For over a decade and a half it was such a pleasure to watch Rahul Dravid play the game as it was meant to be played — in gentlemanly fashion. From an India cap aspirant in the mid-1990s, Dravid established himself as a pillar of strength on which rested the hopes of billions of countrymen.
Much has been written about Dravid's batsmanship, technique, cricketing acumen, his reading of a situation, etc. Not many know how these qualities were reinforced over a period of time.
Call him a devotee of discipline or a man who believed in following certain routine in search of success, almost always, Dravid sounded correct or appeared to be correct.
On the eve of any first-class match, Dravid would never miss spending time studying the pitch. If possible, he would ask the curator a few questions. Once a student, always a student… and that is what Dravid remained. After all, five-digit aggregates in Tests as well as one-dayers don't come without being disciplined and fiercely determined.
Staying away from ills
Looking back, one can safely say Dravid managed to stay away from the ills that success often brings. If he stayed rooted even when riding a high, it has much to do with his upbringing.
Even today, Dravid continues to have time for those who saw the making of his career as a cricketer, remembering the days of moving around on cycle-rickshaws at small centres, going for movies during domestic matches, looking for phone booths to call home at night, hunting for a restaurant that would serve spicy food.
“Those were lovely days, indeed. Cricketers and (select) mediapersons bonded so well. It is not possible now. These days, when I walk in for a press conference, I see so many new faces, it is almost intimidating,” said Dravid at a dinner we had during the Test against West Indies last December.
Dravid's forte has also been his timing. He has got it right again. With Tendulkar and Laxman likely to follow Dravid sooner rather than later, for the purists watching the Indian Test team bat will never be the same.
These days, the overdose of instant cricket can, at best, produce fleeting heroes. Legends may well be a thing of the past. One feels fortunate to have witnessed the making of a legend.