Former India skipper and Padma Bhushan Rahul Dravid share a special bond with Vijayawada for he played his first away match as an under-15 cricketer representing Karnataka in this bustling commercial city in 1985.
Interacting with young cricketers of Andhra Cricket Association (ACA), he said after learning the basics of the game at Bengaluru it was Vijayawada which provided him the first exposure of playing in an alien condition.
“We played the match at Indira Gandhi Municipal Corporation Stadium and we were housed at Dandamudi Rajagopala Rao Indoor Stadium, where I stayed in a dormitory with six to seven boys. I remember two matches were conducted in the stadium,” recollected Dravid, who was better known as The Wall and Mr. Dependable, for his patience and ability to anchor an innings.
Dravid faced a peculiar situation when an English newspaper, while reporting the tournament, mentioned Rahul Dravid as Rahul David forcing him to seek the help of a senior ACA administrator to alert the reporter about the goof up.
He also added that the Andhra team was not taken seriously those days as it had a few good players. “Once we removed opener Amit Pathak and M.S.K. Prasad, we had them (Andhra team) on the mat. But now Andhra teams in all age groups are formative and competitive. They are winning big tournaments and players are also scoring big runs and taking wickets”.
He praised the ACA for spending the BCCI funds in a rightful manner; by opening up academies for men and women, playfields in all the districts.
The 44-year-old said that the appointment of Dr. Kinjal Suratwala as the General Manager of Cricketing Operations (ACA) is a right move, as he has worked with many top players — both the present and the past, as National Cricket Academy coach.
Incidentally, Dravid featured in two international matches held in Vijayawada as skipper. He skippered the Board President’s XI against Andy Flower-led Zimbabwe and later marshaled the Indian team against Carl Hooper-led West Indies team in an ODI at IGMC stadium in 2002.