Understanding Dravid: the cricketer and the man

A collection of interesting snippets about the cricketing great — and the feelings he evokes in cricket writers.

Rahul Dravid

Dravid on his legacy [Sydney Morning Herald, December  24, 2011]

"I was reading what Ian Thorpe said when he came out of retirement and somebody asked him about his legacy: 'What are you doing to your legacy by coming back and coming eighth in a race?' And he said, 'I can sacrifice my legacy for the love of the sport,'" Dravid explains.

"That makes sense. It's pure, he [Thorpe] still enjoys swimming and he enjoys competing. Sometimes we get too caught up in legacy; what are we going to leave? Sometimes it's not about that, it's about the player actually playing at that point in time. He's not concerned about his legacy, he's concerned about what actually made him play the game in the first place, which is that love of the game, the desire to compete and play. And that will go at some stage. That probably should be the decision."

Sanjay Manjrekar on Cricinfo [Dravid and the art of defence — June 28, 2011]:

When I saw him at the start of his career, I must confess Dravid's attitude concerned me. As young cricketers, we were often reminded to not think too much - and also sometimes reprimanded by our coaches and senior team-mates for doing so. Being a thinker in cricket, it is argued, makes you complicate a game that is played best when it is kept simple. I thought Dravid was doing precisely that: thinking too much about his game, his flaws and so on. I once saw him shadow-playing a false shot that had got him out. No problem with that, everyone does it. Just that Dravid was rehearsing the shot at a dinner table in a restaurant! This trait in him made me wonder whether this man, who we all knew by then was going to be the next No. 3 for India, was going to over-think the game and throw it all away. He reminded me a bit of myself.

Rohit Brijnath on BBC [A cricketer and a role model — September 20, 2004]

Sure there's wicket-keeping to talk about and his form to discuss, but what I really want to know from the ICC's Cricketer of the Year is whether his cupboard at home is sloppy. He laughs. "Umm, yeah, a little," he says embarrassedly.

It's nice to know that something in the life of Rahul Dravid is not ordered. In matters of cricket, most everything else is. His shirt is usually tucked in, hair parted, life neatly organised. Even his quotes are mostly precise, as if he's subconsciously measuring syllables. He's a man of purpose, of immaculate timing, meticulous and disciplined. It sounds a lot like his batting.

In a sporting world of much superficiality Dravid stands as something real; in a time of obscene monies and flashy modernity there is something elegantly old-fashioned to him.

He has been hero for some, yet is uncomfortable with the word; he can hit a cricket ball with aching sweetness yet does not overestimate his place in the world. Once I asked about his involvement in campaigns to fight AIDS and polio, and he replied: "That's no big deal...We're not doing the work. The people who do, don't get the credit".

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan [Dravid and the mastery of the struggle — June 23, 2011]

When I see Dravid bat, I think of our daily lives, the frustrations we endure. I think of how we struggle through the mundane: paying bills, shopping for groceries, standing in long queues, cleaning utensils, vacuuming. I think of how we go through days at work, bogged down by clerical chores, stuck in pointless meetings, often accomplishing tasks that we least enjoy. I think of our silly struggles and how we’re often overpowered by them.

And then I think of Dravid. Of course I admire him for his technical expertise, his equanimity, his ability to rescue a side. Of course I marvel at the way he bats and bats and bats. Of course I enjoy how he battles a crisis.

But most of all, I’m constantly in awe of his mastery of something we all try and run away from: the struggle.

Peter Roebuck in The Hindu [Never underestimate great sportsmen [June 25, 2011]

Rahul Dravid has struck a mighty blow for the old-timers. His hundred in the Caribbean served two purposes, putting his team in a powerful position and reminding all and sundry that batsmen are better judged from their performances than from their birth certificates.

Apparently his place had been in jeopardy. All sorts of gilded youngsters had emerged in the recent T20 campaign. One or two of them had even passed 50 a couple of times. In some eyes the veteran had become surplus to requirements. Never mind that T20 is a trifling matter besides Test cricket.

Dravid responded by constructing a resourceful and decisive hundred. With every deft shot thrust and every crafty parry he confirmed that there is life in this aged canine.

Significantly he has not put on any weight, looks as fit as the proverbial fiddle. Bulging bellies slow down the feet and brain, and suggest that motivation is lacking. Yuvraj's prospects can be gleaned from his girth.

Beba Prasad Dhar in DNA [Rahul Dravid among goliaths — December 31, 2011]

As Dravid walks the last lap of his international career, we yearn to know more about the man. Is it a myth that he’s a closed book, difficult to understand, never outspoken as Ganguly was? That he never gives himself fully?

His Karnataka colleagues disagree.

There’s a lovely story about the Karnataka-Hyderabad Ranji semifinal in 1998. Karnataka, needing only 157 to win, were down nine wickets. They had put aside their lunch unable to come to terms with an impending defeat. Any captain would’ve chastised the side, but not Dravid who spurred them on with a moving, 10-minute motivational speech.

His then-roomie confides, “Doda Ganesh (the last man in) was so taken by what he heard that he vowed to win the match on his own. And he actually managed to do that.”

Yet he has remained the most understated man in Indian cricket. He’d probably exit as one. As fans, let’s savour the best of him while it lasts.

Ramchandra Guha in The Telegraph [The modern Hazare, July 16, 2011]

No historical analogy can be exact, but still, it may be worth pursuing the question — who is the modern Hazare? Going by Phadke’s account, one might say it was Sachin Tendulkar, who, for much of his career, has had to bear “this strange burden of popularity and responsibility”, to score hundreds upon hundreds to maintain his fame and keep his team afloat. But one can also make a case for Rahul Dravid. For one thing, his style is more akin to Hazare’s, sound and orthodox — coming in at 5 for one, which soon becomes 10 for two — he seeks to patiently rebuild the innings, whereas Tendulkar would seek rather to play some flashing shots and immediately take the initiative away from the opposition.

These past few weeks in the West Indies, Rahul Dravid had indeed been the modern Hazare. As in Australia in 1947, three of India’s finest batsmen — Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir — cried off from the tour. Here, as then, there were only two experienced batsmen left to carry along a bunch of novices. Laxman, like Mankad in 1947, has batted bravely on occasion — but the Hazare of this tour has been Rahul Dravid. That India won the series is owed largely to the magnificent hundred he scored in the second innings of the Test match in Jamaica.

Like Hazare, Dravid is a man of courage and decency, content to play — and live — in the shadows of his more glamorous team-mates. Like Hazare, his contributions to Indian cricket have been colossal, and probably under-appreciated. It is time that one of the present, and very gifted, generation of Indian writers treated his achievements and his character in a subtle work of fiction. I suspect, however, that its ending will see its hero living not with animals in a farm, but among books in a library.