There are moments that define the world and then there are events that write an era. These moments and events are rare and priceless, infact as rare and priceless as Rahul Dravid. There have been great batsmen in the rich history of cricket and Rahul Dravid sits right on the top of that list. Fondly called Jammy at home and The Wall and Mr. Dependable by the nation, Dravid has been one of the greatest and at the same time one of the most under-rated cricketers in the world. Dravid played in the era of players like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting and often got over-shadowed by their popularity despite having a better record on the field.
Being a die hard cricket enthusiast, I can talk of millions like me who idolized Dravid as a batsmen rather than Sachin Tendulkar. Rahul Dravid was the one of the main reason behind India`s betterment on overseas tours and he can be safely called the architect of the golden era of Indian batting. Sachin Tendulkar was always a prolific and largely sole scorer for the Indian team for almost a decade before Dravid arrived and his emergence helped Tendulkar and the team to resurrect their fortunes, especially overseas. As a result, Sachin and Rahul hold the record for the most number of century partnerships in test matches. In fact Rahul Dravid played the perfect support to all the free flowing Indian batsmen in the lineup and his record to feature in most century partnerships (88) in test cricket is a testimony to it.
Rahul Dravid was probably the last of the classical test batsmen the world had seen. His water tight technique, ability to bat long periods of time without being fluttered, a calm head with equal ability on both the front and the back foot made him the ideal test batsmen whom you could trust to bat for your life on the most difficult of tracks and conditions. Dravid displayed all these qualities quite early on as he batted for more than 6 hours, coming at No. 7 to score a brilliant 95 runs on his debut at the Lords in 1996. Another hallmark of Rahul Dravid was fine sportsmanship and even that was on display in his debut innings as we walked back immediately after a edging the ball to the wicket-keeper without waiting for the umpire to decide. A debutant, just 5 runs away from a maiden test hundred, walking off was nothing short of special. A star had arrived.
Rahul Dravid was a prodigy and came through the ranks with the help of pure and consistent performances for years unlike many other batsmen who get picked up on talent or potential. He is one player who never shied away from hard work and put in hours and hours of practice everyday to perfect his art. He earned the title of ‘The Wall’ by making bowlers toil hard for hours and sometimes even days for his wicket. It was very difficult to say the least if not impossible to breach the defence of Rahul Dravid, in his prime. His consistent performance over the years earned him the title `Mr. Dependable`.
A benchmark for any batsman lies in how he performs away from home and that is where there is no match for Rahul Dravid. Dravid had a better record overseas than that at home on batting friendly pitches. The difficult conditions of England, South Africa, Australia and West Indies brought out the best in him. You could always count on Dravid to score in difficult situations and he would never disappoint. Dravid showed his caliber quite early in his career as he helped in drawing his debut test match in England and then followed up with another masterclass on his first tour of South Africa where he scored his maiden test hundred (148) in the first innings and then 81 in the second innings to almost take India to an overseas win. He was the highest scorer for India on the next tour of West Indies. His performances made the world take notice of him and he never looked back.
Dravid`s life has been about fighting hard, be it on the ground or off it in the form of criticism regarding his abilities. Dravid was labeled as a test specialist quite early in his career and deemed not good enough for limited overs cricket. Dravid kept giving impressive performances to prove all wrong as he scored consecutive centuries in the world cup 1999 with some other tremendous and quick knocks as well. In fact Dravid had to turn wicket-keeper for ODIs from 2002-2004 to keep his place intact. Like all throughout his career, he kept performing and rescuing Indian batting form difficult times and helping them win matches. When Rahul Dravid retired from International cricket in 2012, he had more than 10,000 runs in Tests as well as ODIs, a distinction in itself.
Rahul Dravid was always an integral part of Indian test wins abroad and also had the best batting average in the tests that India won abroad. But such has been the destiny of the man that he got overshadowed most of the times he did well. When he scored 95 on debut, Sourav scored a century and got all the news. He scored a century against New Zealand in 1999, Sachin scored 185* in the same innings. His 145 against Sri Lanka in 1999 world cup was over-shadowed by Ganguly`s 183. He scored a valiant 180 runs in the famous win against Australia at Eden Gardens when Laxman scored 281. There are numerous such occasions throughout this career and that infact defined the man that he is. Always ready to fight and take all the blows for the team`s cause. Who can forget the mammoth knocks of 233 and 72* in Adelaide to help India secure an unforgettable victory. Dravid was the main pillar of the Indian batting for more than a decade, and the other batsmen played around him. He was the anchor and always laid a solid platform for the following batsmen to build on. He was the ultimate team man anyone could ever ask for.
Such was the apetite for big runs that when Dravid scored his 5th double ton for India in tests, he had a unique distinction of scoring a bigger double hundred than the previous one, every time. Rahul Dravid is not restricted to numbers, however great they are. Dravid is a way of life that teaches to work hard, stay disciplined and trying to keep better every passing day and all that with grace, humility and honesty. A true gentleman and a perfect sportsman, one who should be the ideal role model for generations to come.
Virat Kohli is being touted as the next Sachin Tendulkar and the greatness of Dravid is that no one can be compared to him There was and there will be just one – Rahul Dravid.