"Nice guys never win,” goes an old adage. But when the nice guy goes by the name of Rahul Sharad Dravid, the adage does not really hold true. You could never catch Rahul Dravid sledging. When he hit Allan Donald for a six, the big paceman stared back. Dravid’s reaction was just a shrug. When he scores a 100 or 50, his reaction is typically understated, a raise of the bat, a wave, and back to business.
One of the TV ads in the 90’s (I think it was for Pepsi), typified very much what Dravid was all about. The ad shows him practicing intensely, while a host of beautiful girls try to distract him. With the calmness of a Zen Master, Dravid goes about his task without getting distracted. That sums sum up Dravid.
But don’t get fooled by his calm and quiet demeanour. Beneath it lurks a frame of solid steel. And the bat sure has done some talking: 10,000+ runs in both ODIs and Tests. And for a batsman often dubbed as slow and defensive, he holds the record for the 2nd fastest 50 in ODIs by an Indian player!
But what Dravid has done for the Indian team, goes way beyond just stats. A look at some of India’s most impressive Test wins in the last decade – be it Kolkata, Adelaide, Headingley, Rawalpindi or Jamaica - and there is a common factor to all of them. Sure VVS Laxman owned the Kolkata Test with that 281 against Australia, but then equally valuable was Dravid’s 180. And it was their partnership which turned the Test on its head.
None could ever forget the Adelaide Test in 2003-04, when from a precarious 83 for four he scored 200 plus and with Laxman and got India within striking distance of the Aussie score. He scored 72 in second innings to give India a series-levelling win.
But if I were asked to choose one innings as my personal favourite, it would be the one against the West Indies at Jamaica in 2006. On a minefield of a pitch, where even Brian Lara failed, Dravid scored 50 in both innings which ensured that India won the Test in what was essentially a low-scoring match. And more importantly India won a rare Test series in the Caribbean
Again, in that famous Perth Test in 2008, his was the highest score from both sides, which set up an Indian win. Not to mention the fact that he has been a great slip fielder with a record 200 catches and also kept wickets when the country needed him.
So why has such a value-based player never got his rightful due from the fans? “He is too boring”, “too defensive”, “not a crowd puller like Sachin Tendulkar or Virender Sehwag”.... These are the justifications one hear.
It does not help matters that Tendulkar’s fans haven’t forgotten that Dravid declared when the maestro was batting on 197, and neither have Sourav Ganguly’s fans over the entire Greg Chappell episode. His stint as a captain too was mixed: India won a Test in South Africa for the first time, was only the third Indian captain to win a Test series in England after Kapil Dev and Ajit Wadekar. It was during his captaincy, that India won a record 17 ODIs while chasing, but the disastrous ODI series in South Africa, and most importantly India’s first round knock-out in the 2007 World Cup would forever be held against him.
Dravid was the dour and compared to blasters like Tendulkar and Sehwag. Sachin. That never got him high on the popularity stakes. That could be the reason when he fails - and it’s been quite often in recent times - the calls for his dismissal get more strident.
Sure Dravid has not been at his best in recent times, but he has been through such periods in the past and has come out it to shut up the critics. He will be the last person to hang around if he knows his time his up. He is too much of a team man to do that.
Dravid is one of the game’s most graceful players to watch - be it his perfect stance, the sweet timing of his strokes, the effortless pacing. He maybe defensive or, at times may get bogged down, but I would never place him in the category of boring. This man has done enough to be one of the legends of Indian cricket, and I just wish that he goes out, with head held high, into the sunset like a true hero.
(Ratnakar Sadasyula is a software consultant, who is passionate about cricket, movies, music, books, tech & blogging - in no particular order. He has been blogging on movies at Seeti Maar - Diary of a Movie Lover and on life in general at Politically Incorrect. He is also a die hard Quizzer, and has his own quizzing blog at IngloriousKweezerds)