Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The 3 times I have seen Rahul Dravid

This topic came to my mind as my hero Rahul Dravid just announced his retirement from Test cricket and First class cricket. Plenty of wonderfully written tributes have already been poured on him by Harsha Bhogle, Mukul Kesavan, Jason Gillespie, Sidharth Vaidhyanathan, Sambit Bal, Samir Chopra and most insightful of all by his wife Vijeetha. I am not going to write anything on those lines. But I like to share my observations when I had personally seen him 3 times in Bangalore.

1. St. Joseph College in 2002
I was going for CAT coaching classes from TIME at his alma mater St. Joseph College. He was being taken for an interview with NDTV at the college ground by the journalist. It didn't strike to me at first. But another person who came for the classes recognized. He couldn't hold back and immediately shouted Rahul, Rahul. Rahul immediately turned back, he waved and said Hi, Rahul too waved back at him respectfully. This gesture of responding to every fan showed how humble and normal he was. He was already a celebrity by then. A cursory glance at him revealed what a smart and handsome man he was. His maroon check shirt with Black formal trouser made him look elegant the man he was.

2. India vs Australia 1st Test in 2004
Those were the times Rahul Dravid was in Sublime form and India's fortunes depended heavily on him. Australia had come to India to conquer the final frontier that couldn't for 35 years. Bangalore, though his home ground isn't a very happy hunting ground for him. I went to watch the match on stadium on day 4 and 5 with India chasing an improbable target in 4th innings. So though the match was all but lost, it was an opportunity to feel how it is to watch a match at the stadium. What happens in the middle is seen much better in the stadium but what happens before and after the match is to be seen only at stadium.
I had come early at 6.30 on day 5, Dravid was the last recognized batsmen left. He was practicing at nets to some net bowler. The seriousness with which he faced the bowler left me deeply impressed about the man. He may do well in an innings or not, but it is the effort and preparation that he puts in is what I admire him the most. He didn't do much in that innings, just scored a 60, hit Shane Warne for back to back boundaries. India lost the match heavily and eventually the series. It is the last series India lost a home (8 years ago).

3. India vs Australia 2nd Test in 2010
6 years hence the fortunes have reversed, Rahul Dravid was past his best, India were the best ranked Test side. India didn't depend much on him. India had just pulled off a thriller in the 1st Test at Mohali thanks to VVS Laxman. He was just holding on to his place due to his records and statistics and not his form and future potential. He had certain weakness of poking outside off-stump off left arm seamers bowling around the wicket.
I went to stadium on day 1 and 2, it was boring as Australia batted 1st and put up a big score. I came to stadium early on 2nd day. Got to see Rahul Dravid practicing with Jaydev Unadkat bowling at the other end. No matter what efforts he put, he looked uncomfortable and got beaten a couple of times. His fortunes didn't change in the middle either, he nicked Mitchell Johnson to the wicket keeper. Here is the photo I had captured moment before he poked at it.
Since then he might have had a brilliant series in England or been the architect of the last Indian overseas win at West Indies. Those were exceptions than rule, he was clearly past his prime and should have duly retired. Overall, I am happy for the person that he is and what he has achieved in India cricket. Still I am now happy that he has retired too. Hopes he comes back to Indian cricket and serves as an administrator to change the way things function.