PART I: ADMIRATION UNLIMITED
The news of Dravid’s retirement is yet to sink in completely and I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. It will not happen till the next Test series comes around, it probably will not sink in till India lose the first wicket in their next Test match and we will see a batsman, who doesn’t go by the name Rahul Dravid. To me, Dravid was not just a cricketer, he was my role model in the truest sense, and his retirement is a loss which I will find hard to cope with.
There have been a number of accolades written about his cricket and this article will talk very little about his batting. It will consist of some anecdotes which makes Dravid God-like for me.
One afternoon, our school cricket team was practicing in the School Ground and the school had rented out the ground for some emission testing program and there was a huge crowd. We were pleasantly surprised and delighted when we saw Rahul Dravid walking towards us. Yes, he had decided to pay a visit to the ground where, as a Josephite, he had honed his cricketing skills. The one thing that caught my attention was he still parked his car outside the ground, and walked in despite all the rush. He could have easily driven right in and avoided the crowd but he respected the ground where he took his first steps as a cricketer and that really amazed me. Today, when I coach at the same ground, it hurts to see a number of parents driving their cars right in to drop off their sons and I fail to control myself from repeating this story time and again to the boys so they understand and learn from the great man.
He respects everyone, poor or rich, famous or not. When he was the Chief Guest at our school Sports Day, he actually stood up to greet Abu – ‘the canteen man’. He was sitting with a host of dignitaries but actually took the effort of getting up and greeting Abu.
Another story which I would like to share is the one Father Michael John (school Principal) told me. On a Sunday morning, Father caught Rahul Dravid walking around the corridors of our school with his wife. When father bumped into him, Rahul Dravid first apologised to Father for not seeking his permission and told him that he just wanted to show his wife where he studied and grew up and so was walking her around and sharing some ‘good old stories’. As you may expect, Father was a bit taken aback and asked him, “Why did you not inform me that you were coming?” To this Rahul told him that he intentionally did not inform him as he did not want Father to take the trouble of organising anything special for him and he just wanted to go unnoticed. So typical of the man, he even retired in a similar manner - just walked away quietly.
He is probably the most well spoken cricketer and it came as no surprise that his Bradman Oration was applauded by people across the world. His interviews are always clean and have never created a controversy. Once, when a journalist was waiting for a while to interview him, he said something like, “Why are you waiting for me? I will give the same boring answers. You must interview someone like Dhoni.” As a Guest Editor of the Times of India, he was unhappy that sports (cricket in particular) and Bollywood got so much space so regularly on the front page of the paper when, he believed, there were more newsworthy events and individuals who deserved to grab the headlines.
There is just so much in this man that one can admire. His humility probably tops that list. He has contributed hugely in making me the person I am and for the past 16 years I have loved and worshiped him. This one line which he said at his retirement press conference, when asked why he did not want to play a farewell match, makes me admire him even more.
“ Just to keep playing for the sake of one Test, I don’t think it was right.
I needed to play for the right reasons”