There’s a popular saying that one’s heard time and again: Behind every successful man, there is a woman. Heard that before?
Well, in the context of Indian cricket, it appears that the following may not be exactly incorrect: “Behind every talented up and coming Indian cricketer, there’s the Wall, Rahul Dravid.”
On the crease, he was hard to dislodge. There’s sufficient evidence in the following record: he’s the only batsman, thus far, to have faced 31258 deliveries in Test cricket, the sport’s greatest format. And now, off the pitch, even post retirement, having last wielded a bat nine years before, Dravid’s presence is hard to ignore.
If you come to think about it, then you’ll see that nearly half of the current lot in Indian cricket’s senior men’s team has talent mentored personally by Dravid. Think of KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and others.
And if you see the team they’re calling a second-string team, currently down in Sri Lanka, then all playing eleven swear by coach Rahul Dravid.
The fact that Dravid offers an extension of his personality into those he coaches with ephemeral conduct isn’t difficult to gauge.
Krunal Pandya, just the other day, was found hugging his Sri Lankan opponents. So far, there’s not been a single ill word exchanged with the lot that’s struggling, a Sri Lankan team desperately trying to stand on its feet.
Moreover, it didn’t take long for Deepak Chahar to express the reason behind his greatest batting success as on July 20, 2021: “Rahul Dravid sir motivated me and told me to go out there and express myself with confidence.”
Never before has one seen the accomplished medium pacer score 69 off 82 deliveries in one-dayers. That the effort stemmed from a Rahul Dravid master-class, the ‘Wall’ promoting Chahar up the order made the result even more special and a victory one to cherish; now that Chahar plays in the future under Kohli’s captaincy, he’ll tell the great batsman who encouraged him to find the batsman within.
All of that said, if you think that this is Rahul Dravid being at his mentoring best, then you are wrong.
Over a decade back in time, the Karnataka-batsman represented Scotland in league games, only so the team’s morale could be improved and the unit could perform like a winning squad.
When Kevin Pietersen wrote him a detailed message explaining how difficult he as finding to come to terms with spin, especially with the spinners in sub-continental conditions, ‘The Wall’ responded back affirmatively with a call to action.
To this day, Pietersen hails Dravid’s support. The likes of Sanju Samson and Ajinkya Rahane, during their most explosive days in the IPL for the much-loved Rajasthan Royals state they owe their game’s improvement in the format to the man Dravid himself.
Not someone who offered merely blank words of advice minus any self-execution on his part, Dravid showed the way by leading by an example, scoring 6 fifties including the days of his captaincy (2012, 2013 combined) and conjuring nearly 900 runs in those years.
It was around Dravid’s giving and responsible presence that an underperforming IPL franchise that one didn’t take all that seriously rise into becoming a consistent force that even reached the finals of the 2013-held Champion’s Twenty20.
Give a man a speck of dust and he can turn into gold.
Where most cricketers of his age are comfortably seated inside the air-conditioned commentary box and many are still endorsing new-age fantasy gaming apps and other stuff, Dravid is out there on the cricketing turf sweating it out with youngsters half his age.
Always a David who’s gone on to defy the Goliaths, whether for India during its 2003 Australia tour or being the resilient, immovable object on the pitch who went as far as delaying the inevitable (during 2011 tour to England), by firing 3 centuries when even Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Raina, Gambhir made none, Dravid’s been India’s all-season man.
A force of nature that refreshes stale mindsets about the virtue called patience, about doing one’s job with duty and a sense of purpose, reminding one about being cool amid duress.
Back in 2004, when a key member of India’s staunchest opponent in Pakistan, Younis Khan found himself struggling during the Champion’s Trophy, he phoned Dravid, both of them being in the same English hotel, seeking advice.
Soon has Khan kept the phone down, he heard the doorbell ring in his hotel room. The Wall had answered the call of duty; rather this was going beyond the call of duty to help a Pakistani.
On-field bitter rivalries might be for those who cannot think of one other as being anything other than harsh enemies, for Dravid though, Younis Khan was a colleague, a combatant, not someone to turn away from. This is when Dravid was several years his senior.
Such is the Wall that even when he said (on March 9, 2012, addressing a packed hall in Bangalore) during his retirement speech, “I’ve failed at times, but I have never stopped trying, this is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.” He actually knew that he wasn’t leaving and that for anything- a challenge, a new opportunity to help someone find himself in the great game, he would always be around.
That is why we must respect Dravid with all our heart and with endless pride.
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