It’s hard to let someone go.
And nothing could be a more unusual way to remember a man than reading his eulogy upon his departure at the gravesite.
For there’s this feeling that when you die, it’s pointless for the world to describe you untruthfully. There’s nothing left of you anyway.
Rock music fans that were around when Jim Morrison’s tomb had a bust erected in his memory read an inscription: “True to his own spirit.”
They knew it meant wild, artistic, unbound.
Michael Jackson’s grave recollects his musical achievements and highlights him as being more than an artist; a philanthropist.
But one wonders whether Rahul Dravid would ever need an inscription?
After all, how could a man who remains, to this day, respectfully unaccepting of the pedestal he’s been placed on make one work as hard as coming up with a by-line?
Maybe by merely looking at a concrete structure, or to put it effectively, a ‘Wall’ would suffice remembering Rahul Dravid.
And that a wall can be commonly spotted- a fortification of brick and mortar that shields lives and inanimate objects– affords Rahul Dravid in some way, a sense of timelessness.
Does it not?
Well, maybe not.
If you were to actually offer a tribute to Rahul Dravid, you’d be careful of not being stuck up with his ‘The Wall’ enigma.
Because nothing could be more dehumanizing than merely suggesting that Dravid was this ‘Wall’ while he was also something more; someone who was fluid, adaptable to change, flexible to situations, and receptive of the challenges he countered.
That his water-tight defense, great powers of concentration, and that ability to hold on to an end for India does afford him the sobriquet.
But that he changed his game, going from being a slow starter in ODIs to eventually finishing with 10,800 plus runs in the format, being a Test purist who struck the third-fastest ODI fifty by an Indian (22 balls), destroys the cages fans have drawn around him, albeit with purity.
So to offer a tribute to Dravid, you would much rather dwell on feats that highlight a batsman who lived for the team just as Harsha once described: “A wolf who lived for the pack.”
And at the same time, you may also want to introspect on an essential.
Rahul Dravid’s cricket begs a question few seem willing to answer
Are we getting too caught up with the personalities cricketers come to represent and therefore, treading less on what it takes into being a success?
One supposes there’ll always be a sense of sadness for the fan considering how Dravid departed on a low-note. His final Test knock yielded 25 runs in a series in Australia where he was out bowled six times.
But what may be a greater agony would be to conveniently abstain from all that Dravid’s stood for albeit without words, but with actions.
It would be a failure on the part of anyone who calls himself a Dravid fan to not reflect on the man’s genuine love for facing challenges and that alacrity for hard-work.
Dravid isn’t the runs scored on the 22 yards; he’s the time spent, the balls faced in accumulating them.
Dravid isn’t about plodding runs, rather about accumulating them. Like a silent twinkle in the sky, Dravid is a giant who doesn’t look down on mere mortals whilst having his feet firmly planted on the ground.
No other batsman faced as many as deliveries in Test cricket as Dravid with 31,258. Gavaskar didn’t, Lara didn’t and nor did Tendulkar.
Legend has it that Dravid once stopped a friend who nearly picked up a fight with an observer who had criticized his slow batting approach. Anyone who suggested he wasn’t a fit for ODI cricket may have wanted to rethink the stance upon seeing Dravid in the peak of all ODI cricketing battles: the World Cup.
For a man who played as a centre-half at Hockey, being used to the thanklessness of this role may have helped him endure a mental batting challenge in cricket.
How uneasy and absurd might have been his life wherein the fan would often turn off the TV set in the wake of Sachin’s departure whilst Dravid would still be at the other end?
Yet, when you realize his importance- averaging 65.7 in India’s overseas victories- you erupt with endless pixels of gratitude for a man who kept the Indian flag fluttering despite being someone whose dismissal in Tests brought anticipation for the fan, for the next man in was Tendulkar.
In a league of his own
In all world cup appearances, Dravid averaged 61.4, right behind Sir Viv. Yet, we all remember only Sachin- whose greatness is undeniable- in the light of having played 96′ gorgeous hundreds and 2003′ 97 against Pakistan.
We reserve little admiration for the man who eventually guided India home; Dravid, in his unbeaten 44.
Dravid kept wickets in 73 ODIs, most of them being under Ganguly’s captaincy, with an aim to enable India to afford an extra batsman. Yet, all one remembers mostly is AB De Villiers’ prowess with the gloves or McCullum’s flamboyance.
Not an awful lot is reserved for the quiet, thinking cricketer who operated behind the stumps.
Even in slip-catching, Dravid, safe as the utterly bankable side-protection impact system in modern sedans and promising as a full-bright scholar offered a utility that marked his career with some versatility.
And yet, we are quick to forget the 406 international catches, including 210 in Tests alone and consider criticizing the time wherein he declared India’s score when Sachin was 194 not out in Pakistan.
That the Test match was won and with it, a new credo of the ‘team’ philosophy established: that placed the collective over the individual is seldom reflected on and perhaps never may.
It, in some ways, is a thinly-veiled culture that’s continuing to this day in Indian cricket where in front of the mammoth greatness of Virat Kohli, a lot less is reserved for Cheteshwar Pujara, 3 Test tons in last 30 days of Test cricket.
The Dravid enigma
And that there seems a sense in appreciating Dravid’s unfluctuating enigma on the 22 yards- stemming from endless sessions in the nets, tweakings in his technique, even preciseness in his bat weight- highlights a man who was more content in being less followed and is still less followed despite possessing real ‘content.’
What Dravid teaches us is far beyond the runs stacked in copious record books. Dravid points to the acceptance of difficulties and the willingness to overcome them. In his final series at England, his penultimate in a 16-year journey, Dravid proved that it is possible to fight alone.
While his India were collapsing at the one end in a heartbreaking series that may have been fully abysmal had the silent guardian not applied himself, Dravid soldiered on. And seemed to need no support in fending off Anderson, Broad, Tremlett, Bresnan.
Generations to come may remember the historic series victory India fetched in Australia after a hiatus of 71 years.
But can the Test purist ever possibly forget those 468 bravely-collected runs that compelled the fans in England to wield placards that read: Dravid vs England?
In an age obsessing about movie biopics, defined by Insta followers and the number of likes, it’s beautiful to find Dravid placing his hand on a Prithvi’s shoulder.
It, in some ways proves fiction is but, a fact, in the sense that behind every new Robin, there’s The Batman. Thank god for India, that there was in Rahul Dravid, Test Cricket’s last classic batsman.