The Gentleman, the Wall and the Wolf

By Nachiket Deuskar

Just as the summer down under started at the end of 2011, former Australian pacer Brett Lee praised Rahul Dravid, “If you can’t get along with Dravid, you’re struggling in life.” In the hindsight, it would be Dravid’s last.

That is just one of the many such things said about Rahul Dravid. Forty-four year old ‘Jammy’, as his teammates fondly call him, is undoubtedly one the greatest players the sport has ever seen.

Over the years, Rahul Dravid had earned immense respect from greats of the game. Mathew Hayden said, “All these things going around are not called aggression. If you really want to see aggression, look into Dravid’s eyes.”

Just as the sun dimmed over southern Australia on the evening of January 27, 2012, Rahul Dravid who was playing on 25 edged one to the gully. Disgruntled, he walked back to the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion. Rest of the team collapsed like a pack of cards the following day giving Australia a staggering 4-0 win over India in the series. And “that, was the end of Rahul Dravid” if it is to be put in classic Cricketing diction.

(Aijaz Rahi-Associated Press) Cricketer Rahul Dravid gestures after announcing his retirement from international cricket at a press conference in Bangalore, Friday.
Rahul Dravid gestures after announcing his retirement from international cricket at a press conference in Bangalore (Photo credits: Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press via India Ink – The New York Times)

After much criticism of the team and the way they played that summer, in March of that year, Jammy called it quits.

His retirement is a fine example of a legend vanishing in the woods. For me, it was like a warrior dying in the battle, attaining martyrdom for his comrades, his team.

Just about seven months before he retired, he proved to be the pivot for India’s defence against the English in what was a disastrous series resulting in a 4-0 whitewash. He scored 461 runs and three centuries in a series where India lost everything- two out of the four matches by an inning! Moreover, throughout the series, he took up different roles- from keeping wickets to batting at any given position. Sometimes, it seemed as if he was single-handedly steering the team.

This came at a time when the Indian cricket team was struggling with injuries to key players and a ‘bad patch’ post the World Cup win.

Rahul has always been Mr. Dependable for the team and “The Wall” for the fans. His records, his partnerships and his 24,177 international runs are a testament to that dedication.

But everything was not always rosy for him.

On the dusky evening of March 23, 2007, at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Dravid and rest of the team sat on the dressing room balcony as the last Indian wicket fell. India had staged an early exit from the World Cup. He would go down in history as the captain who lost the World Cup in spite of having what was a considered a flawless team on paper. Dravid was seen sitting in the front row, wiping his tears with a white towel.

Anxious Indian players fear the inevitable, India v Sri Lanka, Group B, Trinidad, March 23, 2007 ©AFP via ESPN Cricinfo
Anxious Indian players fear the inevitable, India vs Sri Lanka, Group B, Trinidad, March 23, 2007 (Picture credits: AFP via ESPN Cricinfo)

Little did he know that a white towel would continue to haunt him in the future. In the summer of 2013, the Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing and betting scandal broke-out. Three players from the IPL team he captained were found guilty of spot-fixing. It “devastated” him and left him “shocked, disappointed and distressed”.

But, his passion for the sport is evident unchanged. You cannot separate Dravid and Cricket. He continues to coach the Indian under-19 team. He feels like the perfect person to nurture youngsters. Through the years, in the IPL, he has given opportunities to young players. Ajinkya Rahane is probably his product.

The void left by Rahul Dravid is so large that it can never be filled. As Harsha Bhogle once said, Dravid is “The wolf who lived for the pack.”

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