Imagine Rahul Dravid in the latest Ed Hardy T-shirt, hair jelled, wearing red sneakers and dark shades. When I jokingly suggested this image makeover, Dravid was horrified.
“No, no, no,” he stammered in complete shock. “I am not that type.”
Which is stating the obvious. Dravid is hardly the publicity hungry Page 3 celebrity, nor is he the standard Indian cricketer. He is one of a kind, a limited-edition player who has blanked out all distractions to focus on the ball.
Last week, Dravid was at the NCA in Bangalore, the lone user in a gym that can accommodate fifty. Getting off the treadmill after a longish workout, drenched in sweat and drained from the effort, he sputtered that he enjoyed this. There is no success without fitness, he said.
Right from 1993, when his cricket journey started, success has never been far from Dravid. After all those years, his career stats are staggering — close to 500 appearances for India, 20,000 international runs and more catches than anyone else in Test history.
Success sits lightly on his mature head. Dravid is not the normal India cricketer who is jumping out of his skin, seeking attention and hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. Instead, he is correct and composed, at peace with himself and the world. Roger Federer may not wake up at 4 am to change nappies but Dravid (who too is a recent father) is the type to happily do that, and still not miss his morning training session.
Despite his justified status as a respected senior statesman, Dravid remains remarkably humble and balanced. Eager to learn than teach, more a student than professor, he is willing to slog to improve than to sit back on his achievements.
Someone who has seen the game grow in the past 15 years, Dravid worries about recent developments, specially the future of Test cricket. The surging popularity of T20 leaves him with mixed feelings, he fears it could sweep away a lot of what makes cricket so challenging. The money and security it provides to the players is good, and it is wonderful to have another ladder to climb to the top but should the market alone decide change, he asks.
Dravid wants Tests to be protected because they bring out the real talent and ability of players. His position on the Test vs T20 debate — the difference in quality between cola and quality wine.