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Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 08 : 05

What makes a player Dravid-like?


It took Rahul Dravid's retirement to force us out of our slumber. Crucial questions like 'who would clinch No.3?' and 'who would be the next Dravid?' are beginning to surface only now as India find themselves in the lurch. Ironically, the same voices, vehemently campaigning for his retirement, are now looking for a Dravid clone.

Unfortunately though, in the midst of all this talk surrounding the new No.3, the larger, more critical point has been missed - 'What makes a player Dravid-like?' What is it that made Dravid, 'Dravid'? Whoever aspires to fill that void now, must realize, that Rahul Dravid wasn't just a name, but a whole philosophy.

Live like a monk

Even on days when there wasn't a cricket match the next day, Dravid would still prefer to follow a set routine, including hitting the sack early and waking up early too. This meant that he didn't have to adjust to a new routine when a Test series came calling. One would never see him rushing into things. He liked his life hassle-free, on field and off it too. Running towards the team bus with a muffin in hand wasn't 'Dravid-like'. Everything was planned meticulously, even his time spent on the breakfast table.

Test cricket is but an extension of one's life. Much of the endurance, persistence and the wisdom that Dravid showed through these 16 years came from the life he lived, from the person he was. India have great talent, undoubtedly. But, would a young cricketer, living in today's day and age, want to slow down, make sacrifices, and transform his lifestyle to be a purist? Will he want to live the life of a monk?

Value your wicket

After the first edition of the IPL, both Dravid and I agreed that our biggest concern, with regards to Twenty20 cricket, was the idea of getting out for a paltry 30. That it wasn't blasphemous needed some convincing. Players grown up in that era - when leaving balls, waiting for the right ones, and curbing one's natural instincts was considered mature - were made to believe that one must make every start count, and that getting out after reaching 20s was a bigger crime than getting a single digit score. The time-tested formula to decipher a batsman's role in the side was to divide 150 overs amongst top six batsmen, which meant each batsman must bat 30 overs each, every time.

But that's not the case now. Today's cricket, especially Twenty20, puts very little value on a wicket. It's not only acceptable but also mandatory to get out cheaply in order to accelerate the scoring rate. In fact, making amends to last longer is not even encouraged.

It's hard to imagine how GenNext, brought up on Twenty20's staple diet, would learn to value their wicket in Test cricket. Dravid wasn't called 'The Wall' for nothing.

Team before self

If Sachin Tendulkar has been the God of cricket, Dravid has been that Great, who kids growing up in the last decade or so have learnt to both eulogize and emulate. To be 'Tendulkar' one had to be blessed, but one could still aspire to be a 'Dravid' with intense passion, resilience and honesty. Dravid gave a whole generation a hope to live by, that honest and hardworking people do ultimately reach the top. He didn't start as a genius or even the most technically correct batsman, but kept evolving as a batsman as his career progressed. He needed to raise the bar to become relevant in the shorter formats, he needed to score at a fair clip in Tests to give bowlers enough time to bowl the opposition out twice, and he did all of that and more.

He also did things that he didn't have to, like keeping wickets to lengthen the batting, opening in Test cricket because no one could do the job then, even demoted himself in the batting order to play the role of a finisher. He did all that to give the team its best chance to win the game. Will we ever find such a selfless man?

Well, No. 3 will eventually be taken up. A lot of runs may also be scored at that position. But Dravid shall continue to define that spot for decades to come. These shoes will be hard to fill.


More about Aakash Chopra

Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test Cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for the country in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after the legendary Eknath Solkar. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. A grand total of 783 runs came off Chopra's bat in Delhi's title-winning Ranji Trophy in 2007-08. Chopra currently plays for the Rajasthan Royals of the Indian Premier League and represents Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, after having played for Delhi for over a decade. He also amassed a massive total of 734 runs in Rajasthan’s Ranji victory in the year 2010-11. In 2009, Chopra turned author with Beyond the Blues: A First-Class Season Like No Other. The book garnered critical appreciation while Cricket Pundits like Suresh Menon claimed it to be "the best book written by an Indian test cricketer” in his review for www.cricinfo.com. Aakash continues to tell the story of Indian cricket, its frustrations and fantasies, through his popular weekly column in The Hindustan Times, www.yahoo.com, www.cricketnext.com, sports magazines and through various TV shows.