Friday, March 9, 2012

The Monumental Wall...A Cricketer & A Gentleman

It all ended at a press conference in Bangalore today…the 9th of March’2012……Rahul Dravid, The Wall, decided to hang his boots from international & rest his National Cap, which he wore for glorious 16 + years. He said he was leaving the game "Sad but Proud"…. It wasn’t an easy decision, but he was comfortable with it because it was time to move on & let the next generation take over !!!!......The announcement, so typical of Dravid….quietly solid & authentic.....once again, without fanfare & glitz....just plain, simple & workmanlike. The Wall spoke in the presence of his former team mate Anil Kumble, someone with whom he has shared the dressing room & the cricketing grounds across the globe over years…..
Almost always, staying in the shadows of more celebrated & glamorous fellow cricketers, Rahul will be ever remembered as one of the last of the classical Test batsman, for his technique, grit, & workmanlike attitude of never giving up & batting for prolonged periods, building brick by brick, grinding the opposition attack to dust,…..The Wall went on to become the monument of Indian batting, the perfectionist, the backbone & foundation over which players with gifted flair like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag, & others flourished & hogged limelight.
Many felt he should have bid adieu to international cricket after the 2011 series in England, where he top scored the series & was the only Indian batsman thwarting the English swing attack, albeit for a losing cause……in the very next series Down Under, The Wall was repeatedly breached….an ugly sight for his innumerable fans all over. The gentleman just kept trying manfully, oblivious of his critics.

They say that the morning shows the day & Dravid’s debut at Lords in 1996 was typical of what the world would be witnessing over the next decade & a half. A debut century missed by 5 runs, as his partner Ganguly, also on debut, scorched the offside & the cameras for a brilliant hundred. The Wall was clearly in the making…..the quintessential worker…the mason who built tirelessly for others to take centre stage. However, Dravid would be remembered as one of the greatest player of his generation & certainly one of the most accomplished of all times. He scored 13,288 Test runs - behind only Tendulkar - in 164 matches, with 36 hundreds at an average of 52.31. He has faced 31,258 deliveries in test matches, battling in 88 century partnerships with various players, both all time records in test cricket history. His ODI career, which effectively ended in 2008 with a brief reprisal in 2011, yielded more than 10,000 runs and 12 centuries. He also has 210 catches, a Test record, in addition to 196 catches in ODIs…stupendous statistics by any stretch of imagination.  He has been one of the fittest players of his time which allowed him to play 93 test matches on the trot from his debut. In his tenure for Indian cricket, he was arguably our best batsman abroad. 
If there was anything he did not relish in cricket, it was keeping wickets or opening the batting, & as divine interventions would have it, he had to do both….& he did with iron resolution & with splendid results for himself & the team.
While it would be difficult to single out a particular innings for Dravid, a few would certainly feature amongst arguably his best. The 180 against Steve Waugh’s marauding Aussies at Kolkata in 2001 in a match winning partnership with Laxman,….the 233 against Australia at Adelaide in 2003, the 148 against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1997, the 148 against England at Headingly in 2002, the 270 against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 2004 & certainly 117 against England at Nottingham in 2011……all pure gems.

Time moves on & so will cricket, but come what may, Rahul Dravid, The Wall…or shall we say, The Monument, will be sorely missed….in the dressing room, on the pitch facing furious bowling attacks, the dependable pair of hands at slips….the man, the machine, the gentleman, the cricketer, the silent good man, who never stopped trying. 

We will miss you Jammie…