‘’My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity and it was about upholding the spirit of the game.’’
The retiring words of Rahul Dravid – the living definition of conscientious and a man whose love for Test cricket will forever course through his veins and our minds.
After more than 24,000 runs in Tests and ODIs and a world-beating 210 Test catches, the time has come, at 39 years-of-age, for one of the best batsmen we have ever seen to step aside, grace and dignity predictably intact.
It is testament to the genius of Sachin Tendulkar that a true great like Dravid was often cast coolly in the shadows, and few articles about him pass by without mention of this fact. Dravid deserves far more respect than that. He should be mentioned in his own right.
In excelling at the top of his sport for a decade and a half he became the second most prolific batsman in Test history, just behind Tendulkar, his long-time partner at the crease. It will be a good while before another Indian batsman reaches those heights, if it's even possible, but more worrying for all of cricket is that the appreciation for what took Dravid to the top diminishes in his absence.
For the man from Bangalore is much more than the tens of thousands of runs he compiled over the years. Those oft-forgotten quiet qualities so readily mistaken for fear or awkwardness were among Dravid’s greatest and it only worked because they were no facade or affectation.
Sport needs its mercurial characters and box-office exhibitionists, and there was an increasing clamour throughout Dravid’s career for those swift of blade and sharp of tongue. Shahid Afridi. Kevin Pietersen. A hundred more.
But successful teams need constants. They need men whose resolve, character and discipline can lift the rest up to their level. Dravid had enough of all three for a whole touring party. And he never felt the need to shout from the rooftops about it.
He was the fulcrum around which the flair of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman et al could thrive. It took India to the top of world cricket, to the immense pride of an enthralled nation.
Watching Kapil Dev lift the 1983 World Cup on television switched Dravid on to the possibilities of a career in cricket. 13 years later, he made 95 in his first innings on the same Lord’s turf in what became The Wall’s trademark obdurate manner.
It is somewhat against the grain for such a ruthless compiler of runs to be so mindful of the team’s fortunes rather than his own. He moved up and down the order to suit the needs of those around him and even served as a capable wicketkeeper when the need arose. Here’s hoping his legacy includes a young Indian batsman or two making the grade having been equally enchanted by his prowess, respect and unyielding strength of character.
Rahul Dravid is enduring proof that the good guys can succeed, and then some.