In cricketing parlance, an important phrase that keeps popping up is legacy. There’s a lot of talk about it. Some legacies are heightened by rich contributions from the willow and some brandished by imperious wicket-taking abilities.
But when you talk of Rahul Dravid, you realize his has been a legacy plied with character, in addition to his incredible willow-wielding abilities. That he was not just a technically virtuous batsman, alike the best in the world- Kallis, Sobers, Fredericks, Boycott and Vishwanath- is common knowledge. But, that so much of him was about grit, gentlemanly demeanor, mental toughness and an incredible adaptability to changing nature of a game makes him a standout.
Utterly competitive but not relying on verbatim, cool and collected but never over-confident, it was but natural that Dravid’s enormous offering was tapped into when he hung his boots. Perhaps, emoting sheepishly, fans and critics wanted to know if a greater Rahul Dravid contribution lay outside 22 yards?
Thankfully post March 9, 2012, Dravid’s utterly humble and humane retirement speech; India could no longer ignore the Dravid predicament! That despite at 38, with waning physical abilities, but with that characteristic fortitude and humbling presence about him still glowing, how could Dravid be made to contribute?
The answer was found in the IPL 2013
The Indian fan, now a profuse lover of the shortest format, happily deriding Tests as ‘boring’ found in Rajasthan Royals, a familiar sight. One that had made a career defending India and tiring out opposition to a state of dismal oblivion!
Dravid’s wise appointment of a less fancied IPL side wasn’t really about his personal strike rate that had no better headline material save 3 back-to-back sixes in his only T20 international against England (2011). It was more about a monk handing lessons of perseverance and adaptability to a band of neophytes who were still getting a feeler of international cricket.
The results paid off.
Dravid-led Rajasthan stood tall on the table at 3 toward the end. Most importantly, few lives had been changed for good. One of cricket’s most misunderstood talents, Shane Watson found a new guru, as did Rahane, Nair, Binny and Sanju Samson. In Dravid, the batsman who would open, rotate the strike was the daring captain who would talk to the unit when the chips were down. His vesting faith in totally inexperienced guys like Dishant Yagnik, a confidently brimming Rahane and rising keeper-batsman Samson, instilled such rich confidence into youngsters that it would transform the way their Test and ODI careers were to follow.
Dravid’s rise as India’s mentor
When out there, holding off pace and countering spin wasn’t a rudimentary process but an art form for Rahul. He demonstrated this ably in lone battles waged versus Donald, Klusener, Murali, Warne, McGrath, Vaas, Pollock, Walsh, Saqlain, MacGill and the likes.
His studious followers in Rajasthan, Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair, the latter now hopefully secured in the Test side learnt from Dravid the art of strengthening defense and building the right tempo in an inning. His recent triple hundred found rich fervor with Dravid’s valuable lessons.
Karun’s promotion, at number 3 for Rajasthan from his customary no. 5 was as unique in its utility as was the concoction of Samson- Rahane opening pair, the one that nearly trampled Sachin’s Mumbai in Dravid’s own swansong in T20 Champion’s League, 2013.
Today’s India has a bit of Dravid, thankfully
IPL’s rich success, an experience sadly jaded by match-fixing charges against Rajasthan’s Chandela and Sreesanth didn’t stop Rahul Dravid-part II.
We instead saw him go from strength to strength
India’s go-to man in crisis would soon pave way for an ardent mentor who relished accepting challenges such as training the youth with glee.
For many of his critics, who prefer spending sleepless nights in harrowing comparisons with the ‘God’ of Cricket or ‘Master Blaster’, it invokes a lesson.
That glories sought for the collective good of a nation are also as valuable and perhaps, precious than the high at scoring 100 hundreds, no mean achievement by any stretch of imagination!
Dravid’s recent appointment as the national coach for the Under-19 side was the result of a painstaking effort he lent toward solidifying young talents, who prior to the IPL had been moving around with their cricketing passport bereft of a stamp of authority. Leading the present Under-19 side to near victory at 2016’s World Cup speaks not just of Dravid’s ability to get youngsters gel well together but warrants greater attention from cricketing circles toward India’s youngsters that are chided for their want for a quick buck of glory.
Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh and Karun Nair aren’t just exciting names. But products of Dravid’s thought leadership, an aspect of him that wanted to side with the next generation cricketers, overlooking the plaudits that may have fallen at his feet had he self-marketed himself for coaching the national side.
In fact, the man respected mostly for his statistical accumulation, 13228 runs and 36 Test centuries and an average in the upper echelons of 52, remains as busy today as he was then, in playing days. Just that Dravid’s batting on a different wicket that throws up exciting challenges and enormously gratifying rewards, such as the credit furthered to him by maverick batsman, Kevin Pietersen.
For his empathy toward cricket, fast becoming a morbid reminder of a conniving commerce deal, thanks to the boisterously loud BBCI shenanigans and an appeal thwarted by the disharmony across three formats, characters like Dravid are essential. In fact, they are the need of the hour.
Despite not possessing a natural glamor like great stroke makers such as Lara, Ponting or Gower, Dravid’s versatility and success lies in him laying a meticulous groundwork on which his successes would be found- thanks to tenacity and strong moral fiber. The fact that Dravid’s Wall isn’t a product of ethereally good-looking grammar and sobriquet of respect but a brick-by-brick laying of character, principle and discipline makes him his student’s favorite and among India’s icons. Happy 44th Coach Rahul!