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By Sunil Gavaskar
It was great to see the ovation that
Rahul Dravid got when he came in to bat in his final one-day game for
India and it was even more emotional when the England players rushed to
shake his hand when he was dismissed after a fine innings of 69. It
showed the respect they had for this wonderful player and the
recognition of his yeoman service to the game.
shouldered the burden for India for more than 15 years now and is still
there for Test matches though it may not be for too long. Like Tendulkar
and Laxman he will want to try and conquer Australia. That team and the
South African team are the two teams that the Indians have not beaten
in their countries and so that is what these stalwarts will be trying to
do and if they succeed then that would be the right time to say good
bye and pass the baton on to some of the younger lot who are doing well
in the limited overs format but need to organize their skills and
temperament for the longer version to be able to fill partly the big
shoes of the seniors.
Dravid has done everything that can be
asked of him. He has opened the batting, he has kept wickets to allow
the selectors the flexibility to add a batsman or a bowler according to
the needs of the team and he has also fielded in the suicide position of
forward short leg and taken a few blows there too. All this he has done
in his unassuming manner and without any fuss or drama. That
unfortunately has not been recognized or appreciated by those who think
the only way to bat is to hit sixes. He has hit them too when the
situation demanded it but he has been happier playing risk free shots
and still scoring at a brisk rate. His batting will not set the pulses
racing as when a Sehwag or Yuvraj or Dhoni come in to bat but in the
dressing room they know his value and importance to the side and in the
end it is the appreciation and respect in the dressing room that makes a
When he came in to the team Sachin Tendulkar had
been playing for about six years and had captured the imagination of
the cricketing world with his audacious batting, which was a rare
combination of classical correctness blended with some brutal hitting.
In every sport there are always players who catch the eye and become the
ones the crowds come to watch despite others playing in a similar or
sometimes better manner. There are many golfers who hit shots like Tiger
Woods does but when Tiger hits it there is an excited buzz that is
heard more than when another player hits an identical shot. In tennis
too when Federer plays his sublime backhand passing shot the crowd
erupts and not as much when a Nadal or a Djokovic plays the same shot.
It is just a connection that is there between the player and the
spectator and which is hard to explain but it is there and that’s why
‘sports’ is unique.
Dravid, because he built his innings like
good old-fashioned brewed coffee over a period of time, has been
appreciated more by the connoisseurs of the game and not the aam janata,
who want to see the big shots into the crowds or out of the ground. The
janata has enormous respect for what Dravid brings to the team. They
also know that they breathe easy when he is at the crease because of the
solidity that he brings with his technique and temperament. His work
ethic, his preparation for a game and his concentration are such that a
young player would do well to try and not just follow but also emulate.
Indian youngsters to share the same dressing room with Tendulkar,
Dravid and Laxman is a blessing for they can teach more about batting
and how to get big scores than any university could. There is also
Sehwag, Yuvraj and Dhoni who can teach them how to keep cool and then go
out and smash the bowlers, but they have a special skill set that not
many others have and the temperament too and therefore are harder to
emulate than Dravid who brings a method that can be easily followed.
would have been fitting if Dravid had bowed out of the one day game
with an India win but it has been such a forgettable tour that India
just have not been able to find a combination that has worked and have
not been able to finish the opponent when it was down. Injuries of
course have not helped but what it also shows is that India must find
bowlers who can take 20 wickets in Test matches and not rely on its
batting to bail them out.
Indian cricket has been on an
upward curve but the England tour has shown that the slide down has
begun. Let us hope that it is not a steep one but a slow one.