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A riveting journey so far

Dravid’s exit, when it happens, will be as graceful as his batting and conduct, writes W.V. Raman

— Photo: V. Ganesan

CLASS ACT: Rahul Dravid carries his personal and professional pride, along with his bat, to the crease and sheds them the moment he returns to the dressing room.

In the early nineties, the India under-19 side played Tamil Nadu in the Buchi Babu tournament and, though the contest was one-sided, the youngsters gained some valuable experience. The captain of the youth side walked out to bat in the second innings on a rank turner and though the innings was restricted to 40 overs, survival was not easy on that track.

The young skipper was crowded but his ability to smother the spin with solid defence indicated that he had the stomach for a fight. The taunts from the close-in fielders were ignored and he went on to bat out the overs without allowing the bullying to ruffle him. A word of appreciation from me at the end of the innings was acknowledged with a measured smile and softly uttered thanks.

The same youngster went on to become the backbone of the Indian batting line-up and his rock solid defence and temperament remained his allies right through his journey in cricket. Those very attributes enabled him to reach the 10,000-run mark recently against South Africa, a feat that has elevated him to a league of some all-time greats.

Strong message

It was no wonder that amid all the euphoric celebrations after the under-19 side regained the World Cup, Rahul Dravid conveyed a simple yet strong message that only two members of his batch had made it to the senior team. The former skipper’s intention was not to discourage the youngsters but was meant to make them realise that this was just the beginning of the journey. After all, he had started his journey at that level and had gone on to carve out a niche for himself in international cricket.

Along the way, he has seen many changes taking place in cricket but he has retained his focus and composure. Not even the ubiquitous television cameras and perennial attention from the media have had an impact on him, as even a hint of a swagger from Dravid would have been highlighted, especially after his latest achievement.

Striking the balance

Dravid has always played the game hard but has ensured that cricket remained a gentleman’s game. For instance, he could have been leading the National side today if he had chosen to, but having to get entangled in the cut and thrust game in order to retain the position was not a route he was prepared to take. He believed in making his point on the field of play.

Perhaps his reticence, which was probably as frustrating to his teammates as was his defence to bowlers around the world, did not help him sustain his enjoyment as captain. But even his hardcore detractor, if any, will not mistake his reticence for arrogance or egotism. He only carried his personal and professional pride along with his bat to the crease and shed them the moment he returned to the dressing room.

The prim and proper Bangalorean will continue to serve Indian cricket for a while yet and one can safely predict that his exit will be as graceful as his batting and conduct all these years. For one who has not played at deliveries that need not be played, he will not be playing at a time when he feels he should not be.

Meanwhile, Dravid will continue to exceed his expectations and Team India will be the beneficiary.

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