Rahul was never a born leader. He did not captain his state team, Kumble always wore the captain’s cap for Karnataka and Sourav was the undisputed leader of Team India but it never distracted Dravid. Every captain in fact relied on Dravid to keep one end up and whenever the team was in trouble whether it was Karnataka or India – Dravid was always pressed into service.
Philip Kotler might believe in the top down approach but Dravid is all about the bottom up approach. He believes in working closely with players whether it is Irfan, Harbhajan or even Sachin Tendulkar. He is always there for his men. In fact, whenever Indian batsmen go through a lean patch whether it is Sachin or Sourav they always have Dravid by their side. Indian off spinner Murali Kartik once admitted Dravid was the only player who had a quiet word with him when he was dropped from the team in the early part of his career and even drove him around the city to cool his nerves.
Dravid has always maintained his balance under pressure and ensured his deeds take precedence over headline grabbing mind games and sledging matches on the field. Heated exchanges help no one, putting yourself in other persons shoes can do wonders and Dravid is the master of that technique. Shoaib Akhtar tested his patience during the Lahore Test by looking him straight in the eyes and exchanging a word or two, the Indian captain simply stared him down.
It is not as if Dravid is soft and can be easily rubbished. The famous incident involving Australia’s Micheal Slater during the first Test at Mumbai in 2001 when the Australian fielder lost his cool when he was adjudged picking the ball off the ground by the TV umpire which led the Australian fielder to walk up to the umpire and later to Dravid is a classic example. Slater, miffed at not being able to convince anyone that he took a ‘clean’ catch used the f-word expletively; Dravid returned the favour and asked him to get back to his position. The incident was quickly forgotten and both teams got on with the game. Slater apologised to both Dravid and the umpire after the later.
Dravid hasn’t earned the tag of ‘the Wall’ overnight. It has taken him years of toil, hard work and practice added with performance on the field to make it happen. He was sensationally dropped from one-day team during the 90’s but it only made him stronger, he came back as a wicketkeeper/batsman even if it was a makeshift option but he made it count ensuring India had no trouble or complaints from the makeshift option.
He stayed away from mindless bickering in the Indian dressing room during his early days and always ensured the team was never thrown off balance. It is no secret that former coach John Wright got the job as India’s coach because of Dravid who had put in a good word for him during BCCI’s hunt for a foreign coach. The BCCI took his word for it, the Kiwi coach always had a soft corner for the Karnataka batsman and always believed he would make a better captain than Sourav but Dravid backed his captain to the hilt, doing what he does best – scoring centuries and winning matches for India.
During India’s infamous Zimbabwe tour last year which left an inedible mark on Indian cricket with the Sourav-Chappell row coming out in the open, Dravid held firm. Sourav wanted to leave the tour midway and Chappell wanted Dravid to take over but Rahul stood by his captain and believed it would be disastrous for India if the Indian captain left mid-way. Sourav stayed back and Dravid won everyone’s heart in the dressing room.
Dravid’s best knocks have always been overshadowed by a bigger, more flamboyant one by someone else at the other end. VVS Laxman was the star of the Kolkata Test against Australia in 2001 which turned the series around for India even though Dravid stood with Laxman all day to thwart McGrath & co. Everyone remembers Sehwag’s thunderous 195 at Melbourne even though it was Dravid who was responsible for India taking the lead in the Adelaide Test against Australia in the 2003-04 series down under.
If that is not enough Sehwag is known as the Sukltan of Multan even though it was Rahul whose brilliant 270 helped India seal the 2004 Pak series for the first in it’s history but the Indian captain has been unfazed, letting others grab the big stories while he goes about his business without much fuss or hype.
Even in the Lahore Test it was Sehwag who had everyone hooked to their seats, just like Sourav had in the World Cup match against Sri Lanka in England in 1999 when he scored a record breaking 183 even though Rahul had a cracked a ton at the other end with him.
Dravid was overshadowed by Sourav Ganguly for the better part of his career. Both made their Test debuts together at Lord’s in 1996 with Ganguly hitting a memorable century ensuring all the attention was grabbed by him, Dravid fell five short of his ton even though he played a knock which was far beyond his years but it went virtually unnoticed. Then for a long time he missed out on successive tons chocking in the 90’s.
During the Delhi Test between India and Australia way back in 1996 when Rahul was still a rookie in his first year of international cricket, the young Karnataka player was walking around the stadium with nothing to do waiting for his chance to bat, we
aring a smart. white t-shirt there was something unique which was spotted by the television cameraman. The words “Cricket is life rest all are mere details” was boldly written on his back, the cameraman later requested Dravid to give it to him and the Indian captain had no hesitation in handing it to him.
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