‘The Wall’ Goes down into history- for one final time
When a lanky young man walked in to the middle of the Lord’s, the Mecca of cricket, on 20th June, 1996 to begin his test debut where he eventually struck a valiant 95 against England, many didn’t realize that he was laying the first brick to the foundation of a great wall he’d be identified with in the days to come. The man had learnt the art of defense to which he took to the level of perfection that earned him the sobriquet of ‘The Wall’. This ‘wall’ that often stood between many of the formidable cricketing nations and their coveted victories against India, chose to dismantle itself yesterday and walked away to the pages of history. Rahul Dravid, ‘the wall’, announced his retirement from T-20 and all forms of the game on 6th October, 2013. Having been already retired from the ODI and test matches well before, he brought a final halt to an illustrious cricketing journey of his own.
The man is known not only for his formidable ability to be a wall or for his breathtaking cricketing records but also for a quality which is rare in the circuit of the game he played in his time – the quality of being a gentleman. He was undisputedly the marquee player of the gentleman’s game and remained the true embodiment of gentleness both on and off the field. He was able to demonstrate with thorough conviction that aggression and gentleness are not antithetical and he displayed his best aggression on the fields when he played some of his chosen shots against the most hostile bowling attacks. He metamorphosed his aggression into fineness of poetry and applied it in challenging circumstances to carry the day on fields.
He was one among few greats of history who are born to be overshadowed yet hold no grudges. The man had been destined to share stages with some of the legends of his time and while he toiled at the crease some of them joined his parties and walked away with more acclaims. Many of his great innings have been overshadowed by his fellow teammates like Sachin, Sourav or VVS but it failed to perturb the great man who saw highest virtue in self-abnegation. His feat as a cricketer has been mind-boggling – he’s the 3rd highest run scorer in test cricket; with 13288 runs in tests and 10889 runs in the ODIs under his belt, he’s the second player in the history of game to garner 10,000 runs both in the tests and the ODIs; with 52.31 as the test average, he’s one of the few Indian batsmen to have better average overseas than at home; he’s scored 36 test centuries and had been awarded the ‘Test Player of the Year’ award at the inaugural ICC award ceremony in 2004.
Had he not been born to share the dressing room with a man whom the nations holds to be the god of cricket, then certainly he’d have become the little god of the game for the cricket-crazy Indian masses. But, as we’ve seen, he holds no grudges and moves on knowing that he is not a god. He’d never aspire to be the one.
Like all great men he too had his share of controversies around him. As captain of the Indian team he’s been given the customary rap on knuckles for his poor decisions, the most infamous of them being the one in which he chose to declare an inning in Pakistan at a time when Tendulkar was at the crease at 196. However, his most forgettable match as a captain has certainly been the one in March 2006 against England in which because of his poor decisions India was all out at 100 which incidentally happened to be his 100th test match! He certainly didn’t aspire for this dubious double.
But, he never boasted that captaincy was his forte; yet, he wore the hat with stoic aplomb. However, the day it became unbearable to him, he quietly and graciously walked away from it and gathered himself up to focus on something he needed most at the moment – his batting, which was waning. But, great players are not necessarily meant to be great captains; that’s a different department which someone else may find comfortable in.
All good things must come to an end; following the dictum, chinks had begun to appear in the wall and critics lamented that his foot hand co-ordination was not as swift as it used to be once. Yet, he came to be the only man to be counted during the shameful England series of 2011, where he garnered 461 in a series that had seen the world champions decimated. His last day on the crease as a batsman during his final match of the T20 Champion’s League against the Mumbai Indians on 6th October hadn’t been something to write home about. He’d have certainly aspired for a better finish in a match which was going to be his swan song. But, again his retirement event was overshadowed by the god of Indian cricket who took retirement from T20 the same day as well. Thus, while the boisterous teammates of Mumbai Indians celebrated their win by lifting their legend on their shoulder, Rahul Dravid walked into the sunset of his career with lugubrious steps. He knew he wan’t the god of Indian cricket.
Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2013