By Mohit Joshipura
I often feel small pangs of jealousy when I see, hear or read about Rahul Dravid. Ever since I realised that trying to become Sachin Tendulkar was somewhat too ethereal, I always wanted to be like Dravid - cerebral and correct. I felt this way as he was embraced in a pool of sweat in Kolkata in 2001, and again as he rejoiced at Lord’s in 2011. But therein is the magic about sporting greats. What we see is only the televised moments of play. What we see on our TV is Roger Federer kissing the trophy; what we don’t see - and usually cannot comprehend - is what Federer has done day in and day out for years to get to that point.
Dravid was special because it almost felt like his kind of greatness was accessible. He rarely battered attacks into submission or elicited gasps from the gallery. His game was about the result of countless hours in the nets and self-belief than divine skills bestowed upon him. But he made it, and what’s more, stayed there for the better part of 16 years. He is revered because that’s what most of us can relate to.
He wasn’t the popcorn and soda type of cricketer. He was a sportsman way before an entertainer. To appreciate Dravid, there were times when you had to watch an entire innings unfold from morning dew to evening dusk, replete with sways, leaves, forward defensives, and the occasional magical cover drive or pull. But he was always appealing because it was clear as the game evolved that he was to be one of cricket’s last enduring purists.
Having played in Tendulkar’s shadow his whole career, surely Dravid did not get his due. That he can still be anointed as one of history’s top ten batsmen is a remarkable feat. That no one can point a finger alleging impoliteness, arrogance, disrespect, or misdemeanor is an even more enduring feat, mainly because many who play the game today, albeit very talented, are often complicit to the ways that mar greatness.
His retirement too was reflective of his class. For Dravid desired no swansong, no standing ovation, and no lifetime achievement award. He just wanted to leave when he felt the time was right, beyond which he felt he would be impeding upon the progress of a youngster. Straightforward and proper were attributes that extended beyond his batting, for Dravid the cricketer was but an extension of Dravid the person. Everything was dignified about Dravid, from the manner in which he played to what he said, and also what he did not say.
On a 2011 autumn evening in Cardiff, as Rahul Dravid walked back after playing his last one-day innings, Jonathan Trott doffed his cap as he shook Dravid’s hand. It was an endearing moment that befitted a man for whom earning respect in the dressing room was paramount to the vagaries of fame, fortune, victory, and defeat.
And as the sun continues to set on an era where Indian cricket has cradled an invaluable blend of talent, longevity, and character, one cannot help but wonder if it will ever be the same. Soon, Virat Kohli or Cheteshwar Pujara will stamp their name on the feted No. 3 address, but that home will always belong to Dravid. His legacy is beyond any reproach. His value, though, will be immortally revisited when the fan yearns for him with India at a precarious three for one on a green top with lots at stake.
(Mohit Joshipura is a resident in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. He captained his university team to championship in the Central Texas Cricket League in 2007. He idolises Harsha Bhogle and Peter Roebuck’s penmanship and Rahul Dravid’s poise at the crease. Mohit is the co-founder of a 501(c)3 non-profit that works to improve health care access in rural India - www.dilsefoundation.org)