This blog is now turning into a cricket blog, but what can I do. I love sports and I love cricket and football in particular. As our team (as we fans say so), Manchester United, is not playing as per our own standards, its better we keep believing and supporting them. On the other hand, Indian cricket team is making headlines for all the right reasons, even if the board controlling it is not.
On 16th October 2013, the game of cricket, especially ODIs, as I knew and grew up with died. It was a game of 94 super overs rolled in as an ODI. Many would then argue that if I think so then ODI died the day 434 was made and chased down on the same night. I beg to differ on that count. That was one of the finest examples of one day cricket.
That day in Johannesburg, the boundaries were small and all batsmen fired in unison. But still, bowlers had something to bowl on – a lively pitch. A pitch where shots were easy but so were mistakes. Batsmen EARNED those runs. The chase was not a one sided affair. The match pulsated more than the heartbeat monitor in an ICU. South Africa won with 1 wicket in hand and less than half and over to spare. In Jaipur, the pitch was dead. Boundaries were shorter. Lesser number of fielders were allowed to patrol the boundary. And India chased 360 down with 39 deliveries left. More so than that, WE LOVED THE MATCH. WE LOVED HOW WE WON THE GAME. WE FELT GOOD AS THE ART OF BOWLING DIED.
I felt sorry for the bowlers who were forced to commit hara-kiri, bowing on that highway strip was nothing short of that. As a person who grew up watching the likes of McGrath, Warne, Kumble, Muralitharan and Donald breaking the backs of much celebrated batting line ups. As a person who watched in awe as Bond, Lee and Akhtar competed to be the fastest bowler in history. As a person who enjoyed Kumble’s 10 wickets haul as much as watching McGrath and team running through entire batting orders in no time. I felt sorry for all those young guns who aspire to a bowler.
For me ODIs meant a proper contest between bowling and batting which T20s can never provide. All we watch now is a elongated form of T20s and not the ODIs we wish to see. I loved how India’s young guns went about the task and pulled off one of the best chases in cricket history, but what I realised is that we don’t care much about our bowlers. And then, the next match proved me right. Let me say, I am in no way defending Ishant Sharma. All I ask is – why is he one of the best fast bowlers in India? Why don’t we have bowlers who are good enough to stop carnages even on their off days? Why is there so much disparity between the quality of batsmen and bowlers our system throws up? And most importantly – why don’t we care for that matter?
Wish to see an equal contest soon. Till then, I loved you ODI cricket…
From a shy boy who finished his homework on time, attended his “extra-curricular” sessions religiously, put his heart in everything he did, Rahul Sharad Dravid has not changed much in last 30 years or so. From playing U-15, U-17, U-19, U-21 and Ranji Trophy before his international debut, to the time he came to bat at number 8 in his last competitive match, he gave all he had, and sometimes, even more. From making his debut at Lords and almost scoring a magical century to getting bowled to a rash shot in his last match (a younger Dravid would have committed suicide for that shot), he took on every challenge that was thrown at him. The shy school boy forged himself into a gritty man who can take anything and still remain the calmest monk in the monastery.
At a time when Indian cricket was facing its toughest test, every lost match was considered “fixed”, rose a few gems who changed the face of team. Sachin Tendulkar was already carrying a billion hopes, in Saurav Ganguly nation was discovering a captain who could “take it” to the opposition camp, Anil Kumble was still an unproven talent, VVS Laxman was a baby in testing waters, Rahul Dravid had to prove himself every time he came to bat.
He was not considered good enough for the team during now legendary 2001 Australia series, if not for THAT innings, he would have been dropped. But a fighter he was, he dug in with a partner who had similar mentality and created history. Soon he booked the number 3 slot for himself.
As a young talent he was made to stand in slips to bowling of a certain “Jumbo”, he just made that place his own and retired with a never before matched astonishing figure of 210 test catches. He was asked to keep wickets in ODIs, he surely left that spot as the best part-time keeper. He was asked to open at Lahore, he responded with a 410 run opening partnership with the most volatile player of all times. He was criticized that he was too slow for ODIs, he responded with fastest 50 by an Indian and two 300+ partnerships in ODIs. He was told that he was not a twenty-20 player, he responded by hitting 3 sixes in 3 balls. Navjot Singh Sidhu once said “Rahul Dravid is a player who would walk on broken glass if his team asks him to.” He was that kind of player.
Sachin was natural talent, Saurav a natural leader, Laxman was god-gifted, but it was Dravid who made it large on sheer hard work alone. He is epitome of humbleness. He played by the spirit of the game. He put the gentleman in gentlemen’s game. He practically proved that being humble and being aggressive are two different things. In Hayden’s words “All these things going around are not part of aggression. If you wish to see aggression on a cricket field look into the eyes of Rahul Dravid.”
He was known for his dedication and concentration. McGrath once said “you have to get him out the first time he commits a mistake, for the chances of him committing another are rare.” He even made Brain Lara confess that “If I have to ask bat someone for my life, it would be Kallis or Dravid.”
I remember reading an interview where his true persona came through. Like words were provided to the silent battle he fought for a decade and half. He was asked about his dedication, the long miles he had put in on way of becoming the player who surpassed all in terms of spending time in the middle. His reply was expected to be about the journey he had travelled and hard work he had put in. But his reply was beyond that. He said he was fortunate to be one of the select few who represented India on world stage. He said he knew he was not the most talented player of his generation and he got to play ahead of many talented ones. Every time he went to bat, he would consider it a favour, he had to play for all those who didn’t get to play because of him. He had to put a price on his wicket for them, if not for himself. He had to be dedicated to justify his place in the team to himself. He was that kind of person.
As per me, he was part of the reason I watched cricket. The fabulous five – Sachin, Saurav, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble – made me fall in love with the game. I am not a natural talent and I know that. And so do millions of Indians. He was inspiration to them. He taught us hard work can get results. He made us believe in what we had and stop complaining about what we didn’t. He was a teacher, by example, for all who were ready to work hard. He kept millions of dreams alive, because we knew what dedication can achive.
Now that he is not there, the cricketing world seems so full of void. So much that it’s almost impossible to fill it. He would be remembered as the last batsman of a generation who could play every possible delivery with copy book shots and still score runs. Finding gaps was as easy for him as going to gym on day 1 is. This blog can go on and on and on and on, just like the man this is dedicated to, but I rest my keyboard with this great graphics I encountered recently.
Once upon a time there was a young boy who was considered to be god gifted. Everyone agreed that there was something special about that 17 year old boy. He went to fulfil all those predications and carried the burden of expectations of a billion people for more than two decades. He played as one man army and helped lesser mortals to build a generation around him. When he had able support he encouraged others to share responsibilities and with time helped mould a few other gems. Then when time came, he quietly let the young blood take the centre-stage and played the anchoring role. Now in his twilight years, he is still the role model for a generation.
Then there was a young man who (almost) stole the limelight on his first big day. He was calm then and he his calm now. He was always the second best, all through those years. His every achievement was overshadowed by someone else’s. He took on every challenge that was thrown at him and came out successful from the unchartered waters. He set the bar for consistency and team-spirit. He was always a team-first player and that did not change till his last game. He was not the one his country wanted, but he was the one they needed. Today he is the epitome example of gentleman’s conduct.
They played for a cause. They played with a purpose. They played with each other. They played for each other. They played against each other with as much spirit as they played with each other. They re-defined dedication, longevity, gamesmanship and humbleness.
Today as they play there last game, one his last competitive game and for other last game in coloured clothing, a sense of loss dawns upon us. Today, let’s forget who was better of the two and who was not. Today, let’s just enjoy the fact that we lived in times when we could enjoy them plying their trade.
Take a bow Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and Rahul Sharad Dravid. Today it won’t matter who wins, for what you have provided us for years, all I can say with certainty is that none of you is going to be a loser. A heartfelt thanks for reminding me over and over again that hard-work never goes waste.
Take a bow, thou living legends.
He was sitting in a corner. All alone. Cut from the world. Silent.
He was up for the challenge he was about to face but he feared. He had put in too much in this to loose or back out. He had much to gain but, bigger things were at stake. He had put behind his family, his friends, his love, even himself for this day. He hoped that they would all understand and forgive him, once they realise why he did, what he did.
He kept thinking about the time when he was just another young man, or still a boy, who dreamed of conquering the world. He was a dreamer with big ideas. He wished to change what fate had written for him. He wanted to outgrow his own expectations.
“I would make my parents proud. For, they had never said no to me, even in the toughest of times.” He had made this promise to himself, the day he started working on his idea. Today, was that day. Today, he could make his parents proud. Today, he could change his fate.
He remembered Kirti, the girl he loved. He had tried to talk to her, make her understand his dream. All in vain. “My parents are looking for a suitable match, get a nice job or forget me” – these were her last words before parting ways.
Now the memories were breaking the barrier he had built to safeguard. He so called tough, emotionless exterior was not so tough after-all. He remembered his friends – Kaushik, Pandey and Pintoo – all busy making a living for themselves. The time they spent together. He would miss that bond and especially Kaushik, his best friend. They had never left him alone before. But this time, they all went separate ways. Maybe, he expected too much from them.
He remembered how he wanted to start his own company. How he wished to control his life. How excited he was when his friends came along on the idea. There were a few things to be sorted out, but time will take care of them, he thought. Only now he realised how foolish he was.
The start-up money was not so small, nor were the risks. But he wanted to bet against all odds, because he knew that future promised much more. But his friends differed. They wished for a low input, low risk start and then a steady rise. All of them had different expectations and different level of willingness to walk that extra mile. “Today is all we have, who has seen the future” – he had tried to convince them. They could not agree on a single path and parted ways. He knew they all felt as bad as he did, but this was not the time to think about those matters. Today, was his big day.
He had made sure everything was perfect. Today, nothing can go wrong. He wanted to stay positive. But his nerves were catching up with him. He trembled at the thought failing. He just had to win. There was no other option.
He heard the receptionist calling his name. He was about to present the draft of his ambitious project to the head of a VC firm. He must get him on-board, he wished the emotions to subside. He wanted to across as a calm and calculated person.
Suddenly, he saw a young boy fall down. Instead of crying, the boy stood up, checked himself and started running again, all smiling. He felt good. He was ready to fail, and try again, and again till he succeeded. He walked towards the conference room with a sense of enlightenment. He may go on to loose a few times, but he would never quit trying.
He was himself again. He was a winner after-all. He was a fighter.