When Dravid was there

One of my father’s friends, Venkat, once told me a story about Sunil Gavaskar’s 236 against West Indies in Madras. On the third day of the match, with West Indies all out for 313, Venkat – a huge Gavaskar fan – took off early from work to try and catch India’s innings. His workplace was quite far from Chepauk but he thought he would take a chance, trying to watch at least the last thirty minutes of play.

Gavaskar didn’t open the innings that day but hardly had Venkat left his workplace than India were 0 for 2. On his bus ride to the stadium, Venkat, with a transistor glued to his ears, felt reassured as Gavaskar calmly defied a blistering attack that included Marshall, Roberts, Holding and Winston Davies.

By the time Venkat was at the stadium, Sidhu was gone. Worse, there was a melee outside with several people turning up to watch India bat. Just as Venkat entered the stadium, Ashok Malhotra was dismissed. This left Venkat with just a few minutes to watch Gavaskar and Shivlal Yadav batting for stumps.

The crucial bit is how Venkat ended the story: “Gavaskar was there when I left the office. He was there when I was in the bus. He was there when I was trying to get into the stadium. He was there when I walked in. And he was there when the day ended. Gavaskar was always there.”

I hope Venkat watched the first two days at Trent Bridge. Rahul Dravid was there in the most dangerous phase on the first evening; he was there during the tricky phase on the second morning; he was there when Laxman blossomed; he was there when Laxman left; he was there when Tendulkar left; he was there when Yuvraj revived his Test career; he was there when Yuvraj left; and he was there when the lower order imploded in one over. Dravid was almost always there.

There was a time when 34 hundreds was Indian cricket’s holy grail and how fitting that Dravid achieved this in a game where he opened the innings and exhibited an immaculate technique and monumental patience that one associates with Gavaskar.

Dravid may be from Karnataka but he is not an archetypical Karnataka batsman: his style doesn’t so much invoke the artistry and flamboyance of predecessors like Viswanath, Budhi Kunderan, Brijesh Patel and Sudhakar Rao as much as it reminds  one of Gavaskar.

It’s also fitting that Dravid is sculpting these masterpieces in front of packed audiences in a country that cares deeply for Test cricket. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a batsman like Dravid again. It’s also unlikely that we’ll see an Indian cricketer in the future who cares so much about Test cricket, its history, its traditions, its meaning and its significance.

Dravid is not only obsessed with his craft, he’s also obsessed with the game and its institutions. He is cricket’s devotee. Never will you see Dravid walk into the field without tucking in his shirt. I don’t remember him wearing anything another than his blue India cap or blue India helmet.

He once got upset in an Indian ground when pressmen were walking on the main pitch a day before the game. The field is sacred for Dravid, the pitch a temple. He is a voracious reader – so much did he enjoy Simon Barnes’ Meaning of Sport, he requested for a copy to be inscribed by the author.

If Tendulkar is the son that every mother would want, Dravid is the boy who every single girl would want to take to her mother.

Like many Dravid innings, I will soon forget most of the shots he played at Trent Bridge. Unlike an innings from Tendulkar or Laxman (“That four off Fleming”, “That six off Warne”, “That inside out on-drive off Warne”, “That pull off Lee”) I remember a Dravid innings for its struggle. I will remember Sky Sports’ package at the tea-break, when Mike Atherton analysed his technique against Anderson and Broad as they jagged the ball back. I will remember the inch-perfect leaves outside off.

But more than anything, I will remember how, like so many Dravid innings, it becalmed. It was a busy Saturday morning and I had several things to worry about from 4AM. There were phases when I was highly irritated and angry, others when I was exhausted. But just peeking at the screen or listening to the radio, taking a slice of the action and checking the score slowed down the pace. And for long stretches of time it didn’t matter whether I was watching or not. Because Dravid was always there.

Like most things Dravid, this innings is likely to be followed by a groundswell of expert and public sentiment about how under-appreciated a cricketer he is, about how he gets a short shrift compared to a few others, about how he’s often asked to open the innings, about how he’s perceived as ‘boring’. Some of this used to irk me earlier  – and I too have expressed such thoughts at various stages – but it’s stopped mattering now. His immense body of work speaks for itself. The legend is set in stone. History will take care of the rest.

Published by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

I’m a freelance writer, editor and author. My debut novel - What's Wrong With You, Karthik - was published by Pan Macmillan in India. You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Wrong-with-You-Karthik/dp/9389109507/ I have worked as a reporter and editor for ESPNcricinfo. I was part of the team that launched their digital magazine – The Cricket Monthly. You can read all my articles here. I used to write a fortnightly column for cricketnext.com, I host podcasts and (occasionally) write pieces at 81allout.com. I have contributed articles to Wisden, Nightwatchman, The Hindu, Mumbai Mirror, Indian Express, Forbes.com, AOL, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Yahoo India. I have worked for Bloomberg News and Wall Street Journal as a features reporter.

74 thoughts on “When Dravid was there

  1. Beautiful as ever. I was frustrated till now as to how we collapsed after tea but after reading this I feel better. Your writing too probably has that calming effect as Dravid’s presence in the middle does. Thanks a lot 🙂

  2. What an article man..! What an article!!! After i read that line of Dravid being the man every girl would like to take to her mom, i just wanted this article to go on forever.. I was extremely upset that u had to stop somewhere.. Like all things Dravid, his praise should be minimalistic.. He is India’s go-to man.. As Gavaskar said so rightly after the toss– He’ll bat at no.11 also if India wants him to..! This one line describes the man Dravid is..!
    Again, thank you for the article.. All my frustrations and disappointments of life are laid to rest after watching Dravid bat, seeing him speak with Bhogle and co and reading this just before going to sleep.. Life is beautiful becoz of people like u and Dravid..!

  3. Don’t share the same trust with history as you seem to. That is why the groundswell of lamenting or how under-appreciated he is is good in a way. Would appreciate it more if the immense lamenting actually turned into appreciation.

  4. A post as beautiful as Dravid’s innings. Only you have new things to say about every single time.

  5. Sometimes, I wonder whether Dravid knows how to say “no”. Put on the wicket-keeping gloves? Yes. As captain and best batsman at the time, accommodate Ganguly in the team, go out to open the innings against Akhtar and Asif? Yes. Open against Brett Lee in Australia when completely out of form? Yes. Open the innings in seaming conditions in England? Yes. Most players are allergic to various things — Laxman famously refused to open even at the cost of his place in the team. SRT still finds batting at No. 4 in ODI’s uncomfortable. Dravid, however, seems to be unable to say no to anything. Now, which single girl wouldn’t like that when she wants to go shopping :-)?

    PS: Your line about the single girl/mother/Dravid/Tendulkar just sounds wrong. I don’t think we need to add the who-is-the-better-son/husband debate to the who-is-the-better-batsman debate that is already going on.

      1. Add one more item to the list that Dravid can’t say no to — returning to the ODI side for 5 matches when the ball is bouncing/swinging. If I were Dravid, I would feel like the napkins people blow their noses into — temporarily in great demand, forgotten once the cold goes away.

        Why is he treated so shabbily? I am reminded of a line from the Ramayana. When Rama wanted to cross the ocean, he prayed for three days to the sea god to give him a way across. But he didn’t receive any. He said, “”The low-minded mistake courtesy and
        gentleness for want of strength. Mildness is simply wasted on them. See now how I
        shall bring this misproud sea to its senses.” The first two lines fit Dravid perfectly. I wish he would say the third.

      2. I am quite baffled by this. My first reaction was: 1 Maybe he’s retiring and this is some kind of attempted farewell (though I would think RSD finishing with a T20 or ODI game would just be so odd). 2 It makes little sense to pick him and not play him in the XI and I’m wondering where they plan to slot him. If he’s picked to face the swinging conditions, then it’s strange because No.1,2 and 3 maybe taken. So No.4 or 5 it maybe – like an insurance (or a napkin as you said). My other point is: what kind of message are you sending the younger lot? You’re telling them they’re not good enough. Which is quite a negative way of building a team for the future in my opinion.

    1. I read a few days ago on NDTV…Dhoni saying that Dravid taught him how to say NO…though now i agree with the thought that Dravid really doesnt know how to say no 🙂 This appeared in an article on Dhoni published on his birthday.

  6. Loved the article. And I’ve taken a screen-shot too… will print it out and add to my file of articles about Rahul Dravid (:

  7. It’s unlikely we’ll see a batsman like Dravid- brilliant and so true. We were just discussing how many top batsman in the world would have survived yesterday and today’s session. Kallis may be and ponting at his peak? It was really a treat to watch his innings yesterday

  8. Lovely. As always. Very. Very. Nice. The Sunny Gavaskar 236 was, I believe the occasion when. Viv Richards is supposed to have sledged, “Don matter maaan whether you bat at 1 or 3, the score is still zero when you walk out to bat!”

  9. If there’s one Cricketer I would want to learn Cricket from, It’s Rahul Dravid. Not Tendulkar, not Lara, not Gavaskar. Brilliant article.

  10. Classy article on a Top Class Batsman. I think the Trent bridge innings is a lesson for all the younger batsmen (Read: Rohit, Virat, Badri) waiting to get into the team.

  11. lovely article!!!!unlike you, i was completely vella yesterday, that innings was like meditation! wish some of it had rubbed on to the others…..

  12. There may be 2-3 decades before we see another Sachin, but we may never see a Dravid again 🙂

  13. It’s always great to see someone writing on the performances in test cricket, Dravid is a true test cricketer. He’s one of those rare cricketers who know how to perform their duty perfectly. And i loved the way you explained it, he had always been there. When laxman needed a partner he was there, when India needed to give a strong reply to australia in 2003 he was there, when Indian batting was falling apart in africa he was there. Dravid has always been there, and he was again there yesterday. He’s someone we’ll miss the most once he’ll retire, i guess more than sachin.

    Lovely post, glad to read such quality stuff on test cricket.

  14. Love every of your post on him. #Dravidtards. Also, ‘If Tendulkar is the son that every mother would want, Dravid is the boy who every single girl would want to take to her mother.’ Very apt! =)

    Another classic write up from you dear Sidvee, for a man who perfectly defines the class himself!

  15. Amen! Couldn’t have said it better! Yes, Dravid is there…like the regularity of the natural phenomenons. He can be counted on to be there when the sun rises and when it sets. I really wonder….what would happen to the team when he along with Laxman and Sachin decide to call it a day. There seems to be no youngsters on the horizon able to take on from them.

  16. I hope Dravid would teach cricket after he retires to youngsters… that would be a great service and help to the game of Cricket

  17. I have been thinking ‘No Words’ to explain Dravid’s dedication and his efforts to Indian Cricket. But your words get very closer in matching to his majesty.

  18. “If Tendulkar is the son that every mother would want, Dravid is the boy who every single girl would want to take to her mother.” – what a beautiful line!

  19. Agree with @Harshmeet .Dravid can be never be seen.His retirement is end of cricket(not the entertainment version.Dhoni and team will keep the business alive).He is a tribute to sport called cricket… Hats off .. And ofcourse nice article

    1. absolutly he is the wall of indian batting order…………………always in any situation………i love watch his batting……….

  20. When Dravid retires India will struggle to replace him, probably more than other stalwarts. His contribution in tough situation and testing conditions have been his hallmark. Can’t think of another batsman in all international cricket to compare with his grit and determination, coupled with his skill.

  21. Nice Article. It appears you are a true fan of true cricketer… I loved the time when Jumbo, Dravid, Sachin were together. After Dravid’s retirement, a generation of Indian Cricket fans will retire….

  22. it is absolutely wonderful to see many dravid fans out there. ‘the wall’ as he is so often called has done his job yet again adding substance to his title.and yea wonderful piece of writing. loved it!!

  23. Apologies for an off-the topic comment. Did you watch Dravid’s interview with Jatin Sapru? It was a masterclass in defusing volatile questions. Dada didn’t agree with what some part of what Dravid said though! He smiled enigmatically but didn’t say anything 🙂

  24. awesome article..venkat…we cant find any other cricketer like Dravid..who always plays for his team first ..records are not even secondary to him…no one can replace the wall…

  25. I’ve stopped caring for Cricket, successfully since 23 March 2003, but I always found myself glued to the TV whenever Dravid was there. Doesn’t matter one day or test. No, I have never been a test fan, I loathe this version(no offence Purists, it’s just that my taste never evolved) but there’s something with this Kannada guy(born in MP) that is just appealing or rather say peaceful, so calm. Something very serene. I felt that even at that time when he was recently married and was blasting off every other bowler in one-dayers, a brief period.

    Nice post. Poetic, as observed by a fellow commenter.

  26. An article which justly describes the man-of-the-moment Rahul “The Wall” Dravid. Your writing is poetic and this post is befitting to the man who has always been there for Team India.
    “If Tendulkar is the son that every mother would want, Dravid is the boy who every single girl would want to take to her mother.” – what a line!
    It will go down as one of the best quotes ever. 🙂

  27. Dravid deserves all the respect …..
    With all the hype around this test series, 2000th match, 100th encounter, 100th century ….. Dravid is actually the unsung hero for India. 2nd highest run scorer in test cricket is not a joke.

    The best part about Dravid is his respect for Cricket. He attends every practice session without fail, generally 1st one on the ground and the last one still practicing his immaculate defensive shot in front of the bowling machine. He would have played 100 successive test matches for India had he not fallen ill before his 98th.
    Indian cricket couldn’t have got a better ambassador for the team than the Wall.

  28. Cricket does this to every Indian, doesn’t it? Especially Test Cricket. Like somebody said, The Indians are the last Englishmen. We love the aristocracy, the gentlemanly nature, the formal procedure and the calm, understated way that the English respond. And Test Cricket is all about that. It is about walking in, digging deep, staying all day, doing the job. Infact, the same connotations could be used to any other job. That is the character of Cricket. It is a lot like life and as we see both artists and statesmen in life, so are there artists and statesmen in Cricket as well. Tendulkar, Laxman fall into the former category whereas Dravid and Kumble into the latter. Dravid is Cricket’s greatest find, the finest person to take Cricket further as against taking it to people. His innings talk a lot about him. His diligence, his precision, his discipline, his belief in hard work. Sachin’s the gifted kid but Rahul is the genius.

  29. A great,great,great article about a great great great person and cricketer…I’ve always been bothered about the fact that RD doesn’t get the amount of appreciation and accolades he truly deserves,but after reading this…i feel great coz i see that dravid IS very much appreciated and respected and loved all over the world..

  30. A good article , but i never understand why people drag the likes of Tendulkar , Laxman unnecessarily when this article is just about Rahul dravid. The mother/girl/son line is really very filmy, sounds as the author somewhere still want to compare dravid with tendulkar .
    My point : To praise someone, you need not to point others failure . every dog has his day . Not long before Dravid was also going through a real rough phase and he himself admitted in a recent interview that he doubted on his own skills. If i go down in history then i can also give “n” number of examples of lone tendulkar battles when tendulkar was “always there” 🙂

    1. Thats correct. If somebody has never seen cricket and just reads this article, the person will feel as if Cricket is a movie with two villains(Sachin and Laxman) and Dravid is the the Hero. 😀

    2. Agree. Maybe that line didn’t fit in there. But at no point of time have I pointed to any failure – I have only said I remember a Tendulkar and a Laxman innings for one reason and a Dravid innings for another. It will help if people realise that it’s impossible for me to write an article on one player without even hinting at others around him simply because they have been associated with Indian cricket for so long. Of course Tendulkar has been there – I have never doubted that

      1. Dude, just read your paragraph number 5 again and you will understand where i am coming from. the “always there” paragraph 🙂 . you have pretty much summarized yourself in that paragraph. Never mind 🙂 . it can happen. you are a true “Dravid fan” .

  31. But the truth is Gavaskar was out thrice in that innings. Indian umpires were very generous in not giving LBW. Read the yesteryear reports. If this is the case Gavaskar will be still batting after so many years. But Dravid innings was just class. Long live the wall. Till the wall is there for our protection the so called best batsman in the world can be protected.

  32. Yuvraj, Dhoni, Sidhu, Budhi Kunderan, Brijesh Patel and Sudhakar Rao: [Doesnot Feature]
    Ganguly, Viswanath and Laxman :Good
    Gavaskar : Good….Great
    Dravid : Good….Great
    Lara : Good….Great
    Tendulkar : Good….Great….God
    Bradman : Good….Great….God
    [That’s about all the batsmen you mentioned, well, I added Lara & Bradman ’cause Tendulkar cannot be featureed without them]
    To all “Praising a man doesn’t mean degrading the other”
    Good Article. Way to go Dravid. Two more to go laddies…Hope we can get the back on top…

  33. wow, what a write up. its morning in india and already made my day 🙂 Thanks to RD first of all for such a splendid inning, which i also watched without missing a ball. thanks to the writer for putting up so many nice words for a true legend \m/
    Expecting many such innings from RD’s bat in coming days 🙂

  34. Hi Sidvee,
    I think you have successfully reinstate my long lost faith in the game of cricket.
    Yes, your articles are the reason. They are just super.
    Thought should let you know and thank much.

  35. The GREAT WALL of INDIA deserves to play each and every formats of Cricket for Team INDIA………….
    He should play for INDIA as long as he can……….
    Hats off to you Rahul Dravid……….

  36. As usual, wonderfully written. Invariably, most sports blogs and columns I read I manage to find one or two points I don’t necessarily agree with. The debate, I think lends to the enjoyment of sport. But not one point with this, may be its the man himself. Always agreeable.

    Had goosebumps reading this, through out. And that usually reserved only for SRT!

    Watching Dravid bat is like reading a good book, a friend once said. Profound,to me, is the word that describes Dravid’s batting the best.

  37. wow what an article .being an ardent fan of the wall.,i am really thankful that there a people who still admire simplicity of dravid

  38. An interesting read indeed, and the genius that RD is, enough can seldom be said about him. Though, I’d refrain from comparisons with Gavaskar, especially after the ignoble lip-syncing he’s been doing for BCCI. It certainly doesn’t suit a man of his stature, after the invaluable service he’s done to Indian cricket, neither can I imagine RD ever doing something like that at any point of his life. Demeanor wise, I suppose RD and Gavaskar couldn’t have been more different.

  39. Pingback: Rahul Dravid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: