Rahul Dravid, the ICC's Cricketer of the Year, is more than a great batsman, he's a fine role model, writes leading Indian sports writer Rohit Brijnath.
Rohit Brijnath says Rahul Dravid is more than a great cricketer
Sure there's wicket-keeping to talk about and his form to discuss, but what I really want to know from the ICC's Cricketer of the Year is whether his cupboard at home is sloppy. He laughs. "Umm, yeah, a little," he says embarrassedly.
It's nice to know that something in the life of Rahul Dravid is not ordered. In matters of cricket, most everything else is. His shirt is usually tucked in, hair parted, life neatly organised. Even his quotes are mostly precise, as if he's subconsciously measuring syllables. He's a man of purpose, of immaculate timing, meticulous and disciplined. It sounds a lot like his batting.
In a sporting world of much superficiality Dravid stands as something real; in a time of obscene monies and flashy modernity there is something elegantly old-fashioned to him.
He has been hero for some, yet is uncomfortable with the word; he can hit a cricket ball with aching sweetness yet does not overestimate his place in the world. Once I asked about his involvement in campaigns to fight AIDS and polio, and he replied: "That's no big deal...We're not doing the work. The people who do, don't get the credit".
I never liked his nickname "The Wall", because it does inadequate justice to his graceful batting nor captures the essence of a multi-faceted man. But this much fits: he has made his career brick by brick, and only slowly have we marvelled at the eventual construction.
Dravid has in time has become a better player, and as he learnt, so have we. He was an unobtrusive batsman to whom we were not naturally drawn, but whose valour and resolve has earned him a national embrace, whose devotion to team cause forced us to re-think our prostration before individual Gods.
Asked about legacies this week, he said he barely remembered too many people's averages, neither did a few extra runs to his career total mean so much. But being part of a bunch of guys who did things differently, who tried to bring change, that he said would be a finer memory to leave.
Dravid did not set out to be a role model but has become one. In his punctuality for the team bus, his willingness to keep, his unflinching support of his captain, his lack of complaint when shuffled up and down any batting order, his putting of team before personal numbers. It's his nature, it's also a lesson. "I want younger guys to look up to me and think these are the qualities I'd like to have", he says.
Dravid believes only hard work ensures staying form
He is a serious man but who laughs easily at himself, who accepts awards, as he did recently, with the same grace as he does gentle advice from his charming wife Vijeeta that his first acceptance speech was not fluent enough. Last year, when asked what he might do after cricket, he said among other things a return to university had fleetingly crossed his mind. Of course, it was a passing thought no more, but it all suggests his striving to be a better man.
As a boy, he would cry occasionally, he says last week, after losing a school match, yet stay awake and correct his stance in front of a darkened mirror. He'd fill scraps of paper if he'd done well, noting what emotions he'd felt, how balanced he'd been at the crease. Cricket was play but also work; through some karmic fluke he'd been born with gifts and to spurn them was unthinkable.
He works on the simple theorem that the harder you work the less likely form will disappear. He is a batsman built on accumulated drops of sweat, who sees the net not so much as a nylon cage but a temple. "I like practice", he says, "there's no distraction. I'm always trying something specific. I try to have a goal, a target".
He knows he must keep at it because form is ephemeral, beyond constant capture. In Melbourne last year before the series, unprovoked he suddenly mentioned to me he was hitting the ball well. He says it is a sensation beyond easy explanation, a mix of balance and head position and picking up the ball early in flight, an internal peace wherein he feels confident and relaxed and focused. It does not always translate into runs, but it's a feeling he is constantly in search of.
Playing to win
Now abruptly it is not quite there, but it is notable that in the third one-dayer against England he chose to pick his runs in singles, occupying the crease, his innings ugly but reflective of purpose. His team needed him to stay, he needed to stay, or as he explains "it was my way of spending time in the middle, a way of recreating that confident state of mind". Winning he loves most, but this battle with self he thrives on.
He has come a long way, as man and player, but has some distance to go as both. It is why he's got the gym to visit, the net to commune with. You see, he knows: that award, the ICC one for best cricketer in the world, well, that was for last year. Now a new year has begun and it is time to start over.
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Here are a selection of comments you sent in response to this column.
Slow and steady winsw the race !! That is so right and perfect with rahul dravid. He is one guy whom we can trust on every match whether we win or lose. Truly a deserving candidate and an awesome player. Kudos to Rahul dravid and congrats on this achievement.
Binks has got it perfectly right. If ever there was a role model it has to be Rahul. His case is the classic example of hardwork and strong work ethics being the only criteria for greatness.
abhinav sharma, india
For good of cricket, Indian team and for the natural growth of our precious cricketer Rahul Dravid time has come for him to serve Indian team with more devotion by giving him the right to captain Indian team. If it doesn┐t happen as soon as possible well then I am not sad to say at all that Indian cricket won't be doing well.
After viewing on TV Dravid's batting in the last World Cup (India against Pakistan) and following his performance online, I cannot think of a cricketer more deserving this award. Only if players could emulate him will the game recapture its tradition as a gentelman's game.
parmanand panday, usa
I am living outside pakistan, people always praise tendulkar, but i tell them in indian squad there is one match winning batsman and that is Dravid, he is one of the most beautiful player to watch out,he is very difficult to get out, he is a classy player in modern cricket.
sarfraz ahmed, pakistan
i am impresed with u r columns and very fond of reading u r views abt the cricket and the heroes of the game.
There is something about his aura which makes him very different. The next generation of cricketers should pay a close attention to this master. There is a lot to learned from this genius!!
Adarsh Nomula, USA
To me Dravid is a cricketer with such balance and holds the team when in trouble or playing well, great cricketer, and a great team player, and hopefully a great skipper.
Rakesh naik, u.k
An excellent appraisal of a fantastic cricketer and a genuine "good guy". His stature in Scotland has risen dramatically during his all too brief sojourn here last summer. Hopefully his legacy will spawn a few more like him. On a personal note, I have admired Dravid for many years and have been increasingly impressed with his off-field persona and likeable attitude. His cricketing prowess is well documented (and at last recognised), but he definitely embodies the image of sportsman as ambassador.
John Wall, Scotland
Wish we had more level headed and
solid people like him in the Indian team.
Rahul is good classic player. I always admired his batting; it is consistant good and very reliable and very matured.His batting is always better from the start of the test player.
Ansaruddin Rahimi, The Bahamas
Yup! Dravid's the man! I see him eventually becoming the captain India really needs:an intelligent one!
Please don't tell me that "Old Fashioned Elegance" is the monopoly of bygone era, certainly not in cricket. The "old" consisted of arrogance, trivialty, nepotism, opportunism, just as it is now. You can attach all the epithets to Dravid that you choose but do not prefix them with "old fashioned." Something gets taken away from Dravid in your delusional way of thinking that the past of cricket was elegant. Far from it, it was nothing but what I have described above. The space could have been used for more relevent information. I refuse to read your full write-up.
K. N Haksar, USA
All though I am not a big fan of cricket, the only person I love to watch play is Dravid. The first time he entered into national cricket I thought to myself this guy's going to strike it. I personally think he is overshadowed by Sachin or maybe he is a modest person as this article suggests. Great article, thank you Rohit Brijnath.
Chandrashekar Nilekani, United States of America
India have produced some great batsman but to me Dravid perhaps is simply the GREATEST. I thank him for providing so much fun to cricket lovers throughout the world.
Vaseem Siddiqi, United Kingdom
Dravid gives Indian team a much needed balance, Ganguly a strong leader, Sachin a mentor and Dravid as a figure from whom a lot can be learnt not just about cricket but overall personality. Sehwag has to learn this from all three to make himself a senior and an important member of the team.
Rajat Chawla, England
Mr. Brijnath must be congratulated for writing such an elegant yet objective article about Rahul Dravid, whom I myself consider the cream of the present Indian team. His individual skills as a cricketer, be it as a batsman or a wicketkeeper have always been dedicated to his team's wellbeing, in most cases meaning outright success, be it in avoiding defeat or in bringing about outright victory. He is for ever learning something new, as a good student aalways. He never rests on his laurels; and is a picture of meditative humility.
----Sauri P. Bhattacharya
Plano, Tx. 75074, USA
Sauri P. Bhattacharya, USA
Very good piece on Dravid. He is a great player and I admire him for the way he plays, but from your article he's also a great individual. My brother dabbled in poetry,and he loved cricket. He played every weekend starting in NY and Florida where he past away at the age of 49. He wrote in one of his poem that he would,when the time comes to leave it on the pitch, He did, while batting for hours as our opener. Robin fell down while playing a stroke and never got up. In a way Dravid reminds me of him. A ecent,smart,dedicated person who gave his best.We need more cricketeers like Them.
KENNETH MIRJAH, USA, via Grenada WI
Rohit, what more can I say, than what you have already said, I am a great admirer of Dravid's talent, and have been for years, even when I visited India, I tried to convince so many people that its dravid that is the new hero, not that I am taking anything away from Sachin. never seen someone so calm at the crease, and u know when the chips are down, he is the one you want at the crease to hold the fort. amazing talent, amazing to watch.........
umesh patel, United kingdom
There is really one way to describe Dravid, "A Class Act." This is coming from a Pakistani.
Naveed , USA
Very well said about dravid, a man of conviction and courage. Dravid is that one guy on whom we can rely on no matter what the circumstances are.
I have been an ardent reader of rohit's articles and his past article on olympics was very accurate about indians viewpoint of sports. A frank and open viewpoint is what makes people think and move ahead and change.
I am very happy with the award to Rahul Dravid, he is very hard working cricketer in Indian team he deserves the award than others. I wish him good luck with coming up matches.
Praveen, Indian, Student Sweden
Congrats Dravid, You are a proud son of India.
You have set an example of a person who is smart, intelligent,skilled,sincere and hardworking person. Best Wishes, Chitra.K
Chitra, London, UK
I am pleased to read Rohit's article - at the MCG in Dec 1999, I had the pleasure of meeting Dravid and Kumble and found them to be without doubt the friendliest and least pretentious cricketers I have met. Although they were being harassed by autograph hunters, they displayed patience, tolerance and had a great sense of humour. I wish him well (not TOO well !) for the coming series which I can truly say I am looking forward to with an intensity and expectation that I have not felt since I was a small boy
John Clifford, Australia
Rahul comes across as an individual who has been brought up with correct values and a lot of the credit should go to his parents. The fact that he keeps his head on his shoulders and does not get carried away with the fame, adulation and money which has come his way makes him a worthy role model. He comes across as a person who wants to explore the nuances of his art to the deepest level, which in turn indicates that he is a sharp thinker who always wants to take the next step ahead.
Amit Bhatnagar, Kazakhstan
An excellent piece of writing. Often neglected in the past, Dravid has now risen to prominence simply because of the consistent and persistent hard work that has payed off. As Rohit rightly pointed out, he is indeed a role model for a lot of youngsters and I definitely would rate him as one of the all time cricketing greats!!
He is for more then just a cricketer , I agree.
His style while batting , his way of catching in the slips and his attendence and focus on the ground is all inspiration.
When I used to play cricket , I dared to try anything else but the way Dravid used to do it .
He is stylish , committed and great.
If a young player wanted to look at a player on which to base their game they could do a lot worse than to take a look at Rahul Dravid. Certainly a deserving holder of the ICC Player of the Year awards, and his attitude to the game as well as immense talents will doubtless see him being a contender again next year.
Gareth McCarter, Northern Ireland