With two months to go for the Indian Twenty20 league, Rahul Dravid was in a dilemma. Having quit international cricket a year ago and embraced his new role as cricket commentator with such ease, it was hard to say whether it was the same Dravid.
In his 16 years as India player, Dravid, one felt, was forced to speak as he often draped himself in a cloak of political correctness. But retirement brought in him a sense of freedom.
He was an instant hit when he went on air for the India-England Test series. But Dravid was missing for the next series against Australia. No, it wasn't the Indian Board which had any objection but Dravid himself had opted out.
At 40, Dravid knew he couldn't take things lightly. In fact, he had never taken things easy in his illustrious career.
So, the Rajasthan Royals skipper went back to his training base, shed a few kilos and worked on his already impeccable technique. Being a team mentor as well, he had extra responsibility to plan and strategise.
Now, after seven weeks of the T20 league, Dravid is well on his way to achieve the target. Like predecessor Shane Warne, he too has proved age is just a number and T20 cricket is not merely for young guns.
In 13 innings, he has made 387 runs at a strike rate of 110.88. His captaincy too has worked wonders. Royals have won all matches at home and are in the race to top the league table.
"It was definitely a little more difficult," admitted Dravid. "Playing all the time, there is motivation to stay fit, stick to routine. But I had a whole year off, so I found it a little difficult initially. But over the last two-and-a-half to three months, I have really buckled down and worked hard. I was looking forward to the event as much as anyone else."
Michael Hussey and Jacques Kallis too have shown age is no bar to playing T20.
The CSK opener, till Tuesday, had made 614 runs in 13 matches at a mind-boggling average of 55.81 and a strike rate of 129.26. Kallis, also 37, is a vital member of KKR (286 runs, 15 wickets).
Dravid believes players like him who are past their prime can compete at the top as long there is willingness. "There are general targets. I know what my fitness standards and numbers were when I was at my peak. I have tried to be as close to that as possible."
However, some other past greats have struggled. Mumbai Indians skipper Ricky Ponting and his Kings XI Punjab counterpart Adam Gilchrist had benched themselves after struggling to score and Sachin Tendulkar too has been inconsistent.
But Kings XI coach, Darren Lehmann, backed them. "Sachin, Gilly and Ponting - their value add is immense to a franchise not just because of the playing but what they bring in terms of fans and the enjoyment factor. Yes, they'd like to make more runs and take more wickets - and franchises need them to do that as well."
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.