Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid - Cementing India’s Future
Celebrating Rahul Dravid’s legendary career and contribution to Indian cricket on his 46th birthday.
Celebrating Rahul Dravid’s legendary career and contribution to Indian cricket on his 46th birthday.(Photo: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid - Cementing India’s Future

It’s not easy to be you.

When you made your debut, at the home of cricket no less, you made 95 – then the eighth-highest score by an Indian at Lord’s (and even still the joint 12th-best). But it was second-best on the day, as your fellow debutant made 131.

When you did get that maiden Test hundred, six months later, on a first-day Johannesburg wicket facing a five-pronged pace attack led by Donald and Pollock, you made it a big one: 148, followed by 81 in the second innings. But rain arrived on Day 5 to prevent you from registering what could have been one of the finest hands in an Indian Test win away from home.

Coming out to bat after Sachin Tendulkar in ODIs meant you often found yourself booed when you walked out to the middle; when you donned the whites, any early dismissal would be greeted by the loudest cheer – because He was up next.

“I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
I'm just out to find
The better part of me.”

It’s not easy to be you.

You may have been the technically best-equipped of your lot, but you were the favourite stop-gap too. Openers out of sorts? Let’s push him up. No. 6 in form? Swap with him. Need for a ‘keeper-batsman? Sure, don those gloves.

You did it all, much like your batting, quietly.

I’m sure you snigger to yourself, a bit at least, when they run discussions on India’s greatest match winners in Tests, especially away from home.

Headingley 2002. Adelaide 2003. Rawalpindi 2004. Jamaica 2006.

But who was the golden standard of the golden generation? Not you, surely?

“Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see.”

It’s not easy to be you.

Headingley 2002, Adelaide 2003, Rawalpindi 2004, Jamaica 2006 – four of Rahul Dravid’s finest performances came in India’s greatest Test wins of the 2000s.
Headingley 2002, Adelaide 2003, Rawalpindi 2004, Jamaica 2006 – four of Rahul Dravid’s finest performances came in India’s greatest Test wins of the 2000s.
(Photo: The Quint)

Also Read : 8 Records Rahul Dravid Still Holds Nearly 7 Years After Retirement

Oh, but you were a liability in one-dayers.

Wait – so it wasn’t you, who finished the highest run-getter at the 1999 World Cup? You don’t still hold the record for India’s second-fastest half-century in ODIs? You weren’t the one who averaged 44.23 when given the added responsibility of keeping, right?

And as a captain? You were in-charge of the disaster that was the 2007 World Cup. And in 2004, you oversaw India’s first Test series defeat at home to Australia in 35 years.

Surely, you weren’t at the helm for India’s first Test match win in Pakistan? Or in South Africa? Or a first Test series win in England in 21 years? Or a first in West Indies in 35 years?

“I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
Men weren't meant to ride
With clouds between their knees.”

It’s not easy to be you.

Teams captained by Rahul Dravid ended lengthy waits for Indian Test series wins in West Indies (left, 2006) and England (right, 2007).
Teams captained by Rahul Dravid ended lengthy waits for Indian Test series wins in West Indies (left, 2006) and England (right, 2007).
(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Also Read : Watch: Rahul Dravid Gets Inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame

When the time came to call it quits, you had started witnessing the end of your golden generation. You had seen your friend from Bangalore, Anil Kumble, be paraded at the Ferozeshah Kotla when he said goodbye in 2008. You were on the field during the very next Test, at Nagpur, when your fellow debutant from the summer of ’96, Sourav Ganguly, was asked to ‘captain’ the side for a few overs on his final day in international cricket. Eighteen months after you retired, you saw the grandest of grand finales seen in world cricket, accorded to one Sachin Tendulkar.

Surely, you wanted your own moment, too?

“It may sound absurd, but don't be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed, but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream.”

Your retirement was announced in a function room at your home ground, the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, with about 200 people in attendance. No live telecast. No adoring audiences. No chants.

It’s not easy to be you.

Rahul Dravid announced his international retirement through a press conference at his home ground, Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, on 9 March 2012.
Rahul Dravid announced his international retirement through a press conference at his home ground, Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium, on 9 March 2012.
(Photo: File)

Also Read : Rahul Dravid Says He Would Pick Sachin to Bat For His Life  

It would be easy, though, to thank you for all that you gave to Indian cricket through 16-and-a-half years, from 20 June 1996 to 28 January 2012.

But then you began your next chapter – overseeing the forthcoming chapters in Indian cricket.

There were several roads available to you, as there are to any retired cricketer of repute. You could have forayed towards commentary, and the riches that come with a broadcast career. You could have opted to stick solely with the IPL coaching gig when the conflict-of-interest issue arose. You could have become a social media influencer.

Even when it came to coaching, the plush position of the senior team would surely have been open if you were to put your hand up (and we would have had the pleasure of soft-spoken press conferences…*sigh*).

But you took the road less travelled. You chose to mentor the next generation.

Rahul Dravid was coach of the Indian team which won the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2018 in New Zealand.
Rahul Dravid was coach of the Indian team which won the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2018 in New Zealand.
(Photo: PTI)

“Up, up and away, away from me
Well, it's all right, you can all sleep sound tonight.”

Now, we find the path of Indian cricket’s future much more illuminated. That every new entrant in the senior national team comes as a near-finished product isn’t down only to the big-ticket experience the IPL provides them.

Think every newcomer we have seen donning India colours in recent times – Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Krunal Pandya, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav and more – all have come with the Rahul Dravid stamp of approval.

Several of these players are already core members of an Indian team which is ranked in the top-two in each format of international cricket.

It’s not a mere coincidence.

You may have never been dubbed ‘Superman’, but it’s not easy to be you.

Happy Birthday, Rahul Dravid.

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