The year 2011 may well mark a turning point in the way Rahul Dravid is perceived by the cricket world. His numbers have become hard to argue with and followers of the game have finally begun to rise and salute this living legend of the game © AFP
The year 2011 may well mark a turning point in the way Rahul Dravid is perceived by the cricket world. His numbers have become hard to argue with and followers of the game have finally begun to rise and salute this living legend of the game © AFP

 

By Madan Mohan

 

The usually understated, and underrated, Rahul Dravid can’t stay out of the limelight this year, for one reason or the other. The time when there were calls for his head seem distant as he has blazed a trail of glory on the field and off it. Wednesday’s Bradman Oration address was the icing on the cake in a year that, in Chinese tradition, ought to be named after him.

 

Coming off a lacklustre trip to South Africa, Dravid found form in the West Indies and struck a match-winning century at Kingston. He then turned in his career-best performance in England with three centuries, all of which sadly ended on the losing side. He also became the second highest run-scorer in Test cricket during this time and the Dravid-Sachin Tendulkar partnership became the most prolific in Test cricket.

 

By itself, all of these should have sealed 2011 as one of Dravid’s most memorable years in his long career. But his off field salvo added to all of these a touch of finesse. This was all the more remarkable because Dravid keeps a low profile off the field and is not generally the centre of media adulation. He wasn’t, really, this time either as the Indian media crowed hyperboles over Virender Sehwag’s record-breaking double ton, casting a shadow over Dravid.

 

Instead, he chose a grand occasion and a weighty purpose. We shouldn’t have expected less because Dravid the batsman is India’s go-to man in the hour of crisis. But Indian cricketers have been diplomatic to a fault when it comes to talking about the game and generally shied away from controversy. Tendulkar, with his enormous stature, could have donned the role of cricket statesman as did Don Bradman, Richie Benaud and Frank Worrell, among others, in their playing days. But he has chosen to deal with the limelight by being oblivious to it and slipping into silent obscurity whenever he can.

 

Not that that could be held against him. But this has been a turbulent year for cricket with disillusionment against the administration spreading across the ranks of players and fans (flaring up in extreme cases like the Simon Katich/Chris Gayle episodes). Questions are rife about the direction of the game as well as its financial viability in some member nations.  Cricket looked to the players to speak up and voice their views. Kumar Sangakarra obliged and delivered a power-packed performance at the Colin Cowdrey Lecture earlier this year in England.

 

Dravid, however, was not to be outdone. We knew he was a good speaker, but he tended to shy away from making a statement, as it were, appearing to emulate Tendulkar in this regard. That changed when he accepted the invitation to deliver the Bradman Oration.  Speaking at the National War Memorial in Canberra, Dravid delivered one of the best speeches I have come across in recent times.

 

He straddled the length of time of the very game itself and effortlessly negotiated cricket’s links to history, culture and economics. Whether it was India and Australia’s association as allies in World War II, Twenty 20 and its import for the game or the lack of crowds in the Indian cricket season, Dravid played it all with a straight bat, mannered and polite but clear, firm and with telling impact. I shall not get into the details of the speech because you probably know every word of it by now! But suffice it to say that he urged administrators to listen to the fans who had voted with their feet and made clear their indifference to the glut of fixtures without context and warned that cricket can ill afford to rest on its laurels.

 

Dravid has given unstinting commitment to the team’s cause over the years, be it taking up the role of wicket-keeper or opening the batting apart from his many match-saving efforts at No 3. Strangely, however, the weight of his contribution to the team was undervalued over the years and he, by his own admission, stood no chance against more flamboyant batsmen as far as the glamour sweepstakes were concerned.

 

The year 2011, though, may well mark a turning point in the way Dravid is perceived by the cricket world. The numbers have become hard to argue with and followers of the game have finally begun to rise and salute this living legend of the game. With his Bradman Oration performance, he has also acknowledged his role as a senior statesman and raised thoughtful and thought provoking points that will be hard to dismiss as they have been made by someone who’s still playing the game. As ever, cometh the hour, cometh the man!

 

Could it just be possible that at the winter of his career, Dravid is gently nudging aside Tendulkar and will quietly leave the game as the one more fondly remembered? It sounds far fetched today, but watch this space!  The year 2011 has been the year of Rahul Dravid in more ways than one.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)

 

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