The “Daal-Rice” of Indian Cricket

I write rarely, because I cannot get beyond a few lines. But then sometimes, a rare incident occurs and I try to pen down a little more than a few lines.

Food exploration and photography is a passion for me. MDW (my dear wifey) goes absolutely crazy when we go to restaurants and I stop her just before she is about to have her first bite – to capture the dish that has just arrived.

Indian families usually have a set pattern of food during a week. There will be a few vegetables, maybe fish, chicken, meat on a few days, biryani, just soup and salads for the health freaks. Oh yes, on weekends or on days we are tired, we will order or eat out and try something really fancy and exotic. But there is usually this one dish, which we will not do away with no matter what. After a long tiring day, after a trip abroad (rather even on a trip abroad), when we are unwell, when staying abroad reminds us of our folks back home and on many such innumerable occasions this simple, humble dish comes to mind and the mere sight of it leaves us with a smile on our face and divine content to our hungry souls – “The Daal-Rice”.

That is exactly what Rahul Sharad Dravid was to Indian Cricket – the simple, humble, unassuming, always around, the quintessential, the go-to “dish” of Indian Cricket.

I could perhaps compare other players to some other dishes – Laxman the delicious biryani, Sehwag the spicy Indian curry (doesn’t go down well with everyone), Sachin the important bread (chapaati, roti) – but that isn’t the point here. I am sure others will come up with much better comparisons.

The Daal-Rice is an inseparable constituent of an Indian diet. It is one of the simplest dishes to conjure, some very basic ingredients, is ready in a matter of minutes, can be had by itself, anytime of the day, anywhere. Very few hate this dish. Most would die to have it. Oh and there are varieties to it – the daal tadka-rice, the daal-makhani rice, the maharashtrian “varan-bhaat”, the “rassam-rice” and so many more.

This is what Dravid was/is as an individual and to Indian cricket. His simplicity reflected in every action of his – on and off field. His calm demeanor made it hard for anyone to hate him. When the team was “ill” he did his job. When other dishes were preferred, he stood aside calmly and waited for him to be called on.

They wanted him for “starters” (to open) and he was around, they wanted him as main course (no.3) and he came to the rescue, oh and times they wanted him as a side dish (a wicketkeeper) and there he was.  The “Daal-Rice” of Indian cricket was always around.

And miss him we did. The number of times we said “Oh where is Dravid?’, “Oh who will get us out of this mess? – do we even have a count of that.

Present him with the toughest of situations and we would come up trumps. No one appreciates the Daal-Rice till you really need it and crave for it. And just like when an Indian tours a foreign country, his craving for this dish grows, so was our need for Dravid on foreign tours.  I am no genius at statistics but his away record stands tall across various other “dishes”.

His impeccable square cuts, the flicks to midwicket, the textbook correct cover drives, the small nudges and solid blocks were his variants of the Daal-Rice.

I have been one of the few exceptions to not like “Daal-Rice” (I mean the real dish). But now that the “Daal-Rice” will not be on the Indian cricket menu anymore, I realize what I have missed. Perhaps I will start having Daal-Rice; perhaps I will now admire it rather than hate it.

But one thing for sure, the “moving on” of “Daal-Rice” has left me in mourning – Don’t ask me for how long. Perhaps a part of me will always be. When I see a bat, a cricket ball, a cricket field I will mourn; and yet smile, because someone, even as he left made me fall in love with this game all over again.

Sir Rahul Dravid you showed me what true love is. Thank you.