I wasn’t too far from reality when I wrote that the presence of players like VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid has a mesmerising effect on players, especially youngsters, in domestic cricket. In our recent match against Karnataka, Dravid scored 78 on a difficult wicket. He, as usual, made batting look easy and left most of us awestruck.
The ball was darting around and everyone was getting beaten at least a couple of times in each over. But here was Dravid, always taking a long stride forward to balls that were pitched up and then either playing with the sweetest spot on the bat or leaving the ball well alone. One of us would ask the keeper if the ball had ceased to move, but the answer would always be that Dravid was making it look that way.
Our bowlers rarely bowled a bad ball to any of the Karnataka batsmen except Dravid. Somehow, bowlers kept dishing out half volleys to him and he kept dispatching them to the fence. But I knew that it is very difficult to keep all your faculties under control when someone you’ve always admired is standing only a few meters away.
Another thing was that bowlers were trying to produce ‘wicket-taking’ deliveries as opposed to sticking to the basics and bowling in the right areas. It was only human to think that it would take an extraordinary ball to dismiss Dravid.
We even toyed with the idea of telling Dravid that if he gets beaten twice off the same bowler, he should treat it as getting out and must walk back to the pavilion! One of our bowlers even told the umpire after an unsuccessful appeal for lbw against Dravid, ‘if Rahul’s defence is breached and ball hits pad he should be given out, regardless of the fact that it was sliding down the leg side.’
Of course, it was in good humor and we didn’t tell him to walk back or expect the umpire to adjudge him lbw. But that’s precisely how we felt when he was on song.
And when he eventually got out, the celebration was worth watching. A look at the bowler was enough to tell you that he has just earned himself lifetime bragging rights of telling his parents, friends and kids that he dismissed Dravid.
Fans will always be fans and admire almost everything about the person they are in awe of. One such batsman described his emotions after he nicked to Dravid at first slip.
He said, ‘the moment I saw the ball heading in Rahul’s direction, I started walking back. He has hands as big as a bucket!’ To that, someone added that when Dravid takes a catch you can’t even hear the sound of the ball hitting the hands. Another person said, ‘he makes the act look so simple, while we begin to feel edgy the moment we see the ball heading our way in the slips off a fast bowler.’
Obviously we, the Delhi Squad, didn’t make our emotions visible to him as that would have meant disaster for our team. But still, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the moments we spent in his company.