Lord’s, 1973, the third Test versus England – Garfield Sobers closes a day’s play on 31 not out.
People say that Sachin is God… Ganguly is God of off side… Laxman is the God of 4th innings… But when the doors of the temple are closed, even God is behind The Wall of India – Rahul Dravid
(Post on Facebook, Cricket fan, Mar 9, 2012)
He is barely gone, but his announcement triggered a deluge of fan mail and tributes. Cricket will miss India’s Rahul Dravid. Indian cricket will miss him the most.
He was the back of solidity in the Indian innings, the wall around which the graceful hitters and plunderers would gather. Such support did not preclude stylishness. He was a master class on the wicket, and his genius was often felt and witnessed on foreign pitches.
A few stunning statistics are worth noting. He faced 31,258 deliveries in Test cricket – the most of any batsman in history. Interestingly enough, Sachin Tendulkar, with 24 more matches, is behind him.
Then, and this point was picked up in the Indian media, he is the only batsman to have ever seen 700 test wickets fall at the other end. (Does this signify durability in the face of penetrative bowling? A brilliant but at times brittle Indian batting line up?)
Dravid was the man of rescue, the salvaging expert, the stop gap. He would return to bruised cricket sides who were shying at the pace. He would step in to help the injured. His record of catches remains unequalled. If the side needed him to keep wicket, he could.
All of this was topped off by a ferocious work ethic, a forensic sense to correct faults in his batting that might creep in from time to time.
There was always one persistent tendency in his game – team commitment. There was nothing of the Boycott of him, no obvious ego on display. His overall approach to cricket made him a poster boy of integrity in an era when cricket’s reputation has been battered – match fixing scandals being the greatest sore point.
“My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple – it was about giving everything to the team; it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game.” (Sunday Leader, Mar 11).
At the Bradman Oration in November last year, Dravid became the first non-Australian cricketer to make the keynote speech, such is the esteem he is held in.
As one of the games most cerebral players, he spoke about the urgency of cricket having to ‘find a middle path’, requiring a scaling down of this ‘mad-merry-go-around that teams and players find themselves in: heading off for two-Test tours and seven-match ODI series with a few Twenty20s thrown in.’ Whether the administrators will hear him is another matter.
Respectful nods have been passing his way, even from the hard and the bitten.
The former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell praised his ‘pride and dignity’, noting his astonishing efforts at the Adelaide Oval in 2003, where he accumulated scores of 233 and 72 in a stunning, beautifully crafted partnership with Laxman. Such achievements were accomplished with unstinting fairness.
Dravid was not always a conspicuous genius, the formidable figure who managed to pass milestones in comparative silence to his Indian compatriots.
Touring Indian sides, who travel badly and self-destructively as it is, will long for his solidity, his assuredness at the top order. “Cricket,” he explained in the Bradman Oration, “must treasure its originality.”
Without him playing it, international cricket has lost something of its original charm.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.