How will cricket remember Rahul Dravid? Surely, for the tough runs he scored, the hundreds constructed carefully and the sharp catches held at first slip. But stats, however staggering, don’t adequately capture Dravid’s major contribution to the game.
In the context of Indian cricket, the greatest tribute to Dravid is he is universally liked and that nobody bitches about him — an honour that has eluded every other past legend. This because he was unfailingly correct, so completely straight-bat that hitting across the line was just not part of his DNA.
A few days before announcing his retirement, Dravid had picked up the phone to say he had made the decision. I was a bit surprised, not by the decision but that only a couple of days back, when we spent time chatting about cricket, he didn’t speak a word about his plans.
But, now that Dravid has slipped into cricket history, it is time to assess what he did, and what he brought to the table. Looking at him, one astonishing realisation dawns that one of India’s greatest cricketing stars was so un-Indian.
Consider these facts.
When Greg Chappell trashed the Indians for avoiding responsibility and lacking leadership qualities, he obviously did not remember Dravid, someone who always put his hand up and ungrudgingly placed team ahead of self. Dravid was utterly selfless, self-deprecating and modest to a fault. While others around him jostled to get into the frame, he shunned publicity.
A model professional, Dravid was disciplined, determined and self-driven. Nobody (coach/ captain/ trainer / physio / manager) ever had to tell him what to do. He was fully programmed; he sorted things out for himself.
Though less gifted than some of his colleagues, Dravid maximised his potential and consistently chased excellence with an intensity rare among Indian sportspersons. For a person with extraordinary achievements, he remained ordinary, untouched by the ills of celebrity. He was cool without being edgy or funky. Not one to colour his hair or wear an ear stud, his only concession to fashion was designer jeans and sharp glares. He did not show attitude, did not sledge and, in the age of distracted and sulky superstars, he remained remarkably grounded.
Dravid took Indian cricket forward by setting new standards, and achieving those through grit and determination. In his words, cricket was a simple game of bat and ball where one had to do the basics right. Dravid did that and much more, with rare distinction.
The writer is an administrator with an IPL team and the views expressed are personal