Friday, September 16, 2011

To My Idol Rahul Dravid – A Tribute (Part 3)

Rahul Dravid gets a standing ovation from the crowd after a brilliantly crafted 69 in his final ODI innings
Image Courtesy: Cricinfo
It's exactly 9:45PM in my watch, Dravid batting at 69, realizes he needs to up the ante as only 8 overs to go. He has been trying to go for the big shots after reaching his half century but failing to middle the ball on most occasions, been edging quite a few balls. Clearly trying to get a move on and increase the scoring rate but not getting those boundaries as often as he would have liked. So this time goes on the front foot and tries to clear the mid-on boundary unselfishly as he has always been contributing not for his personal cause but for the team's cause for over 15 years, but misses the ball and it hits his stumps. My heart stopped for a moment. Rahul Dravid walks off the ground after playing his very last innings wearing the blue. He is being congratulated by his team mate Virat Kohli and all the English players for his outstanding contribution in this format of the game - such a nice gesture by the English players, showing their respect for the great man. As he walks off the ground to a standing ovation by the thousands gathered in the ground, silently tears start to stroll down my cheeks. I just couldn't control my emotions. I was witnessing my Idol wearing the Blue jersey for the very last time. He graciously acknowledges the crowd and walks off the ground. What a great end to a stellar innings and a brilliant career. 

I just hope that our bowlers would at least be able to defend a competitive score of 304 and win this match. Dravid deserves a good send-off. He has been humiliated, insulted, disrespected and used in the past. But a great player like Dravid deserves a nice send-off. Hopefully we can finally come together as a unit and win our first match in what has been a dismal tour and end this tour on a high. Hopefully three hours from now, tears would be strolling down my cheeks again and I just hope those tears would be happy tears. (If weather gods permit, that is. I am optimistic, let's hope for the best for Dravid's sake at least).

Rahul Dravid, one of the greatest Cricketers to have ever played the game, an absolute Legend, My Idol, My Inspiration. I will surely miss you not wearing the blue jersey and playing for India again as will millions of your fans and well wishers. Thank You for all the wonderful memories. I will always cherish them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

To My Idol Rahul Dravid – A Tribute (Part 2)

Rahul Dravid opens his account by fending away a short ball.
Image Courtesy: Cricinfo

My Idol Rahul Dravid walks out to bat on his T20I debut which also happens to be his last as I type this. My excitement has reached a whole new level and my happiness has no bounds. I finally see my idol wearing the Blue again after two years.

He looks a bit tentative but has nothing to lose, hence he can bat without any inhibitions and my only wish would be for him to make a rock solid half century which would result in a win for us or a quick fire 30 or a 40 would also make me happy. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind us losing this match if Dravid scores a century. Well, that would be a dream send off, wouldn’t it?

Currently he’s scored 8 of 12 balls, not bad. Dravid lofts one straight down the ground, falls safely. Phew. Meanwhile the other debutant Ajinkya Rahane has just reached his half century. Kudos to him, he might be the next big hope for Indian Cricket.

But the best moment of the day was yet to arrive and it finally did when Dravid smashed 3 humongous sixes in a row of the bowling of Samit Patel. It was the greatest sight in the world, I wish I could’ve been there live in the stadium to watch it but still those 3 sixes by my Idol just made my year.

For the first one, Dravid cleared his front leg to whack the ball high over long-on. It was around quarter past 11PM here and my scream was so loud after the first six, I might have woken up a few neighbors unless they were also watching this absolute spectacle and screaming with me.

And then it got better. The next delivery, Rahul danced down the wicket, he chose the long-on region again, it had enough legs to clear the boundary for another six. My screams got even louder. I was feeling like a teenager all over again.

And then it got even better for the third one. The final delivery of the over culminated when Rahul swept the ball high over the square-leg boundary for a humongous six. The best six of the three and I literally went crazy at this point. My screams were at its loudest and my happiness had no bounds.

My idol again did what he does best, silently contributing to the team unselfishly when it needs the most. Only this time he is going out making a loud thud!

Dravid's Twenty20 international batting career lasted 21 deliveries in 23 minutes scoring 31 runs with a strike rate of 147.61, a truly unforgettable innings.

By this innings Dravid again showed what playing for India really means to him. Even though he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone, still this innings will be a slap on everyone’s faces who doubted his abilities in the shorter formats of the game.

Today has undoubtedly been one of the happiest days of the year for me, if not the happiest. I will cherish each and every moment of my Idol’s farewell ODI series.

Well played Rahul. You will forever be my Idol and my Inspiration. Thank You.

To My Idol Rahul Dravid – A Tribute (Part 1)

Rahul Dravid
Image Courtesy: Cricinfo
Initially when I set out to write this post, it was supposed to be about my thoughts on Rahul in his Farewell T20 and ODI series. I was going to write a tribute to my Idol after the ODI series concluded, but as I started to write this few other thoughts came to mind and I typed them down. So now this post has turned out to be a tribute in its own right. I know anything I write about my Idol as a tribute would fall short in terms of how well I convey my emotions about him or in terms of the vocabulary I have used. Any new adjective I use to describe him would only end up being just that, another adjective. Dravid’s greatness is way beyond any adjective which is used to describe him. And emotionally I wouldn’t be able to do justice because I really can’t express my true emotions about people I love the most. And Rahul Dravid is one such person whom I have idolized and loved since the past 15 years.

I wrote some parts of this post while the T20 match was going on against England and so my thoughts might seem a bit emotionally clouded and repetitive. My feelings varied from Dravid getting dropped from ODI’s to an almost running commentary of my Idol’s only T20I match. So I decided to make this post as a two part tribute, the other part will feature my feelings on the T20 match. But it is still a very honest and sincere attempt at expressing my love and support for my inspiration, The Wall.

At 38, my Idol Rahul Dravid is making his T20I debut, 15 years after he made his International debut which I vividly remember. He has already announced his retirement from the ODI’s and T20s so this match will be his first and his last ever T20I followed by his farewell ODI series.

This is a very unique statistic for Rahul; he announced his retirement even before he made his debut in the T20 format. Definitely a future trivia question for all Cricket quiz enthusiasts there. I will cherish each and every moment of my Idol’s farewell series. I thought I would never get to see Rahul play another ODI again, let alone a T20 match but I’m lucky enough to see that day come true and nothing makes me happier.

When Dravid was dropped from the ODI’s after an ordinary series against the Aussies in 2007, I was devastated. I thought his ODI career was pretty much over, he might never get a chance to play another ODI again. But two years later in 2009, my hopes were re-kindled when he was picked for the Compaq Cup and the Champions Trophy which was to be held in South Africa. Mainly due to the poor showing of the youngsters in the team who were unable to play the short ball on bouncy wickets outside the sub-continent. So due to the technique or the lack of it from the “youngsters” in the team, they had to summon the old guard again. So Rahul Dravid comes to the rescue. In spite of more than a decent batting performance where his scores read 14, 47, 39, 76 and 4 in his five innings and he was also called to open in the Compaq Cup final. Despite his good showing in bowler-friendly South African tracks he was again axed from the team unceremoniously. Because the next series was going to be held at home against the Aussies and the youngsters in the team were only flat-track bullies, so now Dravid’s services were no longer needed in the shorter format of the game.

Dravid was used and dropped from the team as if he was a tea bag thrown into a dustbin after every ounce of juice has been sucked from it. You cannot disrespect a player of Dravid’s caliber in that way. The manner in which he was dropped was downright disgusting and insulting. But Dravid – the Gentleman that he is never complained about it, just went about doing his work with same commitment and determination. His resolve is so strong that can never be broken with these petty insults.

As the countdown to the World Cup in 2011 kept getting closer, I kept losing hope of seeing my Idol wearing the Blue again one final time and lift the prestigious World Cup. As days went by, I finally realized that is never going to happen and Dravid will not be part of the One Day setup to play in the World Cup. I was obviously shattered but somehow made my peace with that. Even though we eventually won the World Cup after 28 long years, my happiness was bit muted because Dravid was not a part of it.

And now its déjà vu all over again, toured England as the No.1 Test team and got massacred by the English. The final score line read a humiliating 4-0 whitewash. This time it was not just because of the inability of our Batsmen to handle the short-pitched deliveries on bouncy wickets, it was also due to our toothless and one-dimensional bowling attack, dismal fielding and a truck load of injuries. It was a collective team failure. But one man stood out of the mediocrity and shone like a beacon, as always. The monumental effort by Dravid in the series, his sheer super human concentration, his courage, his determination, his commitment, his will power, his patience… I can go on and on but his performance just can’t be described in words. We were all so privileged to witness one of the greatest Test comebacks ever by a batsman. Dravid kept on fighting till the very end as others in the team disgraced themselves.

So it had to take such a super human performance by Dravid to make the dumb selectors recall him for the 5-match ODI series and the lone T20 match. But this time Dravid has had enough, he was not going to let them use him again at their will. So he immediately announced his retirement from the shorter formats of the game after this series on the same day he was recalled. Even though initially I was shocked but realized it was indeed the right decision as Dravid felt it was the right time to bow out from the shorter formats of the game on his own terms with his head held high.