Friday, March 09, 2012

Rahul Dravid

Purists. The amazing thing about this breed of people is that they are neither glamorous nor have superstar status. In fact they are downright unpopular among the masses. No cricket stadium would fill-up in anticipation because Rahul Dravid is coming out to bat. In fact - most times Dravid's dismissal has been received with a thundering roar of applause. That is mostly a testament to the batsman walking in next and not so much of an indictment on the batsman walking out. Yet for a connoisseur Dravid represents a kind of exclusivity that no one else offers. Sitting on the couch and watching Dravid construct an innings by patiently leaving ball after a ball is the ultimate snob's nirvana. You will always meet a degenrate who will come and ask you 'ennada dravai(d)' (a pun on his name and tamil word for boredom). A perfect opportunity to ask the person to go dance in an independence day bhangra dance party instead.

The purest pleasure of watching test cricket is seeing dot ball after dot ball elapse as the plot thickens like an invisible noose tightening around the neck. With Dravid the noose was visible and so enthralling. If it were a Tendulkar the superhuman aura of the batsman would have made us think the noose does not matter until it snaps the neck, and a second later we'd switch off the TV. With Dravid you saw someone battle the plot, the bowler and everyother dimension of cricket. Dravid embodies all that I had heard about test cricket prior to the emergence of the television era. He has probably listened to a lot of radio commentaries, read up on the history of cricket and as a result inherently embodies that vision accurately. In a way it is sad that Dravid played in the era of TV. In a different era where batsmen lived in the minds of public because of the way radio commentators described them - Dravid would have been a colossus.

If Dravid had played in an another era unoccupied by Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman - he would have been recognized as a Gavaskar 2.0 who figured out how to play ODIs. In this era however, he allowed himself to be contrasted with players who were as core to the team as Dravid. Players who are very different from Dravid. He was part of an ideal combination that could not have been planned for deliberately. It was more of a happenstance, a stroke of luck. The Ganguly - Dravid relationship to me is as close to James T. Kirk and Spock as it can get in the cricketing world. Ganguly representing the human condition in full cry with all its associated emotions and failings. Dravid on the other hand was a student of cold logic. A robot, a thinker, a calculator - a methodical operator. A captain and a first officer combination that ultimate cricket fantasies are made of.

I look forward to Dravid's autobiography. I am sure he will write it himself instead of someone like Bhogle vomitting all over the book in the name of ghost writing. I am curious to know what he thought of Greg Chappell. I have a bet going on that he was more in agreement with Greg and more in disagreement with the general public. But it has to wait for another day. Dravid's captaincy and the combination with Greg had so much potential. The combustion of Indian cricket in the Greg period and traditional confusion that exists in India over ODI performance Vs Test performance - nipped in the bud - an era where Dravid could have gone on to be a ruthless effecient captain along the lines of Waugh.

I don't know which memory of Dravid, I'll cherish the most. There aren't many innings of Dravid that I've not watched. I remember his first test century in Johanessburg like yesterday. He should have made that a 'century in both innings' but at least he ended up almost setting up a test match victory (his statemates couldnt get rid of the tail). That was the first time I saw the Indian team with a realistic chance of winning a test abroad. His first ODI century in Chepauk was great for its thrilling hunt and tragic end. The 78 in Bridgetown against Ambrose and Walsh was an unspoken masterpiece. The 4 consecutive centuries were an absolute joy. His 39 against Australia in 01 Mumbai was an excellent innings cut short by Warne. I almsot cried then. After the Slater incident we had to win it. That he became Warne's bunny again was tragic. Mostly Dravid will be remembered for being emotionless enough to be perceived as a second fiddle. He represented the purest emotion which dictates that you can achieve anything if you dont mind being outside the spotlight. People needed to be reminded that he hit centuries when Ganguly and Tendulkar hit 180+ in ODIs. His exit was as un-glamorous as it comes. A quiet quick goodbye that has the 'kanden seethaiyai' type opening sentence that Kamban would have been proud of.

He exits the game when he is still the among top 2 batsman in the team with no viable replacement in sight. Gavaskar's was the last such retirement. I guess when he says he leaves the game with sadness he means not being able to win a test series in South Africa and Australia. Surely a dissapointing blot for an ambitous cricket such as he. When he says he is proud - I guess he is referring to the fact that he is the only captain after Wadekar to win an away series against WI and Eng in an identical back-to-back fashion. Or to the fact that he went where no man had gone before (this includes Lara) in that one-man-show that was the 2003 Adelaide test.

I wonder if Waugh will write the foreword of his autobiography. Because Dravid wrote the foreword of Waugh's. It had a statement that reflected Dravid's own identity: "Steve’s legacy is hard to define, but I will remember him because he gave grit a good name. He proved that it is not only the pretty player who can capture the imagination, but also the tough and determined. Suddenly these qualities became as vital, as spoken about, as silken grace and sublime timing. He was leathery tough, played the game aggressively, and would do whatever it took within the rules to win. He built a team that has achieved legendary status, raised the level of young cricketers who played under him, and also embraced the traditions of the game and highlighted their importance. His ruthless style, combined with a passion for the game, has won him a staggering, almost unrivalled, following in India".

Lastly. Ilayaraja's music is often remembered for a nuanced silence he introduces to the unsuspecting listener. Yes, that subtle silence between interludes. You may not notice it. But the song wouldn't be the same if not for those moments. Do you remember what Dravid retorted when Donald snarled at him during that magnificent innings of 83 in the ODI tri-series finals? You don't. Because it doesn't exist. I don't think Dravid played a better ODI innings than that one. Dravid will be remembered for the strokes he refused to play, the words he refused to say and the actions he did not do. You might've missed those moments of silence. But without it Dravid's magnum opus career would have looked less elegant. And from walking away on his own after feathering that Chris Lewis ball at Lords to his retirement speech. Dravid was all elegance.

22 comments:

amas said...

Beautifully written! What a cricket connoisseur you are :) An excellent tribute to Dravid. Hope it gets published in a magazine.
amas32

D.N.A. said...

A nice touching piece. As bad analogies go, if the Indian batting elites , were a Corleone family, Dravid would be Tom Hagen - calm, composed, wise & resourceful but always in the shadows. By extension, Ganguly is Sonny, Kambli - Fredo, Gavaskar - Vito & SRT is Michael.

elegantstroke said...

Hawkeye,

awesome tribute, loved it. especially your last para.

Extra-Ordinarily Ordinary said...

Amazingly good tribute...

@D.N.A, touche

Prithviraj said...

fantastic cricketer and a gentleman to the core. We will all miss you. Congrats on your wonderful achievement for India over the last two decades. All the best for the future.

elegantstroke said...

Hawkeye,

Wrote mine here. :)

Sandeep Gupta said...

Unlike other senior players, no need to name them, he has taken the right decision at right time, so that younger players take Indian Cricket for new heights. he is role model for younger Cricketers. His place in the team can't be replaced easily. We will miss great batsman in test arena. His services very much needed in for Indian team (not as player) for younger players.

Anonymous said...

Good way to start my Sunday...very nicely written!

Anonymous said...

He always did the right things off the field as well similar to his part on the field .. not what a corporate or BCCI idiot or mad public wanted... and thats his class!

I am a ComplexNumber said...

Nice tribute.
Labor that he invested shined through

Thanks for reminding about Donald Dravid..."war" or "battle" :)

roses said...

A hero nation salutes him...
rosesandgifts.com

Anonymous said...

Dravid is a true legend and this article is very good read ..

Babs said...

awesome write up daa....

Anonymous said...

Great write up. And the new blog template is an eyesore.

lazy geek said...

nice read, hawkeye.

Anonymous said...

"Dravid will be remembered for the strokes he refused to play, the words he refused to say and the actions he did not do. You might've missed those moments of silence. But without it Dravid's magnum opus career would have looked less elegant"
Awesome!!!!
karthik

bigindianwedding said...

very nicely written .Great cricketer Dravid

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shiloh1409 said...

well done mate, loved what you have written...truly great like Dravid itself....the best part was avoiding the number game...coz as a dravid fan...we all know it to the core...I loved it for the emotional part.

utkarsh said...

it really echoes what I have thought of Rahul. Excellent piece, capturing a few fleetingly obscure qualities...

I have written my own piece, read through ifu have time..

http://ramblingswhatever.blogspot.in/2012/03/there-is-saying-which-essentially-means.html

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