Rahul Dravid's retirement has triggered the crucial question as to who would succeed to his No.3 spot as India finds itself in the lurch. In the midst of this talk, however, the larger, more critical point has been missed --- 'What makes a player Dravid-like?' Whoever aspires to fill that void now must realise Dravid wasn't just a name, but a whole philosophy.
Live like a monk
Even on days when there wasn't a cricket match the next day, Dravid would still prefer to follow a set routine, including hitting the sack early and waking up early too. This meant he didn't have to adjust to a new routine when a Test series came calling. He liked his life hassle-free, on and off the field. Everything was planned meticulously, even time spent on the breakfast table.
Much of the endurance, persistence and the wisdom Dravid showed through these 16 years came from the life he lived and the person he was. India has great talent, but would a young cricketer in today's day and age want to slow down, make sacrifices and transform his lifestyle to be a purist?
After the first edition of the IPL, Dravid and I agreed the biggest concern with Twenty20 cricket was the idea of getting out for a paltry 30. Players who had grown up in that era - when leaving balls, waiting for the right ones, and curbing one's natural instincts was considered mature, were made to believe one must make every start count and that getting out after reaching 20s was a bigger crime than getting a single digit score. The time tested formula to decipher a batsman's role in the side was to divide 150 overs amongst the top six batsmen, which meant each batsman must bat 30 overs each, every time. Today, it's not only acceptable but also mandatory to get out cheaply to accelerate the scoring rate.
Team before Self
If Tendulkar has been the God of cricket, Dravid has been that great who kids growing up in the last decade or so have learnt to eulogise and emulate. Dravid gave a whole generation a hope to live by, that honest and hardworking people do ultimately reach the top. He needed to raise the bar to become relevant in the shorter formats, he needed to score at a fair clip in Tests to give bowlers enough time to bowl the opposition out twice, and he did all of that and more.
He also did things he didn't have to, like keeping wickets to lengthen the batting, opening in Test cricket because no one could do the job then, even demoted himself in the batting order to play the role of a finisher. Will we ever find such a self-less man?
(The writer is a former India opener and plays for Rajasthan)