Friday, March 9, 2012

My Idol Rahul Dravid Retires - A Nostalgic Tribute

"I leave with sadness but also with pride"
Image Source: Rediff.Com
This will be extremely difficult for me to write, my mind is completely blank and I absolutely have no idea what to say. I feel numb and emotionless. I didn’t even cry when I heard him say those words, I didn’t believe it then and many hours later I still can't believe it. I am still in denial. It still hasn’t hit me yet; maybe I need a lot more time to finally accept the fact that I will no longer be seeing my Idol and my Inspiration from the past 16 years on a cricket pitch wearing the white jersey to represent India again. Yes, my Idol Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from International Cricket today.

I feel devastated. Even though I was expecting it for sometime now, knowing Dravid for all these years I knew he wouldn’t just hang up his boots after just one bad series. I knew he will take his time and contemplate on his future and he will go out on his own terms before someone else asks him to. And he did just that.

I don’t feel any emotion right now as I type this. I don’t know whether I am sad or confused, I just feel weird. My emotions have clouded me once again. Rahul Dravid does that to me all the time. But I shall try to recover and try to put some meaningful words to my thoughts on a precious day like today, instead of rambling something meaningless.



My first image of Dravid was in 1996 when I saw a photo of him in a newspaper. This was the day he made his Test debut against England and went on to score a memorable 95 in his debut Test. It was heartbreaking he didn’t get his 100 on debut but those 95 runs were enough for me to become a fan of Dravid. And I have idolized him ever since. I still remember the exact moment when Dravid scored his maiden Test and ODI centuries against South Africa and Pakistan respectively. 

I became nostalgic for a while remembering all the numerous fights I used to have in school with anyone who used to say a word against Dravid. In 1998, Dravid was dropped from the ODI team citing he was not suited to play the shorter format of the game. He was ridiculed and made fun of for his supposedly slow batting. He still had a strike rate in the higher 60’s at that time which was not that bad, so I had no idea what those fools were talking about. Most part of my High School life consisted of defending Dravid and his prowess in any format of the game. Sometimes those healthy discussions about whether Dravid should be a part of the ODI side or not used to turn violent and we almost used to end up giving physical blows to each other and most of whom were my closest friends back then. Our class consisted of 53 students in my 8th Standard and I was the only true blue Dravid fanatic. All the 52 others were Sachin fanatics of course. That year Sachin was having the best year of his career and Dravid was made to sit out of most ODI’s and played only Tests. I was clearly outnumbered but still fought hard quite literally to defend my Idol. 

The following year, Dravid made a stunning return to the ODI’s by scoring a century against New Zealand to earn back the place in the Indian ODI side and also went on to become the highest scorer in the 1999 World Cup, shutting each and every critics’ mouth over his prowess in the 50-Over format. And in my class, no one even dared to say a word against Dravid after that. All my friends even started calling me Rahul Dravid, the name kind of became a code word to call me out of an examination hall, in particular. I still remember back in 1999, my friends shouting from outside the exam hall in frustration, “Hey, Rahul Dravid come out man, how much longer are you gonna write?.” I also believed in the notion - “slow and steady wins the race”. Just like my Idol.

Rahul, ever the team man always sacrificed his personal gains for his team. He kept wickets for 4 years so that we could include an extra batsman in the side. Just because he kept wickets and also played the role of a No.6 Batsman, it gave numerous chances to up and coming young Cricketers like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif to cement their place in the Indian team. Also this move of Dravid keeping wickets was instrumental in India reaching the finals of the World Cup in 2003.

When he was called to open the batting in some extremely tough batting conditions, Dravid has always put his hand up for the team and withered the storm. He has batted in each and every position conceivable. I was really upset when he was demoted down the order in that historic Kolkata Test in 2001 where Laxman was the No.3 batsman. Dravid came in at No.6 and joined Laxman with India following on and staring at a huge innings defeat. Well, I guess I need not mention what happened later as that glorious partnership between Dravid and Laxman has been and will always be etched in every Indian’s minds and hearts forever.

In 2002, another outstanding innings came from Dravid in the Headingley Test against England. Dravid’s stunning 148 on a seamer’s deck was the benchmark for everything that followed, not just the result of that particular match, but also the fortunes of the Indian team’s performance overseas for many years that followed. It was also the first time the three stalwarts of the Indian team, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid scored centuries in a single innings. Maybe Dravid’s century was overshadowed by the centuries of the other two greats but if it wasn’t for Rahul's magnificent defiance in the initial stages of the innings on a bowler friendly track, it would have been almost impossible for the famed Indian middle order to showcase their mastery. Dravid was the reason we were able to win that match by an innings. He was aptly named the Man of the Match, deservedly so.
The man who never stopped trying
Image Source: Rediff.Com.
I remember Dravid shedding a tear or two when he was speaking to Harsha Bhogle after another historic victory against Australia in Adelaide in 2003 where Dravid was once again in a stunning 300+ run partnership with Laxman. This victory gave India their first Test win on Australian soil in 23 years. That was the very first time I saw my Idol showcase any emotion on or off a cricket pitch, at least in front of the camera. It was a really precious moment which I can never forget, his voice choking a bit while expressing what that victory really meant to him and the team.

I will also cherish all the arguments and discussions I used to have in many Cricket forums on Orkut and elsewhere. I know Sachin’s fans were still miffed about Dravid declaring that innings in Multan in 2004 when Sachin was batting on 194. Dravid was very clear as a captain that team’s victory is more important than a player's personal milestones, even if that player was Sachin Tendulkar. I have argued with many Sachin fanatics defending Dravid’s decision of declaring that innings although most of those arguments turned futile.

Dravid again proved why he is the team man when he scored his career high score of 270 in Rawalpindi against Pakistan in 2004. More importantly, I remember the way he got out. India had already got enough runs on the board to declare the innings and bowl Pakistan out, twice. But Rahul Dravid, a self-less team man, realized his team needed some more quick runs, so he went after the Pakistani bowling attack and got bowled while attempting to play a reverse-sweep when he was on 270. He had a great chance of scoring a Triple Hundred which may have been once in a lifetime opportunity but Dravid, never played for personal milestones. His mammoth effort gave India their first ever Test series win in Pakistan.

Critics say his Captaincy was a failure, maybe the statistics show that his captaincy stint from November 2005 until September 2007 was average. But in this very period we held the World Record of chasing to win most number of matches consecutively in ODI’s. A Test series win in West Indies and England and a Test match win in South Africa. 

Dravid was absolutely outstanding in the fourth and final Test in Jamaica against the West Indies in 2006. He scored 81 and 68 in the match on a really difficult pitch where no other Indian batsman even came close to scoring a half century. His dogged determination was instrumental in India winning that test match and with that, the series. A rare series win outside the sub-continent, first in 35 years against a major opposition. These wins kind of removed the tag Indians carried for a long time, ‘Poor Travelers’. 

The World Cup in 2007 was extra special for me because my Idol was in-fact the Captain. I wanted him to have the tag of a World Cup winner, that too as a Captain before he decided to hang up his boots, but those dreams came crashing down as India was shockingly knocked out in the group stage itself. The memories still haunt me.

In 2008, when he was going through probably the most terrible phase in his Test career, I prayed each and every day hoping Rahul will be back on track soon and would definitely recover from this slump. Many skeptics were already gunning for this throat and asking for him to retire. But Dravid fought back that lean phase and made a stunning return to form. He remained consistent for the next four years until his retirement, today. Only blemish would be the South African tour of 2010-11 and the tour of Australia in 2011-12 where he performed way below his potential averaging less than 30. He even made a brief appearance in ODI’s in 2009 and 2011, finally announcing his retirement from the shorter formats of the game last year.

The year 2011 will be remembered for Dravid’s remarkable return to form where he scored centuries against England and West Indies, five in all. Also went past 1,000 runs in a calendar year for the third time in his Test Career. Dravid scored three unforgettable centuries in England, two of them while opening the batting and facing some stunning and ruthless English bowling attack. Dravid was the only batsman to score a century for India in that series, aggregating 461 runs while no other Indian batsman went past 250 runs. I can never forget Dravid opening the innings in the Final Test at The Oval, he fought like a warrior as his team mates succumbed to the pressure again. Dravid kept on fighting and carried his bat all the way through. He became only the 7th Batsman in history to carry his bat through the innings and walk back in just after a few minutes to a follow-on. Just thinking about this moment, gives me goose bumps.

Thank you, Rahul Dravid for being what you are, a thorough Gentleman, a Role Model, an Icon and most importantly, a great human being. I will miss your batting, your amazing catches in the slips, the way you dab the ball gently and run to the non-striker’s end for a quick single with your bat being held only by your right hand and not both hands. I will miss seeing you running behind the ball to stop a boundary; I will miss the look of determination in your eyes while you are chasing that ball. The way you examine the pitch before the start of a match, I love your love for such details. Your shy yet candid press interviews which shows your intellectual ability. The way you mention “obviously” before or in the middle of almost every sentence to clear your thought process. I will miss those days when I used to go to school in the morning on a match day, you had already walked into bat, I come back from school and you are still batting; which used to make my day. I will miss when someone tells me, the score is 28 for no loss and I gasp and say, “Ahhh, wish it was 28 for one”, so that I can watch you bat. Nothing in the world gives me more happiness and satisfaction than watching you bat which I will miss the most. I can sit and watch you bat all day long, I can watch you build an innings, one ball at a time, brick by brick in a pain-staking manner in the only way you can, which would give me immense pleasure and happiness.

I will miss you Dravid, Thanks for all the wonderful memories. I will cherish them for a lifetime. You did leave the game better than you found it.

Your Greatest Fan,
Akshay Kumar G

49 comments:

  1. what a wonderful tribute Akshay! i really wish there was some way Rahul could get to read this - he will be immensely touched

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    1. I hope so too, that would be a dream come true for me. :) Thank you Ma'm. :)

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  2. Agree with Sujatha!!! I can never understand why people can get extremely emotional about sportspersons but to understand one needs to be an ardent and true fan like you I suppose!! Great write up!! If possible somehow get Dravid to read it! He would again get a tear in a corner of his eye!!!

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    1. Thank you Jayashree for your kind comment. As I said if Rahul ever gets to read my posts for him, I would be so thrilled. Extremely emotional Cricket and Dravid lover like myself can appreciate "Gavaskar at the border" too. ;-)

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  3. Heart felt tribute Akshay.
    As a cricket fan myself, let me console you by saying that probably Pujara will step up big time to at least half fill the void left behind by this great man.
    All The Best Rahul.

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    1. Thank you DS. :)
      Yes, Dravid himself said the next generation is more capable, so hopefully they will step up to the plate and fill the void left by legends like Dravid, Sachin and Laxman.

      But as Sachin rightly said, there can be no one else quite like Rahul Dravid.

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  4. Awesome yaar..
    i can feel what you feel, i felt very bad either.
    Mr.Gentleman we will miss him badly

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  5. A beautiful recital by a true fan :) Your tribute did wet my eyes. I knew this day was near but it was hard for me to watch him say, "I am retiring"..it was indeed hard. I am slowly get a grip of the fact that i wouldn't watch on field :( I really do wish Dravid gets to read this :) may be you should look up for his website/fan page..am not sure..Let us look forward to Indian cricket progressing without the Greats.

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    1. Thank you dear again :) Yeah I would have loved to have my posts read my Dravid himself but sadly there isn't any official website or fan page or an official twitter page of Dravid. I'm hoping maybe now after retiring he would create one to interact with his fans. That would be great. I have lost interest in Test cricket so I don't have anything to look forward to when India plays from now on but the youngsters in the team should work very hard to fill the huge void left by Dravid.

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  6. Big fan you are, I agree with that..Beautifully written, I think you ought to paste this link on his FB page..what say?..I was a little miffed too when he declared that match when Sachin was on 194, but you are right, team's victory matters more..

    Psst..one small confession, you would've bashed me if I were in your school..Thank god! you were not in my school:D

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    1. Thank you Keerthana :D But the main fan page on FB or twitter is not an official Dravid page so he would not be able to read even if I spam that page with my blog links :D

      The whole Sachin controversy erupted when Sach said he was "surprised" that declaration was made at that time, he never said he was upset or angry but the media made it look like he was angry. An unnecessary controversy for a gentleman like Dravid. :(

      hahaha!!! hmmm maybe you never know!! If we both were in the same school, you would've bashed me up. You are one fiery girl! ;-)

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  7. Cricket will be never be same again and there is no guarantee anymore India will win the test matches. I have switched off the T.V many times as soon as my idol gets out. It is always pleasure to watch him playing.

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    1. Exactly Rajesh, rightly said. Cricket will never be same again. Dravid's retirement has left a huge void which may never be filled.

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  8. Team India misses him a lot in future

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  9. he was a great player indeed. nice post

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  10. he is a great player, he has a best defence technique

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  11. Hey you remember each and everything Akshay.. What a great tribute you have given to your idol.. Hats off to you.. I wish somehow he reads this post.. Great work Akshay:)

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    1. Thank you Sonia. While I was writing this my mind was completely blank but as I stared to write I became nostalgic and everything came back to me, all the wonderful memories. :) I wish Rahul gets to read my posts as well someday. Thanks again. :)

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  12. A very fitting tribute to a real genius. Beautifully written. I can clearly see your love for him and his cricket. I am another hard core Rahul Dravid fan and I just love everything about his cricket. I remember when I used to play cricket in college, I used to watch every move of his and will try to bat like him. I personally think he is the single biggest reason for India's Test success over the last 5-10 years. And though I like Sachin, I have always had the question in my mind that if Dravid had not batted before him in Test matches, would Sachin have scored the amount of runs he has. Anyways, that is not the point here. But truly, a great sportsman and a fitting tribute. Very well written. :)

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    1. Sachin himself had said there can be no other Rahul Dravid, such a wonderful thing to say by one great man to another. We all had tried to emulate Dravid at some point in our lives, he is a perfect role model. So much to learn from him, his dignity, his grace and at the same time being equally competitive, his respect for the game and its glorious history and many more. He is truly an inspiration to millions. :)

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Raj. :)

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  13. Sorry for a late comment and don't know how I missed this. Well, we know your love for him and you are his greatest fan ever...

    Rahul Dravid is the greatest wall and no one can replace him in Indian Cricket team...

    Wishing him good luck with life!

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    1. Thank you so much Saru, I have been waiting for your comment, now my post looks complete. :)

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  14. I was so touched by what you had written in the beginning that I told myself I was going to read the whole post even if it takes an hour of my time.
    I'm not sure If I can say I'm a true Dravid Fan (when compared to you), But Yes, I always had a soft corner for him. I was so angry with Vijay Mallya for making Kevin Pietersen the Captain for RCB and was equally miffed when he did not retain Dravid during the Auction.
    Well, Rahul Dravid according to me, is a thorough Gentleman. SO selfless, and one who sacrifices his personal interests for the benefit of the Team, as you had mentioned.
    True to his name, He was/is the most Dependable Wall when The rest of the team failed miserably. His focus, his concentration, his don't care attitude about media making rude comments about his game, and his dedication is something we can't seem to find in anybody today.
    I would say, he is the apt Role model for many of us (including me). He taught us that with patience and dedication,one is sure to emerge victorious. He taught us that, people might point a finger at us, in the course of our lives, but if we stay Unperturbed by these distractions, At the end of the day, we will emerge as the Winner.
    Salute! Hats off!

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article on our Rahul Dravid. It was a pleasure to read each and every word of it :-)

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    1. Awww! Thank you so much Ashwini for such a lovely and genuine comment, I am touched. I am so glad you thought my post was worth an hour of your valuable time. :)

      I deliberately avoided IPL, because Dravid was really insulted and humiliated when he was replaced as the captain. If I start talking about it then I will only find abuses to throw at Mallya and co. :D I am just glad Dravid will play in this years IPL one final time, I will at least get to see him bat a few times and he will captain RR as well. Only reason for me to watch the IPL. :)

      You have described Dravid so brilliantly, much better than I could have in my entire post. :) Thank you for your beautiful comment. Made my day. :)

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    2. Yes ashwini these two things make dravid separate
      1) Never playing for records. In multan when sachin came close to 200 ,he started playing slow by wasting balls but dravid went for shot in 270 and got out. Sachin had many great knocks but also had tendency to play for records often.

      2) Btting under-pressure. Sachin is mostly a great first innings player. In 2nd innings in odis he was good in chasing small totals like 200-220 but rarely changed big targets. He felt pressure while batting then. Dravid did chase god number of huge totals-270,280,even 300 once. Even though sachin was more attacking bat ,he struggled to keep run-rate high while chasing but dravid did it easily. amazing isn't it?

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  15. hehe..i was expecting this post from u:p knowing u r a major dravid fan from ur previous post..i also wanted to know how u r feeling and hows ur health now..hope u r better..and on d road to a speedy recovery

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    1. Thank you so much Alka for your genuine care and concern, I am indebted. :) I am doing better, still on a wheelchair but my leg movements have become much better since the operation. It will take another two to three weeks before I can start walking again. :)

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  16. I could feel the great love for Rahul Dravid as I have for Sachin. Great, and I'm sad that I missed this post when you actually posted it. Happy to meet you in this blogosphere. Keep writing bro!

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    1. Hey Sarav, Thanks a lot for coming here and reading an older post of mine. This post is very special to me, also it was extremely difficult for me to write about the retirement of someone who I have idolized for more than 16 years. Thank you once again. :)

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  17. Hey Akshay, This was such a wonderful, heartfelt post for your idol. If he were to read this, it would really please him to know that he has touched the lives of so many. This post also speaks about your dedication and passion for the game and the man himself. I can imagine how difficult it must have been to accept the fact that he wouldn't be a regular face on the cricket scene. When Saurav Ganguly retired, I was devastated too, so can completely understand your feelings. A great post, all in all!!

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    1. First of all, thank you Amruta for finally fulfilling your promise of reading my post about my idol. I do know how much Ganguly means to you, so I am glad to know you can empathize with how I felt when my idol Dravid retired. Means a lot to me. Thank you. :-)

      I hope and wish Dravid gets to read my posts someday, it will surely be a dream come true. :-)

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  18. I have read this entire post of yours once again Akshay..I have read it earlier and commented above but since you mentioned that reading this post will really make you happy I read it once again.:) And I must say it left me with the same kinda effect as I felt for the first time :) take care :)

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    1. You really made me very happy, Sonia. Your comment just made my day. Thank you for taking time out for reading this post again, really means a lot to me. I just wanted to emphasize the context in which I wrote this post in my latest post, I am very glad you understood my emotions. So lucky to have a friend and a reader like you. :)

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  19. Brilliant one!! Don't know how I missed this one earlier! I hav done almost everything U wrote here...from fighting with friends,hoping for a wicket to fall,praying for dravid to do well &even denying the fact he retired for a few days...the feeling has completely sinked in now after the first test:| cricket no longer holds the same significance

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    1. Hi, Devi. Welcome to my blog, its lovely to meet a fellow Dravid fan who can empathize with your emotions. Dravid can never be replaced, its not the same anymore without him. Thanks a lot for your lovely comment. :-)

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  20. hey Akshay! take care of your health:) Dravid may no longer be seen in the field...but will forever remain in the nostalgic remembrance of people like us who are never gonna let that memories go:)I really hope Dravid gets to read ur wonderful piece!:)

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and welcome to my blog. :)
      Exactly! Dravid has given us such wonderful memories, we can cherish them for a lifetime. :) I also hope that Dravid may one day get to read my posts about him. :) Thanks a lot for your well wishes. Keep coming back again.

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  21. Similar memories i have too...still i had to defend ...he set an example of living life.

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  22. Sounds like the story of my life!!! The wait, sitting endlessly to watch him, the inspiration that I draw from him and ofcourse the fights ... Even after he has retired, I still am made to fight for him!!!!

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    1. Yes, we share similar sentiments when it comes to Dravid. He is an inspiration to millions. :)

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