable to come to terms with an impending defeat. Any captain would’ve chastised the side, but not Dravid who spurred them on with a moving, 10-minute motivational speech.
His then-roomie confides, “Doda Ganesh (the last man in) was so taken by what he heard that he vowed to win the match on his own. And he actually managed to do that.”
Yet he has remained the most understated man in Indian cricket. He’d probably exit as one. As fans, let’s savour the best of him while it lasts.