Will you open the innings? Yes. Will you keep wickets in order to accommodate an extra batsman? Yes. Will you captain the team? Yes. This was Rahul Dravid for you. A selfless team man for whom the team’s goals and ambitions came way before his own.
Most call him ‘The Wall’. While some call him ‘Mr. Dependable’. But for me he was the one reason stroke makers like Sachin, Sehwag, Dada etc. could flourish. They could play freely knowing that at the other end, ‘The Wall’ was being constructed brick by brick to stay for as long as one could imagine. This was the wall who scored a 12 hour 270* at Rawalpindi. He was the reason we knew that despite the first wicket falling for a low score, we wouldn’t collapse. He was one of the reasons we had belief in saving and even winning overseas tests. He was one of the reasons we learnt to win overseas. Dravid has been part of 15 test wins abroad and in 11 of them he has been awarded the Man of the Match.
This was the wall who scored centuries after centuries in the England tour of 2011 when others were falling like 9 pins. This was the wall who batted with conviction and purpose on a minefield of a pitch in West Indies in 2006 to score two half centuries to take India to a historic series win. This was the wall who agreed to keep wickets so as to accommodate an extra batsman and thus ensure the journey of the team to the 2003 World Cup Finals. This was the wall who didn’t bother others like Sachin, Laxman, Dada etc. taking the limelight despite his hard work because it was all for the team.
In this age of slam bang cricket, Dravid seems among the last in the generation of technically equipped batsman. His honesty, patience, integrity, sincerity always kept him in the hearts of thousands of fans and players across the world. There was never a disciplinary blot in his career or never a time where he brazenly displayed his aggression. It was always his bat which did the talking. His Bradman Oration was an excellent example which showed his love for the future of the game and its players.
Among the Fab 3, he was one of the best batsman throughout 2011. But a poor Aussie series coupled with a couple of dropped slip catches and he knew the decision had to be taken. He wasn’t for one who believed in grand send offs. He had immediately retired from ODIs and T20s after unexpectedly being called back by the selectors after 2 years in the wilderness. There was always the temptation to score some centuries at home and retire.
But Dravid doesn’t play the game like that. He knew better than anyone else that his time was up. And he had to go. And he did just that.
Hat’s off to the man! The game is poorer without him!!