The treatment being meted out to Rahul Dravid by the Indian cricket establishment is nothing new in the overall context of Indian cricket.They did it to him in 1998, 2008 and yet again he replies to every bit of it in his own serene way.Sadly the treatment is a first when it comes to dealing with a player of his significance.
So the question which rings in my head is..Does India deserve Dravid?
In India, the individual’s feats have always been hailed over the team’s even in a team sport like cricket. So, the all-time great icons like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were always given more space than the mere mortals who played around them. Gavaskar, to his great credit, never even gave a chance to anyone to question his presence (his last test innings was a classic 96 against Pakistan); Kapil Dev did, but since he was breaking the world record of highest test wickets, it was fair game for the Indian public. Apart from these two, it is only Sachin Tendulkar who has enjoyed that sacred space in Indian cricket. Bizarre, because there were many men who also deserved that privilege; mainly Rahul Dravid!
Rahul Dravid is one of the greatest cricketers India has ever produced. Sometimes greater than Tendulkar, Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, in practically every parameter you judge greatness in a sport by, especially a team sport. Unfortunately, his affable, gentlemanly demeanor has denied him that larger-than-life status that the star-struck Indian public responds to with blind devotion in large numbers. And that obscures the impact he has had on the Indian team and the game of cricket in general.Count his innings of importance; why is he always or perhaps on most occasions play “the saving grace” game for India.He s been doing that from 1996 till date!
Rahul Dravid, like Gavaskar, and unlike Kapil Dev and Tendulkar, is a classic albums person, rather than a great compilations album individual.His innings have won more matches for India than any cricketer in history (we are basically talking test cricket, but there have been plenty of one-day wins too), many of which were played under intense pressure. On the flexibility scale too, he scores the highest, in both test and one-day cricket, as explained above. It would make for an interesting debate whether he makes an all-time-great multi-nation side or not, but with Viv Richards available at no. 3, he may well be expendable here.(Then again, with Bradman available at no. 4, would Tendulkar or Lara make that side?)
So, this is the case then – Rahul Dravid – India’s best no. 3 batsman, India’s most dependable player, most flexible and selfless cricketer, a true gentleman to whom even a player like Ricky Ponting looks upto and says “retirement should really not be on his mind” and moreover a man of dignity who does not use the media to unload angst, an inspiration to every kind of individual. And yet, his true worth and proper place in history continues to be unrecognized.
Here’s hoping it finally changes in near future!