Two of India’s greatest cricketing stalwarts are set to play a T20 tournament for the very last time. While Sachin Tendulkar is yet to call it time from First-Class cricket, Rahul Dravid has already retired from all the other forms of the game. Sarang Bhalerao explains what the tournament holds for the two legends of cricket.
Turn back the clock. Remember that day at the Lal Bahadur Stadium, Hyderabad in 1999 where New Zealand were bleeding runs. A compelling effort of 186 not out ensured that Sachin Tendulkar became the then highest scorer for India in a 50-overs encounter and giving him company was Rahul Dravid scored run-a-ball 153. If Tendulkar’s pyrotechnics defined belligerence, Dravid’s serenity was the calming influence that India needed. At the blink of an eye, the duo forged the highest ever One-Day International (ODI) partnership of 331 for the second wicket.
They have seen it all: the sullen lows — the match-fixing crisis that loomed large on the Indian team in the 2000s, the renaissance under Sourav Ganguly in the early millennium, the victories on Australian soil, a series win in England and taking the team to the pinnacle of Test cricket. Then there has been Twenty20 cricket that saw them in an all new avatar. Both the champion cricketers have not looked out of place in the shortest format. Agreed they are not the hitters who would smash 100-metre sixes but the finesse coupled with the cricketing acumen is a deadly combination. The batting has got a tad carefree. The intent is now on muscling the ball, innovating new shots and expanding the scope of getting the runs in the areas erstwhile not considered scoring options.
Both these gentlemen are immensely passionate about the art. It gives them immense satisfaction to middle the ball at the age where they can very well go for a world tour and no one would complain either.
Their batting has evolved — Tendulkar has introduced the paddle shot against the fast bowlers. He takes the measured approach and has modified his batting to suit the needs of the format. Even today, his intention is to get better at 40. Dravid, on the other hand, is a conventional player who befriends his technique to score runs. His principle is that a good batsman can play across all formats. Rarely will you see Dravid attempting a reverse-scoop first up or playing across at the start of the innings. He gives emphasis to building an innings even in the shortest format. The timing, placement and grace are there to see.
Rajasthan Royals are blessed to have Dravid who is akin to a guru, honing his art day in and day out influencing people around him to strive for their best. The team hardly has any big names. There have been no multimillion dollar signings either. For Mumbai, the presence of Tendulkar in their ranks is the greatest motivation any budding cricketer can get. Here’s a man who has 100 international centuries. At this age, he is the first person to enter the nets and the last person to get out of it.
The Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) 2013 encounter between the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansingh stadium on Saturday could be the venue where we see the two great ambassadors of the game together on the cricket field for the very last time. Will nostalgia come into play? It certainly will. The poster boys of world cricket have given so many memories to the cricket aficionados that it is impossible not to revere them.
There is a possibility that both these teams reach the final and once again all of us can see Tendulkar and Dravid play in the same match. One can definitely hope.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)