By Prakash Govindasreenivasan
If surreal tales of Rahul Dravid and his enduring passion and commitment during his playing days were not enough to remember his legacy as one of India’s finest, here he is, back to being associated with the game.
The year 2012 was an emotional one for Indian cricket aficionados. It was the year that took Dravid away from cricket. But as most purists would have anticipated, it was close to impossible to take cricket away from him. Having retired more than a year ago, Dravid returned to a podium where he could associate himself with the sport and offer nothing but his best, much like what he did for the last 16 years: day in and day out.
In this day and age when T20 leagues are mushrooming and finding the gaps in the commercialised world of the sport with much precision than the man himself did on the field, he has opened up and vouched for the need to address the growing requirements of the sport.
Dravid keeps it very basic, a lot like his batting. There are no unwanted jargons flying around or allegorical references made. He sees the game from a layman’s perspective and adds great value to his input from the experience of being an integral part of it from close quarters.
He straight away puts the preconceived notions — that T20 is out with a dagger to slit Test cricket’s throat — out of the place with the kind of authority he’d show on a delivery bowled poorly down the leg side to him. While he concedes that Test cricket is bearing the brunt of the increasing commercialisation of the sport, he puts his foot down on a rather fascinating angle to the Tests vs T20 debate. He rejects some of the clichéd metaphors comparing Tests vs T20 to fine dining vs fast food or classic music vs pop. He agrees that the viewers of today seek instant gratification and the fact that the old world charm of long hours of intriguing play bifurcated into sessions is no longer as enchanting as it was years ago. However, he says that the slam bang version needs its godfather to survive.
Dravid eloquently describes Test cricket as the solid tree trunk on which the branches (T20) have grown. While the branches tend to bear the fruit, it is the trunk that binds the entire structure together. He praises the shortest format of the game for providing a great platform for many to ply their trade at the highest level and rub shoulders with the who’s who of the game, but says that every national cricketer-to- be will take his baby steps via Test cricket. While various T20 leagues could offer financial stability, one will have to go through the grind of Test cricket, he says. He also strongly believes that the ability to handle excessive pressure in an intense situation during a T20 game will be enhanced only via hours of endurance and perseverance in the long form.
He even goes a step beyond and offers interesting solutions to retain interest levels in Test cricket. While many frown upon the idea of Day and Night Tests, Dravid speaks in favour of it, saying it could bring about a change in the economics of the sport. He clearly does not shy away from suggesting that Test cricket could do much better with some tweaking and improvisation to suit the modern times. He assures that the very core of the game will remain untouched even if such changes are implemented.
Dravid is accurate in his assessment of the current situation. He does not fall prey to overtly romanticizing the form of the game that he was best adept with, nor does he bash the youngster league that has attained popularity in a rather short span of time. He brings about great clarity of thought and gives enough weightage to both sides of the argument and offers solutions like a concerned shareholder of the game.
If the great man’s words are anything to go by, both contrasting formats of the game are here to stay and entertain and mesmerize its audience in equal measure.