The sweat was dripping from his forehead. His eyes were focused fiercely on the incoming ball. The head was steady, the weight was transferred onto the front foot, and he met the ball right under his eyes. Rahul Dravid was used to doing this for India for a staggering 16 years. He was the silent warrior, who defiantly guarded the fortress of Indian cricket.
He was used to building an edifice, brick by brick with the concentration of a monk. He did not possess the aura of Tendulkar, nor the wizardry of Laxman. But, he was blessed with supreme will power and tenacity that few could match in Sport.
It is indeed a pity that Dravid played out his entire career under the giant shadow cast by Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid scored a magnificent 153 in an ODI against New Zealand in 1999, but it was forgotten in hindsight because of the euphoria that surrounded the 186* that Tendulkar scored in the same game. He scored 461 runs in the 1999 World Cup, but that too was lost in the outpouring of emotion in favour of Tendulkar, as the master scored a scintillating hundred just days after losing his father.
But more than anything else, Dravid was a man who always put the team before himself. An opener is injured? No problem. Dravid would step up. The team needs a batsman who should also double up as a wicket keeper? Again, Dravid would step up. He would be asked to bat at No. 3 in a match, then at No.6 in the next. Still, he obliged patiently, without even a frown.
During the course of his illustrious career, he scored 13,288 runs from 164 Test matches at an average of 52.31. His overseas average of 53.03 was higher than his average of 51.36 in more familiar conditions at home, which shows that Dravid was a man who would step up when the going got tough.
His magnificent 233 in Adelaide in 2003 helped India to win a Test match in Australia after more than two decades. His 270 in Rawalpindi paved the way for India to register their first Test series win on Pakistan soil.
Dravid retired from the game in 2012, at the age of 39. Dressed impeccably in a suit and a tie, he gave a small press conference, posed for a few obligatory photographs, and he was gone. No farewell Test, no guard of honor, no victory laps around the ground. He was used to being in the background throughout his career, and he left the game without much fanfare.
Even after his retirement, he has been tirelessly training the next generation of Indian cricketers. Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer are all products of Dravid’s able guidance as a mentor. One can see Dravid toil under the sun, sweating it out with the next gen Indian hopefuls. This is his way of giving back to the game that has given him so much in life.
Dravid’s career is indeed a wonderful testament that hard work and determination can take a person to great heights in life, that nice guys too, can finish at the top. Rahul Dravid is indeed a role model to be treasured and respected. For, men like Dravid can seldom be found in the world of sports.