Me the rebel, me the brash one, me the curt one, me the snooty one, me the one who will sound you off in your face, me the brat, me who prefers that things are black and white buy cialis tabs (grey is a shade I don’t like much), me in contradiction to my nature always supports the underdog, me for all my I don’t care a damn attitude – admires folks who are genuinely nice, simple, courteous, affable, polite and have no bad words to mince about anyone.
I married the nice guy, my best friends are the nicest blokes you will ever meet, my childhood idol has been the nice guy – Harsha Bhogle and all my cricketing life I’ve only admired the nice guy – you dear Rahul Dravid.
Lords ’96, I was hoping my then favourite cricketer would redeem himself but he was injured and you a 23- year old walked in at number 7. 20 runs into your innings my father and I were discussing if India had finally found her number 3 – that defence, that look, that impeccable judgement of your off-stump, that lovely square-cut but most of all that assurance in your batting. The assurance, the comfort of “Dravid is yet to bat, Dravid is still batting”, that assurance defined your entire career for me and the assurance was felt from the moment you stepped in to bat the first time. I rued you missing your century on debut, on making history with the other debutant centurion, but I did not brood over it for long – and you did not brood over it at all.
You went on to make many more – 36 of them if I’m not mistaken; you finally made up for that missed chance in 1996 by getting it in your last match at Lords in the final season of what had been a remarkable career – most players would be happy if they could achieve half of what you have.
On that day in ’96 at Lords – I had found my teenage hero, that day also marked the beginning of the innumerable arguments, endless debates and fights that would follow with friends – reasoning out why you deserved to be among the best in the business, on why you would be the key to India’s fortunes and the pivot around which the rest of the famed, naturally-gifted, talented batting line-up would evolve. 16 years on and I’m still debating and arguing on why you are among the best in the business – you who stands at #2 among the best test batsmen in the world.
I have mini-posters of you – from the Pepsi adverts you did in your early days – looking highly uncomfortable doing those funny antics. They are stuck to the inside of the door of my small cupboard – the one that stores my cricket collection over the years.I open that door every time I visit home – there are memories of teenage crushes and fandom, I need to revisit those to discover my lost self.
This poster of you adorned the huge softboard (that papa had put up on one of the walls in my room) for long. It was placed alongside a Calvin poster – he my favourite brat, and you my favourite nice guy.
In the days of expensive internet and mobile (no mobile internet) my cricket memories are bound together by my paper collection – magazines & paper cuttings. The key moments in my cricketing fandom are stocked up there.
I dug up the archives today –
The first interview in Sportstar after the successful England tour ‘96,
The tons in 2 innings of the same test NZ ’99
The Kolkata ‘01 win – yes that jump in the air,
The Adelaide ‘03 raising of the bat, arms and cap,
The Rawalpindi double in ’04 and first series victory in Pak
The two chases with Kaif to seal the ODI series Vs Pak 04
Then there are the innumerable scorecards in newspapers from the 90s – the ones where you were on that frustrating run of getting scores of 80s and 90s but no 100s until you got your first 100 in Johannesburg 1996.
I don’t know why I don’t have the cuttings from some of my favourite moments in your cricketing life before 2004 (my collections end there – then internet took over). The Headingley 148, the Oval double – I had a bet with my friends India would not lose the ‘02 series, you ensured I won, that 6 off Donald – I wanted to come down and abuse Donald for you but you taught me the better answer, the Taunton 145 – those 3 fours you struck in the 5th over after the fall of the first wicket in the first over – those are etched in memory forever. My engineering exams were on and my luck was good that India’s matches were on the off-days between papers, I did well in those semesters despite the distraction of watching you bat beautifully in that World Cup.
Over the years I’ve watched you – the grim look, the constant struggle, the art of defiance, the ability to play on the worst of the pitches in the worst of the conditions and still succeed. My own personal struggles started a year after your debut. Often when I felt totally beaten up and gutted by life, I sought some inspiration from your battles on the field. Your willingness and selflessness to fit into any role for the team – opening, batting down the order, even wicket-keeping, your ability to adapt – to not let the ego get the better of the ability to focus. You are the reason for my belief that with a little bit of talent accompanied by tons of hardwork and determination – one can compete at the highest levels in one’s field and even win.
Nice guys finish last they always told me – you changed that equation. Isn’t there a book by that name The Nice Guy who Finished First as well on you? In the list of my favourite cricketers you will always lead the pack. What a fabulous pack I grew up watching; I can only imagine how much you enjoyed playing with that bunch. Tendulkar, Saurav, Srinath, Kumble, and VVS – Aha the partnerships with him. You two blokes made me bunk college and office a lot of times and I ran out of excuses in front of my professors and bosses.
I wanted to walk up to you the innumerable times I watched you from the Pavilion Stands at Wankhede, but hey I’m not like those silly girls who chase their cricketing heroes; I’m the serious kind – the one who loves the game. I’ll take watching you bat for hours rather than waste those hours chasing to catch a glimpse of you. But I was tempted at times, like the time when I came to Bangalore in my final year engineering industrial visit – I harboured thoughts of breaking away from the gang, catching a rickshaw and taking it to your house in Indranagar.
My first job post MBA was in Bangalore, I was tempted again and then unknowingly I got the chance. You were being felicitated at Maharastra Mandal and my friends called me over. You spoke in your bits and pieces Marathi over the Sachin declaration controversy – remember?
“Sachin and me Marathit bolun sagla clear kela” (Sachin and I sorted out the issue in Marathi).
I could not stop smiling. Later I even got onto the stage and took your autograph, and that is only because my to-be sister-in-law had pestered the hell out of me to get one for her. It is my biggest sacrifice till date, giving that treasure to her but she has kept it lovingly even today.
And this final memory from the MTV Bakra – it is also one of my favourites – “How old are you? Usko bolo concentrate on studies,Yeh shaadi ka khayal chod de”. (ask her to concentrate on studies and forget this marriage thought)
The Mr. Nice Guy even then, even now.
Memories – no one can take them away, however the one memory I want someone take away is my most feared memory – of this day. I knew it would come one day the moment you had stepped out to bat at Lords in 1996 at number 7. It is the inevitable fact of a sporting life – our heroes take birth and then they leave. They are never going to be around forever; we know this truth from the moment we see them take their first steps. And yet like many things in life even though we know the inevitability of it all – we can never prepare ourselves for the conclusion to the colossus career, the final chapter, the last act, the last moment – The END.
To not see you in whites again
To not see you come out at one down again
To not see you in that blue cap again
To not see you take a stance again
To not see you grind on the pitch again
To not see you put up the dead bat for hours and hours and wear out the bowlers again
To not see you leave the deliveries outside the off and yell “well left” again
To not see you take those catches out of thin air again
To not call mom and ask her just check if Dravid’s still batting again
To not see the shy smile again
To not debate with the friends on why you top the list of my best batsmen again
To not hammer the bloke who calls you a slow poke and dour batsman
To not see you raise your cap, hands, bat and run down the track celebrating the victory again
To not see you jump in the air – point your bat at your detractors and say “TAKE THAT” again
To just NOT SEE YOU play cricket again
Rahul Dravid do you have any idea how much this is going to hurt the teenager who bored her father talking about you after that 95 you got on debut, while he tried to remind her that another player had got a 100 on debut and yet, all she could do was talk about you.
You were full of humility today – as always
“I’m moving on because the youngsters need to come in. 16-17 years from now you will be at a press conference of one of these players would have done better than Rahul Dravid.”
Yes, that could be a possibility and yes I’ll probably witness it. But none of them would have been my teenage hero and and none of them would be teaching me patience, belief, humility, modesty, sincerity – oh all those “Niceties” that you taught me!
So I don’t want to say goodbye and thank you for the memories, you needed to be immortal, playing this game till I died – that faith built over the years is going to take a hit now. I’m not getting over today – the day you bid adieu to the game and to us, I’ve the right to not get over. There are certain things in life where none of you folks are allowed to tell me to get over and move on.
There will be No Moving On from Rahul Dravid for me.
P.S: The pictures scanned from my collection of Sportstar and Newspaper cuttings over the years. A million thanks to the nice guy in my life – my dearest hubby for scanning them while I was putting this post up)