Rahul Dravid – cricket’s consummate gentleman

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    The word ‘gentleman’ is thrown around the cricketing world a lot, but usually as part of the phrase ‘gentleman’s game’. Rarely has it followed a cricketer as closely as it has Rahul Dravid, who recently announced his retirement.

    Let it be forgotten that he is the second-highest run scorer in Test history, and has taken more catches than any other non-wicketkeeper (although he was, for a period, India’s premier gloveman too).

    Let it go unnoticed that he has over 10,000 ODI runs in 344 appearances, and is the first and only player to score Test centuries in all ten Test-playing nations.

    Let us even neglect the fact that he has faced more balls than anyone else in Test match history.

    Let us remember that Dravid brought the game of cricket a sense of distinction and class that was, by some distance, unparalleled.

    It is tough to avoid waxing lyrical about Dravid – as indeed it is tough to find a place to even begin waxing lyrical. All discussions of his abilities on the cricket field, though, must begin with his technique.

    There was barely a more technically correct batsman in the modern game. Against pace, he was supremely confident of his off stump. Against spin, it was Dravid’s use of the depth of the crease and his ability to pick up the length early that allowed him to turn his centuries into big ones.

    In Australia recently, Dravid was unrecognisable. Every cricketer has a poor tour eventually, but what made it unique was the frequency with which he was bowled. Dravid has never lost his castle as often as he did this season – and perhaps the bowlers’ reactions to seeing his stumps splayed best sum up their expectations of him.

    Next comes Dravid’s temperament. MS Dhoni certainly knows how to keep his cool, but it’s tough to recall him being at the crease long enough to lose it. Dravid has a collection of long vigils, and his name is synonymous with some famous Indian wins.

    Kolkata 2001, Adelaide 2003, Rawalpindi 2004, and a match that should have been a win had weather not intervened, Johannesburg 1997. A feature of many of these matches was an Indian fight-back; and this is a term that Dravid is once again all too familiar with.

    Kolkata does not need introduction – his 180 in a magical partnership with VVS Laxman is the stuff of cricketing folklore. The pair were in a seemingly hopeless situation, yet batted an entire day to thwart a despairing Australian attack.

    His 233 and 72* in Adelaide (once again involving a union with Laxman) set up a series lead for India after Australia posted 556 .Dravid batted for 835 minutes in this match: well over two days. Indeed, there were barely two hours in the entire game in which Dravid was not on the field.

    Going into the final Test at Rawalpindi, the series was level 1-1. Dravid’s epic 270, during which he was at the crease for 12 hours, set up a historic Indian series win on Pakistan soil, in a match where no other batsman crossed 80.

    In Johannesburg, meanwhile, Dravid took on a rampant South African attack which was one of the best in the world at the time. Donald, Pollock, Klusener and Adams could only watch on as Dravid struck 148 in a six-hour effort, before scoring 81 in the second innings over the course of 146 minutes.

    Another side of Dravid was revealed recently in a beautiful piece written by his wife of nine years, Vijeeta. While it has always been obvious to all that Dravid was intensely private, Vijeeta offered some rare glimpses into just how much cricket meant to her husband.

    Dravid would shadow-bat at odd hours of the day or night, so much so that Vijeeta once thought he was sleepwalking. His preparation before each match was meticulous. It has been well documented that Dravid is superstitious, always putting on his right thigh-pad first. However, Dravid’s quirks stretch beyond that.

    Just last year, before the Lords Test, Dravid made a point of sitting in the same space in the dressing room as did Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan when he scored a double century there earlier in the season. Fittingly, Dravid finally scored a century at Lords, 15 years after scoring 95 there on debut.

    On the night before every match, even when travelling with his family, Dravid would stay in a room alone for some meditation and visualisation exercises. The next morning, he would do the same. He was afforded plenty of space and quiet on match day; teammates did not rush him for the bus, and he would often say he simply needed ten minutes to himself.

    It is a mark of his measured and realistic nature though, that he managed to switch off at the end of every day. Vijeeta remarks on his ability to separate the rest of his life from the game – he would never complain about having a bad day, nor would he ever sit in his room and brood. Dravid preferred to go out to a musical, walk by the beach, or read a book.

    A fascinating revelation is the fact that Dravid recognised his diminishing abilities in the twilight years of his career. He worked twice as hard to keep his body in its best physical condition through strict diets, because he knew that was what it would take.

    He always sweated profusely – so he had a sweat analysis done to see how it affected his batting. He went to a specialist in eye co-ordination techniques, because he wanted to exercise those particular muscles and keep them up to speed.

    These nuances, along with his persona, may lend Dravid the obsessive-compulsive tag at first, but Dravid has proved time and time again he is human. When he celebrated emphatically at scoring his Test century at Lords, even at the age of 38; when he threw a chair in the dressing rooms after India lost a match against England; or when he pumped his fist and roared after hitting the winning runs in Adelaide.

    Dravid’s was a world of dignity, civility and poetry. There are very few cricketers left in his mould today. With him a part of the game will die – it is the part that exemplified the origins of the game and the expectations of the players; the part that few seem to lend the importance it deserves.

    If cricket is a gentleman’s game, that gentleman is Rahul Dravid.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:22am
      Bearfax said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Without Tendulkar, Dravid would probably have been the big cricketing name in India and the World. A champion batsman who reminded me of Clive Lloyd in his composure and attractiveness of batting. Under rated in my mind and one of the greats of world cricket. Will miss his unassuming demolition of bowling attacks, though perhaps pleased he is no longer around to give Australia a demonstration of his class and accumulation of runs.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 10:41am
      Malibu77 said | April 3rd 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      Dravid’s speech at the Bradman Oration in Canberra in December was quite superb. Not only a brilliant cricketer but a thoughtful and eloquent speaker. The text of his speech can be found here http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/545355.html

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 2:10pm
      Vas Venkatramani said | April 3rd 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

      World cricket has been robbed of much dignity and likeability since the retirement of Rahul Dravid. I sincerely hope there is a young person out there who can ignore the modern pizazz and gimmicks to focus on what truly is of importance. One guy I’d like to nominate is Alastair Cook – both markatable yet also has a modest and genuine personality to be a credit to the sport he plays.

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 8:51pm
      Bayman said | April 3rd 2012 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

      Perhaps it is because I always felt Dravid suffered by comparison to Tendulkar that I always wanted Dravid to succeed.

      He was an outstanding batsman and an outstanding technician. I loved his calm, his skill and his ability to stay in and score big. He was modest and unassuming. Great without thrusting his greatness down your throat.

      Of all the modern batsmen, talented as they may be, if I could replicate the achievements of one of them it would be Dravid I would choose. His failure in the recent series against Australia frustrated me as much as it frustrated him. Especially after his dominant performance in England only a few months before – which thrilled me.

      Dravid has shown the sense, and the maturity, to retire – as gracefully as he batted. He is, or was, my favourite overseas player. Partly because of his skill and partly because of his demeanour. The game of cricket should be proud to have had Rahul Dravid involved with it. He is not just a great cricketer but a great man and India can be proud they have provided this man for the world to acclaim.

      • December 29th 2016 @ 11:48pm
        Nachiket Sahasrabudhe said | December 29th 2016 @ 11:48pm | ! Report

        Nicely put Bayman. Especially these two:
        “Great without thrusting his greatness down your throat”
        “Dravid has shown the sense, and the maturity, to retire – as gracefully as he batted”

    • April 3rd 2012 @ 9:08pm
      Johnno said | April 3rd 2012 @ 9:08pm | ! Report

      If only we had someone like Rahul Dravid leading the test team instead of someone like Micheal Clarke’s personality.
      Micheal Clarke is not an intellectual or shows an interest in academic issues. He is not very intellectual at all unlike the gentleman and classical strokemakers like Rahul Dravid VV.S Laxman. Real people, who are what have real cricket values.
      I think Micheal Clarke as our captain is embarrassing. I would prefer the refined Ed Cowan who has a university degree, has written a book, was well known by some late former cricket journalist, who was very well known and intellectual and refined.
      So yes Rahul Dravid I wish Australia had more cricketers like him.

      • April 5th 2012 @ 11:41am
        Vas Venkatramani said | April 5th 2012 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        That is ridiculously harsh Johnno on Michael Clarke.

        What the hell is “real cricket values”? If what you define by that is sportsmanship, elegance and temparament, then Clarke has varied on all three counts. And if Clarke fails, then he falls in the same bracket as the likes of Ambrose, Richards, Jardine (and more, but I digress if I go on). Point is, Clarke is hardly alone in this.

        But he is not a disgrace to our team. Clarke as a personality has improved beyond measure since he became captain, because the shackles are off, and he feels free to say what he really thinks. His conduct this summer was exemplary in how he lead his team, respected his opponents and generally had a good rapport with the media and the fans. This was one of Australia’s better recent summers when people felt proud of our team.

        And I’m sorry, but the amount of books you read, dissertations you write, or eloquent speeches you make does not entitle you to lead. You actually have to perform. You may prefer Ed Cowan the intellectual (who I think is a fine ambassador for our game), but his case may be helped somewhat if/when he scores a Test hundred.

        I definitely know Dravid’s classy personality did not prevent his Indian side tumbling out of the 2007 World Cup in embarassment. And neither did Ponting’s sometimes ragdoll behaviour prevent his team for a while maintain their world number one ranking.

        I want the Rahul Dravids to be on the same team as the Michael Clarkes of our cricket world, not for one to replace another, for they both have their plus and minus points…

    • Roar Guru

      April 4th 2012 @ 11:18pm
      Kit Harvey said | April 4th 2012 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

      Rahul Dravid. Legend of the game. A great man who should have gone out on a higher note than his recent tour of Australia. May his great performances of the past be what he is remembered for.

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