So then in a matter of a few weeks, we have come to realize the moment that we all knew would arrive but really didn’t know how we would respond to when it did. In a matter of few weeks, we have lost two men who reserved their very best for the big occasions.
In a matter of a few weeks, the Indian cricket team has lost a pair that’s probably won more matches than any other in its history. In a matter of few weeks, we are almost beginning to question our very purpose of watching cricket going forward.
After all, we grew up watching Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman knowing they would take care of everything that’s thrown at us. Almost believing they would be around forever simply because we worshipped their skill. In them, you had two very fine cricketers, different in style but united in purpose. If Sachin Tendulkar made a generation watch and take up cricket, Rahul and VVS made sure we appreciated the importance of managing flair and hard work; they owned different styles of batsmanship. But more than everything else, in these two cricketers you also had wonderful human beings who had time for people. They were courteous and honest; they spoke to people and journalists not worrying about their background or experience. The respect was mutual.
I remember meeting VVS most recently at the Virender Sehwag International School last season when West Indies were down here for a series – around the time when I had the pleasure of interacting with the legendary Courtney Walsh in the studios. VVS being the student of the game that he’s always been was keen to know, hear and understand what Courtney thought of Indian bowlers. He was keen to hear about the run-up and follow through of Ishant Sharma, and eager to know what best the bowlers can do to improve their performance and hence their team’s performance. All this happened even as he brought a smile to every kid that he spoke to at the campus.
More often than not, we talk about VVS’ wrists. Sometimes we tend to overlook the infectious smile that he always sports. Over the past few years, as Venkatesh Prasad insists, the smile has grown broader in the Indian dressing room. He increasingly noted a very relaxed VVS in the changing room, a man much more relaxed from the VVS he knew from early in his life. For an everyday sports fan, it was re-assuring; telling them not to worry too much when he’s around, whether it was in front of the stumps or standing in the company of Dravid next to a number of wicket-keeping friends he’s had over the past 16 years.
The young journalists knew VVS was approachable and even if he didn’t feel the need to speak, you are assured of a polite response. It matters. For people who had the privilege of knowing him well, he was a man to talk to about a variety of things. From different styles of vegetarian cuisine that VVS experiments with to cricket of course.
For the majority, VVS and Rahul were institutions by themselves. Men, who understood success is a moving target. Managed flair and situations extremely well – be it on the cricket field or off it. We might want to search for similar characteristics on the field for the next two decades and probably even be successful in finding someone – but to find top class professionals unaffected by their egos and success? I wouldn’t bet my money on it.