Saturday, March 10, 2012

Those 10 Bricks in the Wall!!!


I thought of writing based on stats. But that would be too boring. I thought of writing a poetic tribute. But my articulation is as bad as choice of political parties in India. Even these two combined, I couldn’t have said anything better than what has already been said. Hence I decided to write it based on something which gives me pleasure – revisiting those memories. Here are some of my strongest memories of the man – Rahul Dravid. They may not be the most typical memories but they have surely been instrumental in shaping his image in my mind.
10. Match – India V South Africa, Durban, 1997, Situation – India chasing a mammoth target against pace attack which boasts of a name called Alan Donald.
Donald rushes in, bowls well over 90+ mph, and stares at the batsman as if he wants to eat him alive. He spits venom - ball after ball. He has troubled Indian batsmen in the test series before the ODI series. He has exposed chinks in Sachin’s batting by rattling the timber behind him more than once. In the final of this ODI series, he is bowling with fire - to defend 252 in 40 overs. It’s overcast. Opposition has already lost one of its openers and taking out other opener would mean game, set and match. The other opener has a newcomer for the company who is known more for blocking the ball than scoring at more than run a ball. What does this newcomer do to Donald? He plays a lofted on drive, no slog, just an on drive. It sails. It sails into the crowd. Donald sledges. Next ball is flicked for four. Donald keeps sledging. The newcomer doesn’t give a damn to what Donald has to say. He just keeps scoring and gives us hope. Maybe this was the announcement. Ladies and gentlemen, Rahul Dravid has arrived. The man could surely block the ball. Now we know he can blast it too. More importantly, he can stand tall to the fire which comes out of bowler’s hand and mouth. He can just keep hitting them with class.
9. Match – India V South Africa, Durban, 1997, Situation – Rahul Dravid has been adjudged man of the match.
He is talking during the post match presentation. He doesn’t feel happy at all - maybe just a bit of smile but that too looks forced. But he looks disheartened. Disheartened after proving, for the first time, that he can play ODI cricket? Why? Well, because we didn’t win the match. We lost it, even after his heroics. This is announcement number two for the night. The man gives a damn to what he does, all that matters is what the team does. I am happy. After all, I had seen people clinging to a place in the side so that they could break some record; I had seen people throwing away match in clandestine manner so that they could score a hundred. Now try comparing that jump in the air, punching the fists, hurling expletives in the air and getting busy in celebrations of completing a hundred instead of taking those extra runs. Try comparing Virat’s century-celebrations at Adelaide when India completed another round of 4-0 defeat with Rahul’s face when we lost that final. Just try. I cannot.
8. Match – India V Pakistan in Old Trafford, WC 1999. Situation – It’s an India- Pak Match.
It’s a must win match for us. Any match against Pakistan has always been a must win match. Pakistan has Akram, Waqar, Akhtar, Rajjaq, Saqlain, Azhar Mamood, and Afridi. It’s their bowling line up. India has Sachin. It’s their batting line up. The match is in England. It’s windy. It’s little overcast. The ball is swinging. When it happens, S. Ramesh prefers sitting in the pavilion. In comes Dravid – faces his first ball.  It’s outside off. It swung late. It bounced off good length. What happens next? The cover fielder fetches it from the boundary line. Do I need to worry at all? I think. “Dravid is class” I say. “No. He is a class apart” my dad says with a wink and smile. Four years back he had told me that Dravid wasn’t made for ODI cricket. We had a huge argument back then.
7. Match – India V Australia in Mumbai, 1st test, 2001. Situation – India two down and under pressure. 
Dravid pulls. Michael Slater claims a catch. Dravid stands his ground. Slater doesn’t like it. He responds as if he is feeling that his integrity is not only being shamelessly doubted but its brutally dismissed as well. Before arguing fighting with umpire Venkat, he goes all out against Dravid. He goes on a rampage. It’s not easy to keep one’s composure against such behavior. If not for the sake of Newton’s third law, you are bound to respond in the heat of the moment so that you are not accused of being timid. But if you look at it from a cooler head, responding to such act of profanity would qualify for stupidity. Dravid just stands his ground, shakes his head and responds with a loud and clear NO to Slater. When I saw it then, I thought what a waste? He should have given it all back to Slater. Few years later after watching the video of that incident, I thought what a man - takes a lot to not lose one’s patience in such a case. Michael Slater must consider himself extremely lucky. Few years later, a Virat Kohli or Gautam Gambir would have given it all back to him – eye for an eye, word for a word and middle finger for a middle finger. Few years earlier, Javed Miandad would have hit him with his bat and jumped over Slater’s body, thrice.     
6. Match – India V Australia, 3rd Test, Chennai, 2001, Situation – Fresh from his historic 180 in Eden, he has joined Sachin to take India into the first innings lead.
India is 4 down and has a fragile tail. One more wicket and first innings lead could be minimal. But that one more wicket came 387 runs late in Eden. It’s down to Sachin and Dravid to make sure that one more wicket doesn’t come easy to Australians. Jason Gillespie bowls a full length ball. It’s outside off stump. Dravid doesn’t let it go. He doesn’t play a cover or square drive. He doesn’t dead-blocks it either. He lifts it over mid on. SIX. Yes. Dravid hits a SIX, in a test match. The shot is almost action replay of the six he hit against Donald in Durban. If 180 in Eden turned it around for India, this SIX turned around the way I saw Dravid as a test batsman. He could play aggressively in tests too. What followed next was 5-6 years of golden run for him. That run didn’t lack any gold for the team as well.
5. Match – India V Australia, 2nd test, Adelaide, 2003, Situation  – With miniscule first innings lead, match may well end as a boring draw.
Indians took 3 Australian wickets for almost nothing but Damien Martin and Steve Waugh are taking Australia to a safe position. They just don’t look like getting out. Ganguly tries his man with the golden arm. He asks Sachin to bowl his leg break/off break/medium pace/god knows what. Sachin bowls leg spin. It spins away. Martin plays a cut shot with immense ferocity. Everyone is looking at the point boundary. But the ball isn’t there. Where is it? It’s in Dravid’s hand, the left one. He plucks it out of air. Martin’s shot is almost past him but he stretches his hand faster than the tracer bullet, catches it and off goes Martin. The match turns. Rest is history. Most of us often talk about how Sachin’s golden arm broke that crucial partnership. But unlike we forget Dravid’s 180 which won us in Eden with Laxman’s 281, unlike we forget his 145 in Taunton in the shades of Ganguly’s 183, unlike we forget India’s record of 17 successive successful chases under his captaincy because Ganguly-Guru Greg made more news, his catch remains tattooed in our memories. For once, Tendulkar’s golden arm is forgotten.
4. Match – India V Pakistan, 1st test, Multan, 2004, Situation – India, on the back of Sehwag’s triple hundred, trying to build a gigantic first innings total.
Sachin and Yuvraj are batting during the last session of the first test. We all expect Sachin, batting in 190s, to get his double ton ASAP so that captain can declare. Sachin plays out next couple of overs – without showing any real urgency. Yuvraj gets out. While he is walking back, Sachin starts to follow him. We all get shock of our lives. Captain Rahul Dravid has declared. Sachin Tendulkar, about to score his second double hundred in as many tests, remains not out on 194. Yes, 194. Personal milestones - be damned. The media will turn vampire – who cares. We can have a decent crack at the Pakistani batsmen – lets declare NOW. This is the message conveyed by the captain. Media does turn into a vampire. Dravid is usnperturbed. Few days later, he gets out while playing a reverese sweep. He does that in a test match. He does that when he is batting on 270–  30 short of what would be only second triple by an Indian in the series, in the year, in the decade, in the history. But team needs quick runs, he has just tailenders for company and he succumbs to the cause. We all talk about Sachin’s unbeaten 194 in that series. We all talk about Sehwag’s triple hundred and how he completed it with a six. We often talk about India’s historic win by 2-1 in that series. But how many times do we talk about Dravid’s 270. He came to bat when India lost Sehwag on the very first ball of the innings. And Dravid scored almost half of India’s matchwinning total.
3. Match – RCB V RR, IPL 2009, Capetown, Situation – Last years second last team RCB faces defending champions. 
Last year RCB was the second most ridiculed team after KKR. They were seen as fiat premiere padmini trying to race in F1. Situation isn’t any different from last year. However, conditions are. The tournament is being played during an off-season in South Africa. Unlike typical IPL season weather in India, it’s cold in South Africa. Unlike sleeping beauties in India, pitches have help for bowlers. And on that night, it was overcast.  Batting was difficult, extremely difficult. Even Mascarenhas was proving to be unplayable. Out of 21 who went out to bat, only 5 crossed double figures. Out of those 5, 3 scored 11. Second best score was 32. But the best score of the match was 66. It was Rahul Dravid’s. When others looked like walking on fire, Dravid looked like walking in his garden. When he is declare to be the man of the match and asked about the conditions, he says with a smile “Conditions like these give batsmen like me a chance”. Conditions were such that only he stood a chance. Ball made everyone else dance.
2. Match – India V England, only t20, England, 2011, Situation – Dravid makes his t20 debut in his last t20 match. 
Well, well, well. Laxman’s Sydney innings in 1999-2000 tour forced selectors to include him in the ODI side for the rest of the tour. Based on form and future plans, Laxman was a complete fit into the scheme of things. Twelve years later, lightening strikes again. Based on Dravid’s stupendous form, selectors decide to retain him for limited overs games. He makes his debut in the one-off T20 game against England. He has already declared to retire from limited overs cricket after his selection is made. So Dravid makes a unique record – to retire in his debut game.  We have all seen in IPLs that he can bat and bat well in t20. But club cricket is one thing. International cricket is another. Like all debutants, he is scratchy to start. So instead of his form, he is carrying his strike rate of tests in this match, messages a friend. Dravid hears. He hits a Six. He does it again. And an act which forces entire nation to pinch itself, he hits his third consecutive six. Yes, three sixes in a row by Dravid. Soon he gets out. You walk in as a debutant. You walk out as a retiree. An international career lies between these two events. Amol Majumdar could never make the first event happen. The second event may never happen for Sachin. But for Dravid, both the events happned in the same match of his t20 career for India. And by the way, he is a proud owner of a unique record – 3 consecutive sixes per match in his international t20 career. I am not sure he, like everytime, he has anyone else to share the fame in this case.
1. Matches – 164 tests, 13,288 runs, 344 ODIs, 10889 runs, Situation – actually it’s an occasion.
I get message from a friend, “Its happening, THIS Friday”. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Mayan prophecy. So we all are going to die, I think. I probe further and he informs about the press conference. Dravid declares it today. As the man says himself, any sooner or later wouldn’t have been better. This was the time. Considering his form in England, we needed him in Australia. One can argue against it but that would just be showing prudence in hindhsight – the easiest thing to do. Playing another series and retiring in front of the home crowd wouldn’t have been right as per him. So he does it. I liked the way he came in formal attire for this formal occasion. I liked reading his press conference statement. I liked the way he managed it all – with minimum fuss. I like all but one thing about his retirement – the feeling that he won’t be around.
To be honest, none of us have been 100%, 24X7 fans of his. We liked him when he hit those runs in Eden, Adelaide, Leeds, Lords, Napier, Oval, Mohali, Barbados, Jamaica and many other places. We booed him when he made kept finding the fielders in the early part of his career, when India lost in WC07 under his captaincy, when he scored those 60+ balls boring 12 in Oval2007 or when he kept getting bowled in the recent series. But one thing was sure – we could rely upon him to put up a fight. He wasn’t the most explosive batsmen. But he was one of the most pleasing-to-the-eyes batsmen. We may soon find out that he was the last dinosaur - belonged to the almost-extinct breed of proper test batsmen.  
His batting often put us to sleep. But we knew that whenever we were going to wake up, he would still be batting. 

1 comment:

Spiff said...

I still think the 95 on debut at lords was the most prescient..played better than dada..looked technically solid and let Dada take the headlines...
overall a good kid...

Should have worked on his fitness though in late nineties and earlier oughts