As the Mumbai Indians took on the Rajasthan Royals in the finals of the Champions League T20 last night, the “useless” tournament finally touched a chord in everyone’s heart and brought out a plethora of emotions in the Indian cricket fans.
It wasn’t because there were two Indian franchises fighting it out for T20 supremacy. It was neither because it was an outstanding game of cricket nor because it upheld the exciting gen-next of Indian cricket, but for the simple fact that it was the last time India witnessed two of its biggest legends lock horns against each other.
While most of the views in the social media tended to side with the true gentleman, a few, including yours truly, carried on the march in favour of the Little Master.
So, Rahul Dravid vs Sachin Tendulkar – who really is better?
The debate is as “useless” as the Champions League itself but we Indians love numbers and comparisons because that’s how we are brought up since childhood. In school, one is always compared to the first boy/girl and judged on his/her score sheet, while in college, the grades are replaced by the salary packages obtained during campussing.
However, when it comes to Tendulkar and Dravid, let’s leave the stats aside because if only numbers were considered, no one, absolutely no one would come even within light years of Sachin Tendulkar. And that’s fair because cricket goes beyond the numbers and one shouldn’t be judged only on what the scoreboard says.
Before proceeding any further, let me make it clear – I am Tendulkar fan, sorry, devotee is the more appropriate term. However, make no mistake, I have the utmost respect for Dravid and rate him as the second best batsman that India has ever produced.
Both batsmen reached the zenith of cricketing achievements but Sachin Tendulkar, in my books, will always be more than just a batsman who broke records at his own whims and fancies.
Sachin Tendulkar has never been a cricketer – he has always been a beacon of hope and a way out of the mediocrity and hopelessness that surrounded the entire country during the depressing 90s. One fine day in 1989, he walked onto the cricket field, took on the mantle of fulfilling our dreams on his shoulders and right from his teenage days, became the Man the entire India wanted to be.
The EPL and “cricket-ain’t-cool” generation might disagree, but Sachin Tendulkar made us feel special because during the era of baggy trousers and oversized T-shirts, he was the only symbol of style and “coolness”.
Sachin Tendulkar made us happy. The punch off the back foot through cover and point cheered us up after a terrible exam, the ground-scorching straight drive wiped off the pain of a heart-crushing breakup and the raising of the bat after removing his helmet applied the healing touch to the nation that was scarred with serious socio-economic issues.
When in full flow, Tendulkar is like an extravagant composition – intricate, soulful, melodious and easy on the eye. He’s a genius and he creates magic with his willow. He explores new heights, conquers uncharted territories and the nation celebrated at his success and sighed at his walk backs after a failure.
But over the years, just like his batting, Tendulkar has made success look “easy” and it is that ease that has hurt his credibility and for some of us he became a constant reminder of our own failures.
How can things be so easy for someone? How can someone achieve so much in one lifetime?
Tendulkar reminds us of the boy who came first in our class – the one who got every answer correct and notched up astronomical grades in every exam to belittle our not-so-great percentages.
Tendulkar reminds us of the “dude” in college, who stole our “first love” just because he could pull off a few fancy dance steps and could speak better English than us with an accent.
Tendulkar reminds us of the maverick we all wanted to be, but couldn’t because none of us were endowed with the gifts that he possess.
That’s where, over the years, the cynicism towards Tendulkar had kicked in and we started to identify more with the symbol of hard work, Rahul Dravid.
Rahul Dravid put forward a meticulous method of achieving greatness. He presented the youth with an industrious and a hardworking approach that demanded putting in hours and hours of dogged determination and dedication.
His willingness to work on his weaknesses with extreme patience and his unwavering grit showed that if one really wants to improve, they can, even if they are not showered with limitless talent. Dravid provided with an example of a common man who reached the pinnacles of success through resolve and perseverance – someone who fought everyday to prove his worth, only to be overshadowed by a super-talented genius.
His toil was the perfect answer to Tendulkar’s flamboyance – that’s why the hardworking middle class of India roots for Dravid, because they find hope in his achievements and somewhere they think that his path is the one that might lead us to glory as well.
However, something that the Indian cricket loving public never realized that both Dravid and Tendulkar were assigned different jobs while playing for the Indian cricket team, especially in the Tests.
Tendulkar played the role of the aggressor and was expected to score the big runs to hand the team the initiative, while Dravid was always there to make sure that India wouldn’t lose. If Tendulkar was the weapon for destroying the opposition, Dravid was the shield that absorbed the shocks.
And they both played their roles to perfection.
The best example of these two essaying their role perfectly was during the memorable Test victory at Headingley against England in 2002. Dravid, along with Sanjay Bangar, dug in the heels and fended off the dangerous trio of Hoggard, Caddick and Flintoff with a crafty 148. Then Tendulkar blasted a masterful 193 along with Sourav Ganguly in the fading Yorkshire light.
Whose innings was better?
For some it was Dravid’s meticulousness, for the rest it was Tendulkar’s belligerence. But then again, such is the Indian psychology. We love hoisting our personal favourites by pulling down and mocking others.
And that’s exactly what happened during the Champions League T20 finals. While empathising with the craftsman, a few of us became scornful towards the artist who has relentlessly served the nation with his mastery and has piled up an unassailable mountain of runs. Make no mistake, every single of those runs were added to the teams he played for and not to some secret Swiss bank account of his own.
Neither Dravid nor Tendulkar scored many in this tournament, but their presence is what mattered. If Rahul Dravid inspired a scandal-hit Royals to put on a grand show, a simple hashtag of #thistimefor10dulkar was enough for the Mumbai Indians to lift the trophy.
And it wasn’t the first time, Team India did it in 2011 for their Sachin Paaji .
Both have scaled great heights in the game, and have done it consistently to earn the right of being called greats. But the comparisons should stop there and here’s why.
When comparing both, people often say that Dravid was always there when India needed him. True to the core, but what they forget is that when Tendulkar is there, there’s never a need because till that five feet someone is out there, hope is there.
And like it or not, the biggest difference between Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid is that we ‘needed’ Dravid to come good but we always ‘wanted’ Tendulkar to excel.
Yes, Tendulkar didn’t do the “noble” thing of retiring on a high and has hung around for a bit too long. Perhaps he has been selfish and perhaps his records haven’t won India anything, but try reasoning all that with a failed engineer, who gave up his handsome salary package and a comfortable job because it didn’t allow him to watch Tendulkar bat.
Dravid was and will always be for the sane-minded but for maniacs like those its #Alwaysfor10dulkar because with Him, reasons just don’t figure into it.