I have erred often in my life, and more so often I have repeated the same mistakes again and again than learn from them! It was during days when I was making more mistakes in my life that someone by the name Rahul Dravid took my attention. I had seen him earlier, years ago, playing or probably captaining an Under 19 team Vs New Zealand early in 90s. I think he kept wickets, also bowled and batted as well in one of those matches (I’m not sure). Anyways, I wasn’t much into Test Cricket, when he had made his debut in England scoring wonderfully. However, years later, I started to like the way he had held himself in the few matches that I watched. My most sympathetic moment came for him, when he was dropped from the ODI teams because of his slow approach to batting. What started as sympathy had later turned into tons of respect towards this man, who would go onto change my life in the way I have never imagined.
Coming back to sympathy, watching Dravid bat in Wold Cup 1999 was a joy. He was the top scorer in the World Cup, even though India didn’t make it to Semi Finals. He had been involved in two 200+ run partnerships in the same world cup. Dravid had a made come back. Always being the supporter of the Under Dog, I loved the way Rahul Dravid made his come back. His comments, off the field, never said anything loud, but never left anything incomplete or unfufiling. He was a wonderful talker, and till date he remains one of my most Loving Speakers, both in and off the game. It seems it was around this time that Rahul Dravid’s role as the supporter came to the fore. He has supported many others achieve their highest individual scores. Just to mention few he was at the other end when the likes of Sehwag, Sachin, Ganguly, VVS Laxman would achieve their highest scores either in Test or ODIs (till then)! Now that was a team player, who would fit into the supporting role as easily as he would lead it when required. (For example: He finished off the game against Pak in 2003 WC, with a 40+ score along with Yuvi). True Team Player, and this is the biggest lesson I learnt from him – being a team player, no matter what role you are in.
Then came a cricket event that would put me into complete awe of this fellow. It was another useless day for me, when me and a dear friend, gathered ourselves in front of TV, talking of kings and cabbages. By the end of the day we saw three sessions in a day of a Test Match in which two players batted all along. VVS Laxman was at the helm, scoring 200+ runs. Rahul Dravid was at the other end – supporting him. The Kolkata innings completely turned him into my God. Yes Laxman was the leader in the match, but try taking any thing away from Rahul – you would find nothing! I wonder if both Rahul and VVS Laxman were in tune with the God that day. They just played. We watched. It was as if Rahul had silently told me – look into the best within you – that will change the way you look at your life. And Rahul kept proving it, in Australia and South Africa (much later) bringing India’s 1st Test Victory in both these places, and then winning another in West Indies – all with his amazing solidity.
It was only natural that he became the LEADER. It was only natural that he would lead. He had (still has) great vision – he was instrumental in picking India’s most important players, without bias; he played his role when ICC demanded him to work for it; and yet he would come back and play Ranji Trophy – in silent thanks to where he came from, and wanting to share with juniors, what he has learned so far! But leadership brings with it, great difficulties. His team lost the WC 2007 in the first round! Rahul never came into the fore after that, proving that he was after all a human, whose determination, hard work and working on priorities helped him nurture his talent. He left none of these qualities even though his good times deserted him, like they most naturally do. Only Navaratilova, whose story is as inspiring as Rahul’s, could explain what Rahul must have gone through – “What matters isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.” Rahul played well. His team supported him, deservedly. His critics raised voices, but he would silently play – most often struggling, but ensuring that he had atleast wasted balls in order to make them get older for the players coming in late, making a new record of playing more balls than anyone else in the game! In the mean time, though, he worked on other things that he could work on – fitness, on catching, and on everything else he could.
There have been painful contributions, there have been some easier ones, but what Rahul Dravid did was that he never let his guard down, even in the moments of failures. It is through these failures that the second nature of a man comes out. I wonder if anyone had discussed this earlier anywhere – but Rahul comes across as a saint, who had left everything else, detached from the happenings of the world, working more on his penance! Incidentally, saints in India are expected in temples or in mountains, not in our homes! Voices rose against him, even though Rahul egged on improving himself. Personally, though, I think if there is the biggest critic that Rahul Dravid ever found, would be Rahul Dravid himself. That there is no other person who would be able to point your negative at you, other than yourself, says a thing or two about Greatness. I’m not sure how many else can be in that situation, now that is the position I someday would like to be, and I know that I have a long long way to go.
Has Rahul Dravid found a second winding (even after the century in West Indies) or has he weathered the long storm, it would be too early to try to answer. But having followed Rahul Dravid for sometime I know that whatever he chooses to do next, be it in Cricket or away from it, would be as pure as the man himself – useful to himself, useful to his team or family or society and quite remarkable for the coming generations.
I’m not sure if, in my life, I will be able to do things the way Rahul did. But in the search for the best within, it is indeed inspiring, insightful and enlightening, to have someone like Rahul Dravid in my life time. I render a sincere thanks and bow to this man for just having been there, doing what he does best – being there among the most gentlemanly great the gentleman game ever produced.