If the self-centred world is full of self-obsessed celebrities, there are still a few selfless people. These people make the world better. One such gentleman lived his entire life to remain the epitome of selflessness throughout his entire life, living up to the game's name as gentleman's game. The man is not an ordinary person. The technically most sound batsman to ever played for Men in Blue, the Man who performed every task the team required, the Man who played most balls in test cricket history and also spent most minutes on the crease spent by any cricketer, and the Wall who made India stronger than before is none other than the current head coach of the Indian team, Rahul Dravid.
The Wall of Indian cricket, as he is referred to, came as a replacement of someone, and became an irreplaceable part of the team. One of the greatest batsmen to have ever played the game, Dravid ruled the game like a boss. He set a benchmark for every player who plays red-ball cricket. Scaling new heights, he left a legacy in Indian cricket. He conquered the cricketing world with his bat and conquered the hearts of fans with his humility and selflessness. A huge servant of Indian cricket, he continues to serve Men in Blue in a different role.
Born in a Marathi family, Dravid started playing professional cricket at the age of 12. In 1991, he played his first Ranji game for Karnataka. He didn't get to play a full season that year but made his presence felt. Post that, every season he played turned out to be fruitful for him. In 1994 and 1995, he was knocking on the doors of the Indian team through his performances in first-class cricket. His debut for Men in Blue happened right in the first match after the 1996 world cup.
His ODI debut was not worth remembering, but his test debut was a sight that Indians loved. He came in at a crucial time and scored made a huge partnership with another debutant Sourav Ganguly. Little did they know that time that both the test debutants would leave a great legacy in a matter of a decade. With Dravid scoring 95 runs, and Ganguly scoring 137 runs, India reached a decent total. Both of them showed the world the potential they had. Dravid missed out on a well deserved century just by 5 runs but made it to the Lord's honour board in 2011 by scoring a century. Also, his honesty was appreciated, when he didn't even wait for the umpire's decision when he nicked the ball on 95 runs on his debut.
Since then, Dravid has been an integral part of the test team. He has been a part of many amazing test matches, but the one which stands out tall amongst all is the Eden Gardens Test in 2001 against Australia. In reply to Australia's 445, India was bundled out of 171 in the first innings. Australia enforced a follow-on on India, intending to win this match comfortably. But very very special players VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid had different plans. Batting for almost 130 overs together, they tore apart the Australian bowling lineup consisting of McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz and Warne and went on to post a mammoth score of 657 runs. Aussies had no answer to these two where Laxman scored 281 and Dravid scored 180. Eventually, the pumped-up Indians won the test match bundling Australia for 212 in 68.3 overs while they were chasing a target of 384 runs. This was the only third instance with any team that had won a test match after follow-on had been enforced upon them. Also, India became the first team except England to achieve this feat, but both the times they won it with a margin of fewer than 20 runs, while India won it with 171 runs. In this win, both, Laxman and Dravid had a lion's share.
This test marked the beginning of the new chapter in India. The fighting spirit of Dravid and Laxman was praised by everyone including the Aussie media. Dravid, the rock-solid pillar of the test team went on to win many more accolades in Test cricket for the country. With his indinavir highest being 270, the right-hander amassed a mammoth 13288 runs in test cricket reaching the three-figure mark 36 times. Mr Dependable for Men in Blue faced a whopping 31258 balls in his Test career, which is the most by any player in the history of the game. Also, he spent 44152 minutes on the crease batting in test cricket, a world record almost impossible to break. He did this by playing fewer matches than a few other players. He also has a record of never being out on a golden duck in the 286 innings he played in tests. Also, Dravid has the record for most catches by any non-wicket-keeper in tests with a tally of 210 catches.
In ODI's, he initially struggled to be a part of playing eleven, but after 1998, he became a fixed member of the ODI side. His contribution in the 1999 and 2003 world cup was pivotal in Team India's journey. Those who think his strike rate was not up to the mark should remember that Dravid has scored the second-fastest fifty by an Indian batter, which came off just 22 balls against New Zealand in 2003. He worked hard to improve his strike rate, and he developed a habit of accelerating the innings, without playing areal shots. In this way, he scored 10889 runs in his ODI career. He is one of the only seven players to have scored 10000 runs in both ODI's and Tests.
While playing ODI's he made some great records. He is the only batter to be involved in 300+ run partnerships in ODI's more than once. He did it with Sourav Ganguly , scoring a partnership of 318 runs in the 1999 cup. This was the first 300+ run stand by any team in ODI's. Post that, in 2000, he was involved in another such partnership, where along with Sachin Tendulkar made a partnership of 331 runs, a record which remained intact for the next 15 years.
He played only one T20 match at the international level in 2012 against England. The match was also his last international fixture. In a match, the best Test player of India scored 31 runs off 18 balls, and he hit three consecutive huge sixes off Samit Patel, leaving everyone in admiration. He did play T20 s in the Indian Premier League, where he was always good with the bat and as a leader.
After retiring from all forms of cricket in 2013, he took some time from the game for his family, and then returned to the game, with a different role as the coach. After successfully mentoring Rajasthan royals in 2014, and the Indian team in 2015, he was appointed as the coach of the U-19 Indian side. Under his guidance, U-19 consistently performed exceptionally well for 4 years and won a world cup in 2018.
In 2019, he was appointed as the head of NCA (National Cricket Academy), where he overlooked all the activities in the academy. He groomed many players like Rishabh Pant, Shubhman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, Washington Sundar, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, who helped India breach fortress Gabba, and are now looked up to as the upcoming stars of Men in Blue. In 2021, Dravid was appointed as the head coach of Men in Blue, news which brought joy to billions of fans. He currently serves as the coach of the Indian team.
With a calm head over their shoulders, Dravid is extremely composed. However, there is a witty side to his personality too. In one instance, when he was batting in Australia, he scored the first run after 40 balls. The Aussie crowd in an attempt to tease Dravid started clapping, and he too responded by raising a bat towards them. That was probably the only time a batter raised a bat his bat after scoring 1 run.
The Wall, as he is termed by the fans across the globe, was always a boon for India, and a nightmare for the opposition. In one match, he came as an opener for India in tests and remained not out till the end, when the other 10 batsmen fell. Referring to this incident, the fastest bowler Shoaib Akhtar famously said " If you don't dismiss Rahul Dravid in the first 15 minutes, you have to dismiss the other 10 batters". This shows what Dravid meant to India. Also, this goes on to show the respect players from other countries had for Dravid.
Speaking about Dravid, once the senior cricket analyst Harsha Bhogle said," If you ask him to walk on water, he'll ask how many kilometres ?". This sentence perfectly sums up the contribution of Rahul Dravid to Indian cricket. He performed every single role selflessly for the team, be it playing for different positions, or being a wicketkeeper, or being a captain. The technically most sound batsman in the world, Dravid gave everything to Indian cricket. While playing he ensured his performances make India emerge victoriously, and while coaching he ensures his guidance helps the current players emulate what he did. Today India is seen as one of the finest cricketing nations, but the results are an aftermath of the efforts taken by legends like Rahul Dravid. Whenever someone will write a book in Indian cricket team history, Rahul Dravid's name will be mentioned in golden letters. This golden man, the man with no haters, turns 49 today. We wish him a very happy birthday and pray to God that this legend lives forever.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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