Friday, 9 March 2012

Celebrating Dravid

With over fifty tributes bookmarked, hundreds of tweets favourited and another hundred statuses liked, March 9th, 2012, has brought in enough 'Dravid fodder and scoop' for all Dravid fanatics like me. The only remorse being, its not just another ton or a milestone of his, that all of them are celebrating; its his swan song that the fans and fellow team mates are writing about.

For me, a cricket loather, it all started with a heated discussion between my uncle and dad,that I was privy to. It was Rahul Dravid's ODI debut. While my uncle felt he was just another youngster making his foray into the international circuit, my dad, having followed Dravid's domestic career, knew he would go a long way. The discussion boiled down to a bet, where one felt his career won't last for more than five years and the other was certain that his presence in the team wouldn't be questioned for the next ten years. Thus began my fanfare towards the game and the man.

There were times when I would  feel a void if I didn't see the Indian team in action, Dravid to be precise. His milestones brought more mirth than the team victory. Eventually I realised, with those lofty cover drives and orthodox forward defenses, keeping with the gloves and fielding at the slips or forward short leg; I had begun to romance the game. Over the years like any star struck teenager and an ardent fan, I collected numerous SportsStar issues, newspaper articles featuring him and his heroics, woke up at wee hours (during tours abroad) midst exams, not to study, but to watch him play. Not to forget the failed attempts to meet him and let him know about my fanfare.

And fourteen years later,as luck would have it, I was being interviewed for my first ever job, by the man himself, Rahul Dravid. Now how many of them can brag about being chosen by their idol for a job they always wanted to a part of? Well, I proudly can. I knew Dravid was a dedicated craftsman, but what I didn't know was that he does carry his dedication towards his work, off the field too. During the 20 minute interview, where he gauged my cricketing know-how and team fanaticism, he did get constant phone calls. While anyone in his place would have attended the calls, Dravid simply chose to concentrate on the task in hand and choose an able candidate for the job.

My first job appointment

After being chosen by him, to tour with the team for the Champions League in South Africa, I got a chance to know him from close quarters for the next one month. Apart from getting to know him professionally, Dravid, the person, continued to entice me. One of the first in the team to hit the nets and gym, and the last one to leave; unwavering concentration and grit  in place. With age was catching up, he worked doubly hard and didn't even miss the optional practice sessions. I am yet to come across a person more dedicated to his craft. The well read person that he is, a dash of humour and sarcasm always accompanied his talks, albeit in a healthy way. I remember him ruing about how the WiFi in the hotel we were staying at, had gotten slow overnight and he asked Robin Uthappa whether everyone in the team was logged onto Skype, chatting with families and friends, for the WiFi to have gone bust.

At a Team Dinner outing.
But one incident that distinctly stands out in my memory, is the parting shot that Dravid gave me. As a mark of souvenir, he gave away the jersey, he wore during the match he had just played that evening. Quite an unexpected gesture, since I hadn't asked for it. Being an ardent fan of his, he knew how much it meant to me.
Most valued possession- Dravid jersey.

All this just seems so recent, I now find it tough to accept that an illustrious career has come to an end. Team India's go-to man, won't come out to bat at no.3 now, nor will he field at the slips. After sixteen glorious years of serving the game, Dravid has left too big a void to fill.
And my dad, having won the above bet, is optimistic about a Dravid comeback, when he sees the Indian middle order in doldrums. As a fan of the game, I can only wish the team does well, with or without Dravid.