If Sachin was the teacher’s pet marked for greatness ever since he joined the school, Ganguly the arrogant gang-leader of the cool kids and VVS Laxman the freakishly-talented loner in the corner, Rahul Dravid will always be the hair-cleanly-parted, diligent “good boy”, the one who studies every waking hour to get the best grade.
The perfect student.
Not for him the arrogance of knowledge. Nor the satisfaction of absolute success. Dravid was always learning, and as one of the first ads he shot for so prophetically said, “always practicing”.
Not naturally aggressive in his batting, one of his most inspirational achievements was how he developed his limited-overs technique to retire with a record as good as the best. And even while batting in Test matches, an art he had mastered better than any of his contemporaries, you could see him continually changing, adapting, fine-tuning his game, often shaking his head in disappointment even after a perfect cover-drive. It is this relentless, almost religious, pursuit of perfection that will be remembered the most about him.
As also the precise movement of feet, the opening of the stance to counter the swing, the pivot of the heel, the last-minute leave, the perfect balance of the body at the moment of impact, the stillness of head. The man was as close to an anthropomorphism of a Swiss watch one could get, not just in its engineering precision, but in its total reliability. Session after session, like gears of platinum, he would grind out the opposition, his almost absolute invulnerability sapping them of all hope .
Time could stop. But not Dravid.
The other guy would trudge to the pavilion. Not Dravid.
He would be at the other end. Always.
However even “always” ends. It has to.
The bails are removed. Shadows creep over the pitch. The reassuring presence at number 3 takes his last walk.
Memories crowd around. Calcutta. Adelaide. Lords. Georgetown. Headingley. Rawalpindi. Now they are all a blur–one glorious image giving way to another in rapid sequence. The flick. The square-drive. That back-lift. The studious expression. The self-effacing smile. The punch in the air.
And that silently smoldering hunger—– the hunger to be the best one can possibly be.
We will miss you sir.