To most of us Rahul Dravid was an uncomplicated man, someone for whom nothing mattered more than making runs, honing his craft to the point of perfection. He was calm, self-assured and a team-man to the core and his public school manners endeared him to all connected with the game — the scribe, the sponsor and the establishment. Till, one day, he became captain of the team.
For a man who shunned even the shadow of controversy, India's captaincy came with a price. He was catapulted to the top in circumstances not of his making — the Greg-Ganguly spat — but once there, he had to deal with it. It will be naive and even illogical to presume that, like any cricketer, he never aspired for the top job.
Once there, the meaning of life must have changed for a man who, by all indications, believed that the cricketing world runs on a rational logic, where its protagonists should not only know their lines but also remember them always. Hadn't he been a perfect deputy, someone who may not have agreed with all the decisions taken by his predecessor, but it was his duty to never show dissent? He was assigned a role and he was doing it to the best of his ability.
He had worked hard to cultivate the image of "Nice Man" in a world dominated by intrigue, skulduggery, backstabbing and all the negatives that can be ascribed to an establishment where cricket is seen as a ticket to fame and money. He had to take decisions. He had to deal with a coach whose brusque methods were making his players insecure & frustrated & he had to do what he liked doing, batting & making runs.
In the beginning of the Chappell era, every day there would be a new explosion with Ganguly at the centre of it, which must have threatened the peaceful world of Dravid. Had he, to retain his captaincy, betrayed his predecessor? Was he so swayed by the coach that he ignored all his wrongs? True or not, Dravid's image suffered. It suffered more once Tendulkar too started becoming his coach's target and suddenly Mr Perfect must have realised the world around him is not as simple as he believed it would be.
His much admired communication skills meant nothing when it came to dealing with his own players. Much as he would not like to believe it, he had failed in the real test of communicating with the disparate egos of his own team. He may have gone by the book, but the book in the end is a piece of paper, unlike people made of flesh and emotions.
Dravid had failed for the first time in his life. The deeply introspective man may have not liked the mirror image of himself. The World Cup disaster must have shaken his worldview and from then onwards Dravid, to many, was not the Dravid they knew.
No one till now knows why the man quit captaincy all of a sudden. He told the world he wanted to concentrate on his batting, which was more precious to him than all other allurements. A lot of us felt he had betrayed the team and left it in the lurch. But every human being lives in a world of choices and in many ways his giving up captaincy so that his real craft does not suffer, was seen as an admirable decision.
But life has its own dynamics and does not always follow a set pattern. Imagine being dropped now, even if just for one match, for lack of form! As he enters the final phase of what has been an outstanding career, the "simple, uncomplicated" man has all of a sudden acquired a new dimension. Some may even call him enigmatic now. In the process of living, the journey never ends.