Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman & Saurav Ganguly: The ‘Fab Four’ were the backbone of the Indian batting line up for years on end. Whether it was rescuing the team from perilous positions or batting till the crows came home, these 4 were the heart and soul of the Indian team whenever it was needed. Saurav left first. Then came Dravid and Laxman’s turn. None of them had really great farewells so much so that they were almost pushed to retirement as calls became louder to have a younger team and fresh legs. It was said that youngsters performing badly is better than oldies extending their time. But Tendulkar was different. He was the so called ‘God’ in the temple of Cricket. He couldn’t go without a bang, could he?
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We lost 4-0 in England. We lost 4-0 in Australia. We couldn’t make it to the ODI tri – series final in Australia. Everyone cried and debated for changes to be done, heads to roll, captaincy to change and the likes. But nothing happened. All our players and selectors made statements about India being champions at home. They felt that everyone was a tiger at home and we would reply to them in kind. They asked rank turners to be prepared when other teams visited the country. As the IPL and the NZ series came and went, the hurt, disappointment and dejection of 8-0 were long gone and buried in the annals of history so to say.
They hadn’t won a World Cup since 1979. Their fans had lost all their hope in the team as it got battered and bruised for years on end. They had mercurial players on and off but the consistency was missing. People and players so tired of losing constantly in cricket had started moving to much more rewarding sports like athletics and football. There were constant problems between the players and the board on matters of any kind from payments to performances. But then, the unthinkable happened.
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.
He has won the T20 and ODI World Cups!
He has won the IPL 2 times out of 4 with Chennai Super Kings!
He has won the Champions League!
He has taken India to the no 1 ranking in Test cricket!
He has never lost a test series in his reign as skipper for more than 3 years!
You would believe that Dhoni could do no wrong. Opposition captains and former players call him the guy with the midas touch. There are people who say he has something which every other leader doesnt – An ability to stay cool and calm under pressure. Whether it is asking Joginder Sharma to bowl the final over in the T20 final or asking Bollinger to take the final over against a rampaging Pollard in the 2010 IPL, his mind has been as relaxed as could have been. Obviously with such praises, there are many who try to downplay his achievements by saying that he has the trinity for company or that he doesn’t have technical competence (referring to helicopter shots and so on).
The India vs England game was a mind – boggling match in which 676 runs were scored with the loss of 18 wickets without any winner. It was special for many reasons. Sachin reached his 47th ODI hundred while Strauss reached the highest score by an Englishman against India in the World Cups. This was also the highest ever match aggregate in World Cups. But then is it really a coincidence that the match between the two teams ended in a tie?
Ireland, Namibia, Canada, Kenya, Bermuda, Scotland, Netherlands, USA, UAE are some of the top associate nations who have played at the Cricket World Cup over the years. But have they really proved their worth? Do the names John Davison, Steve Tikolo. Odoyo, Niel O’Brien among others ring a bell? Probably yes. But for most it doesn’t. Over the years they have just made the numbers at the World Cup. Or so to say they are the ‘World’ in the World Cup.
The 50 over Cricket World Cup is finally here after a gap of 4 years. The 2007 WC was another nail in the coffin for a stuttering and suffering format where audiences seemed to have dwindled and interest seemed to have gone considerably from fans and advertisers alike. Add to that the ICC ruling preventing West Indians from bringing their musical instruments which they are so known for to the ground and you wonder, what was the point of organizing such a sorry tournament. From the runaway growth of the Twenty20 format to a few ODI matches here and there which had some semblance of audience, a lot has changed in the world of cricket.
People said he couldn’t translate his domestic form to international success. People said that he can’t play the short ball. People said that he doesn’t have the temperament for the big stage. Others said he is a player who can hit only local tracks and that’s the reason he has been selected for the Cricket World Cup 2011. Many even said that he can play well only in the IPL. But with two violent centuries in the past 2 months along with a couple of 50s has all but sealed his place in the World Cup team and shut the mouths of his detractors for some time to come. The two centuries couldn’t be more different.