Rahul's love for cricket and his commitment to fitness kept him in the game past the use-by-date
Winston Churchill said ‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference'.
He could have been talking about Rahul Dravid who may have looked like a mild-mannered accountant, but, was in fact one of the greatest batsmen of his time because of his indomitable attitude. Only Tendulkar has made more Test runs.
Rahul appeared to me to be a reluctant hero. He preferred to be left alone to play cricket and was not bothered about the trappings and demands of success. He was, in fact, one of a kind. He has truly done India proud.
Dravid was indisputably one of the gentlemen of the game which he has adorned for over 15 years. Not for him the tantrums of the superstar, just quiet dedication to a task that he so obviously loved. Very few have ever played the game in a better spirit. The game will be poorer without his sporting ways.
He was amongst the quartet of brilliant batsmen (which included Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly) that made up one of the most vaunted middle-orders that the game has seen.
He was often the cement that held the innings together, against the odds, and is as tough as they come.
Behind the polite, gracious exterior was a formidable competitor who put a very high price on his wicket. His greatest assets were his robust technique, unwavering concentration and sheer strength of character
In fact, it was Dravid and Kumble who were largely responsible for India winning its first away series for many years when they combined to carry the team on their backs for much of the series in the West Indies in 2006.
In a series that India dominated for much of the four Tests, it was Dravid's gritty batting in tough conditions in Jamaica, which got the team over the line when the series might have been lost. Kumble's bowling had also been a contributing factor, but, it was probably his doughty partnership of 93 with Dravid in the first innings of that Test that helped clinch the series.
No team has had two more dogged, resilient and proud competitors; and, for them, the team always came first. There must be something in the water of Bangalore!
Dravid's leadership in that series, in which he captained a very young and inexperienced bowling attack, was also a contributing factor. With Dravid you were not going to get histrionics on the field. More a quiet determination and considered thought behind every move. He did his planning with the thoroughness one would expect from him.
Rahul leaned towards conservatism as captain, but, it was based on the knowledge that not many batsmen could apply themselves like he could. His record as captain has only been bettered for India by Dhoni and Ganguly.
It was Dravid's commitment to improving India's record in one-day cricket that led to the world record-breaking 17 wins in a row chasing a target. For someone who was seen as a stereotypical Test cricketer, his ODI record is remarkable; not bad for one who was press-ganged into keeping wickets for 73 matches at one period.
Rahul's love of the game and his commitment to fitness are what kept him in the game past the usual use-by date. He faced more balls than anyone else which meant that he also featured in many partnerships; none better than his two game-changing, legendary partnerships with Laxman against Australia in Kolkata in 2001 and Adelaide in 2003.
In recent times, Rahul has shown that there is more to him than someone who can bat longer than anyone else by his thoughtful and erudite delivery of the Bradman Oration in Canberra. His concern for the future of the game was evident in the courageous way he challenged administrators and players alike. At the end of the Test series, he again impressed one and all with his articulation, humility and demeanour at the Annual Dinner of the leading Australian cricket charity, The LBW Trust (of which he is one of the Patrons), which was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
I reiterate what I said a few weeks ago — he will make a brilliant ICC Chairman in 10 years time. The BCCI and the ICC must find a way of getting him involved. He is a man who commands instant respect, not just because of his stirring deeds on the cricket field but because of his sharp intellect and broad vision. He is probably the best read cricketer in the game and has genuine intellectual curiosity.
The game will go on without Rahul Dravid. Other players with talent will be found, but, the question is, will they be able to find one person with the talent, the courage, the integrity and the insatiable drive to keep improving himself as Dravid did?
To me, Rahul's career embodied the words of Mahatma Gandhi who said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”