Coming from India, I am sure it surprises many that I haven’t mentioned my favourite cricketer as Sachin Tendulkar.
Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of the Little Master and I hope there would never come a time when he decides to call it quits.
However, there is one man who has always been in the shadows of Saurav Ganguly and Tendulkar, one who has quietly and religiously gone about his business – ‘The Wall’ Rahul Dravid.
Despite being recognized as one of the most mentally strong cricketers the game has ever seen, he has always preferred to stay away from the spotlight and let his performances do the talking.
Dravid, along with Ganguly, burst onto the scene with his brilliant batting efforts in a Test match at Lord’s against England in 1996. He exhibits brilliant batting technique, be it defence or offence and is supremely sincere and dedicated to his craft.
Dravid has constantly improved his technique over the years and has adapted to the different modes of the game. Like the Little Master, Dravid is a highly disciplined cricketer who has seldom been embroiled in controversy.
Dravid is a hard-as-nails gentleman who commands respect on the field, not just from his team-mates but from the opposition as well. Ask Allan Donald!
He is not identified with flamboyance when it comes to batting; the Sehwags and the Gayles handle that feature of the game. Dravid is duly respected for his determination, temperament and endurance at the crease.
He is a master when it comes to wearing out the opposition in the extended form of the game and works exceptionally hard in executing his role in conventional fashion.
One can argue pointing out that his batting is mind-numbing but having cemented the all-important number three position in the batting order for a long time, he is expected to hold up one end while the other batsmen take their chances playing around him. And how well he has executed and glorified this role for over 15 years at the top level against all international teams.
More importantly, he has done this, playing away from home, when most of his team-mates have struggled to cope with the bounce and pace on foreign pitches.
It is also worth pointing out that Dravid is a very dependable slip fielder and has accounted for numerous dismissals in tandem with Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and other pacers, fielding in the slip cordon.
Dravid has been a pillar of strength and support for the team and has on many occasions bailed the team out of trouble through sheer application.
Who can forget his contribution of 180 runs along with VVS Laxman in one of the most dramatic Test matches in Kolkata in 2001 when the two of them took India to victory from the brink of defeat?
I would run out of space and superlatives if I had to hand-pick his best innings as there are several of them.
Despite being a very accomplished player, throughout his career, Dravid has had to deal with a lot of criticism from both the media and selectors for his ‘inability’ to compete in the one-day format.
It is true that initially, he did struggle to come to grips with the shorter version of the game. He was deemed incapable as his detractors thought he could not rotate the strike and was unable to score runs at a brisk pace.
In typical Dravidesque fashion, without making a noise about the entire backlash, he took it all in his stride, put in the hard yards, worked on his weaknesses, honed his skills and evolved to become one of the most reliable one-day batsmen in the game.
The fact that he has scored over 10,000 runs in both forms of the game easily propels him to the list of greats.
Without doubt, Dravid is a legend and a perfect role model for wannabe cricketers. Moreover, he is a picture of discipline and integrity and a living example of someone who never rests on past success and constantly strives for improvement and he does not consider himself bigger than the sport.
‘The Wall’, as they say, never crumbles.