Rahul Dravid - still in the game!

The rise of Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari and Prithvi Shaw is an example how 'The Wall', who turned 46 on Friday, still stands tall.

Rahul Dravid retired in 2012 after having scored 13288 runs in Tests and 10889 in ODIs.   -  M. Vedhan

March is a merry month for school kids not appearing for boards. I had cleared the seventh standard and the new session was due in April. But education is not limited to textbooks. I thank my father for believing in the thought.

One fine day, while I was lazing with a Superman comic in my bedroom, he entered with a season pass of the second Test match between India and Australia at the Eden Gardens. “Time to experience some real-life heroes in action,” he said. The baritone still rings in my ears.

It was on the fourth day of that Test match when Rahul Dravid began his lecture, albeit with the bat. Resuming his innings from an unbeaten 7, he — along with V.V.S. Laxman — cast a spell on the spectators.

Read: Rahul Dravid, polishing India's rough diamonds

India had no chance to win the Test but the script drastically changed on that day.

Cover drive, a dominant square-cut against Shane Warne or merely leaving the ball outside off fed cunningly by Jason Gillespie — Dravid was on a mission. The sound of the cherry kissing his bat and running to the fence sounded sweeter than a Moonlight Sonata or The Violin Concertos.

First, a 50. Then, a 100 followed by a 150. Dravid maintained parity with Laxman at every step with a towel round his neck to combat the onset of summer in Kolkata. Despite cramps, heat jolts and the Gillespies, the duo held their ground stitching 376 runs.

V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid have had memorable partnerships together.   -  V.V. Krishnan

 

When India won the Test the next day, even the cop guarding the stand, where I was seated, couldn’t stop jumping on the chairs he was supposed to protect. “Drabir ee shera (Dravid is the best),” I remember his hoarse voice that kept blaring ‘Dravid is the boss’.

Laxman had scored 281, Dravid 180. And I had attended my first ‘Rahul Dravid’ session — from a distance.

The witty phase

In 2014, I came closer. I attended an event at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, where Dravid arrived for a talk. By now, he was not only a former India player, but also an ex-IPL star for Rajasthan Royals.

That was the day when I gauged how he balanced his personality on and off the field. In his playing days, he perhaps hid the humour in his helmet that outdid most bowlers silently.

As a former cricketer, he came across as that young professor in college who you would want to discuss your girlfriends with; or else, who can imagine Dravid talk WAGS and not technique or mindset? Somebody asked him whether wives and girlfriends should be allowed on tours.

Also read: Knowing the coach in Dravid

His reply was like one of those back foot punches, “I’m a married man and I wouldn’t say no. The cricketers are out of home for 10-12 months a year and if you do not allow their partners to be with them, I think it will create more problems. Wife, girlfriend or whatever name you think you can give to a partner.”

The whole auditorium burst out laughing.

Dravid continued the conversation citing the good part of IPL and how it is a knowledge hub for Indian domestic players. “Sanju Samson became so close to AB de Villiers that both went for coffee (I don’t know who paid though),” was another gem that evening.

A year later, at the launch of Aakash Chopra’s book ‘The Insider’, Dravid chat up a storm with Ajinkya Rahane on a range of issues, starting with the importance of foot work in T20 cricket. He summed up with the line, “Good legs will never go out of fashion.”

Dravid ‘sir’

Last year, I saw another shade of his character at the Alur ground in Bengaluru. This time, as India A and India U-19 coach who had won the World Cup.

Even at 45, he would be the first to come out of the dressing room with gears. He would start with the regular throwdowns, have a word or two with the net bowlers and then start the slip-catching exercise.

Rahul Dravid as coach saw India lift the U-19 World Cup last year.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

 

While his wards batted against South Africa A, he would quietly jog around the ground to take note of that poor run call or admire a good shot. He never rested.

The rise of Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw or Hanuma Vihari is a living example how Dravid is still in the game.

He is structuring game plans through different bodies.

Now he is better known as ‘Dravid sir’. A professor in the true sense, and a gentleman from the golden age who never had to utter crass words to flare up the opponent.

As Matthew Hayden says, “If you want to see aggression on the cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid's eyes.”

I never returned to the Superman comic. I had had a real-life experience of meeting one.