Open letter to Rahul Dravid

A faithful follower wishes the legend goodbye


Dear Rahul,

This is not going to be easy. But I will try. One sentence at a time.

Congratulations. Is that appropriate? That’s what people at work say when someone quits. And, despite the anguish surrounding your decision, this is supposed to be a happy day. At least I would like to think of it that way.

I expected you to finish in Adelaide. The same Adelaide where, in 2003, you found gold at the end of the rainbow. The same Adelaide where another colossus, Adam Gilchrist, retired four years ago, his wife and children sitting among the press, his voice breaking towards the end of each sentence, tears trickling down his cheeks as the press conference wound down.

But the Chinnaswamy Stadium fits well. That’s where it all began. And that’s where it ends. Like Gilly, you leave with your family and former team-mates watching over your retirement announcement. And like him, you leave amid breaking voices and teary eyes.  

There is a constant temptation, especially when a cricketer retires, to draw comparisons. We live in a world that loves definitives. It frowns upon ambiguity. We want to determine your exact location in the pantheon. I will refrain from this. I am sure you are tired of being compared to other great Indian batsmen. And I am not about to bore you.

But I must tell you something that has bothered me for a long time. You are too conveniently slotted as a specialist batsman. I disagree. That’s too simplistic. For me, you are an allrounder - not in the way our limited imaginations defines an allrounder but in a broader, more sweeping, sense.  

I find it hard to think of a more versatile cricketer. You were one of our finest short leg fielders. You were, for the most part, a remarkable slip catcher. You have opened the innings, batted at No.3, batted at No.6 (from where you conjured up that 180 in Kolkata). I’m sure you have batted everywhere else.

You have kept wicket, offering an added dimension to the one-day side in two World Cups. You even scored 145 in one of those games. You captained both the Test and one-day teams. Sure things didn’t go according to plan but you were a superb on-field captain. More importantly you were India’s finest vice-captain, an aspect that is often conveniently forgotten. Jeez, you even took some wickets.

There’s something unique about this. In Indian cricket’s hall of fame, you can proudly share a table with Gavaskar and Tendulkar. But you can also share one with Kapil, Mankad and Ganguly - cricketers who excelled in more than one aspect of their game for an extended period of time.

The only people who will understand this are those who you played with. The only people who will begin to appreciate your value to the side are those who you propped up. Which is why it is not the least surprising when Tendulkar said yesterday, ‘There can be no cricketer like Rahul Dravid.’ Hell yeah. It’s too far-fetched.

Talking about Tendulkar, you know my best moment involving you two? Adelaide again. 2003 again. Damien Martyn c Dravid b Tendulkar 38. Ripping legbreak, spanking cut, screaming edge, lunging right hand, gotcha. That was magic. Pure magic. Swung the game. Ignited the series.

What else will I remember? Hmm. That shirt of yours immaculately tucked in. How did you manage to keep it tucked in every single time? I’ll remember the way you chased the ball to the boundary line, as if you were competing in a hundred-meter race. I’ll remember the intensity with which you studied the pitch before the game, like a geologist, scraping the surface with your palms, examining the grains of sand, gauging the direction of the breeze. You loved all these tiny details, didn’t you?

There is a general perception that you have not got the credit you deserve. I don’t know if that is accurate. I wonder if you feel that way. But just you wait. Wait for India to play a Test without you. Wait for the team to lose an early wicket, especially on a challenging pitch. You’ll hear a gazillion sighs, sighs filled with longing. India 8 for 1 and you sitting in his living room, sipping tea and watching TV. I’ll be surprised if you don’t palpably feel a nation’s collective yearning for a sunnier, glorious past.

But even that I may be able to somehow handle. What I won’t be able to come to terms with is not watching you bat. Over the years few things have given me as much joy as watching you construct an innings, hour upon hour, brick upon brick.

Here I must mention what the great American author, Edgar Allan Poe, once said about the importance of punctuation.

It does not seem to be known that, even where the sense is perfectly clear, a sentence may be deprived of half its force - its spirit - its point - by improper punctuation.

An innings of yours would be incomplete without the punctuation marks that you masterfully employed along the way: the focussed leaves, the immaculate dead-bats, the softening of the grip, the late strokeplay, the ducking, the weaving, the swaying, the head totally still, your eyes always on the ball, the focus, more focus, still more focus, even more focus.

There is no point watching an innings of yours stripped of all this. I’ve cursed all these TV producers who create highlight packages with fours, sixes, your raised bat after each fifty, a jump after a hundred, more fours, more sixes and done. Finished. Poof. That’s supposed to be a summation of your innings.

It’s the same with all these photographers who click away and the websites that use those photos to create galleries. None of them even begin to portray the painstaking manner in which you create these pearls. None of them can capture over after over of graft. There is nothing more exhilarating that being exhausted after watching you bat. But there is no technology that can capture that, no software that can simulate it.

So if my grandson were to ask me about your batting, I would be lost. The only way anyone can begin to understand your craft is by watching you bat through a whole day, by experiencing your pain. There are no short cuts.

There are a million links that pop up on YouTube when I type ‘Rahul Dravid’. All of them show you batting. None of them contain your essence. There is no Rahul Dravid in there.

That’s sad. But maybe that’s also a good thing. I was fortunate to be able to watch you bat. My grandson won’t be as lucky. He’s just going to be born at the wrong time. Let’s go with that. It’s much easier.

As I said, this is supposed to be a happy day. It’s the memories that matter. You’ve left us a world full of them.

So long, Rahul. Adios. Ciao. Auf Wiedersehen. Tata. Bye. Bye. Olleyadagali guru.

And thank you. It’s been a privilege.

Yours faithfully,

Sidvee

You can read Sidvee's blogs here and tweets here

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Bangalore vs Mumbai

On Now: Bangalore vs Mumbai

Bangalore in disarray chasing Mumbai's paltry 115. More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as England coach

Moores gets second stint as England coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »