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I wasn’t too far off from the reality when I wrote that the presence of players like VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid has a mesmerising effect on the players, especially the youngsters. In our recently concluded match against Karnataka, Dravid scored 78 on a difficult pitch. He, as usual, made batting look easy, which left most of us awestruck.
The ball was darting around, and everyone was getting beaten at least a couple of times every over. But here was Dravid, always taking a long stride forward to the balls that were pitched up, and then either playing with the sweetest spot of the bat or allowing it go to the keeper. One of us would ask the keeper if the ball had stopped moving, but the answer would always be that Dravid is just making it look like that.
Our bowlers rarely bowled a bad ball to any of the Karnataka batsmen - except Dravid. Somehow bowlers kept dishing out half-volleys regularly. Obviously it wasn’t going down well with our team because he kept dispatching them to the fence. But I knew that it was very difficult to keep all your faculties under control when someone you have always admired is standing only a few meters away.
Bowlers were seen trying to bowl “wicket-taking” deliveries, which of course is never easy. While our strategy was to stick to the basics, bowl in good areas and have patience, it was only human to think that it would perhaps take an extraordinary ball to dismiss The Wall.
We even thought we would tell Dravid that if he got beaten twice off the same bowler, he should treat it as getting out and must walk back to the pavilion. One of our bowlers even told the umpire after an unsuccessful appeal for a leg-before decision that “if he’s managed to breach the defence to hit the pads, he should be given out regardless of the fact that it was sliding down the leg side”.
And when he eventually got out, the celebration was worth watching. A look at the bowler was enough to tell you that he had just earned himself the lifetime bragging rights of telling his parents, friends and kids that he dismissed Rahul Dravid.
Fans will always be fans and admire almost everything about the person they are in awe of. One such batsman described his emotions after he nicked one to Dravid standing in first slip. He said, “The moment I saw the ball heading in Rahul’s direction, I started walking back. He has hands as big as a bucket.” To that someone added that when Dravid takes a catch you can’t even hear the voice of the ball hitting the hands. Another person said, “He makes the act look so simple, while we begin to feel edgy the moment we see the ball heading our way, especially in the slips for a fast bowler.”
Obviously we, the Delhi Squad, didn’t make our emotions visible to him because that would have meant disaster for our team. Still that didn’t stop us from enjoying the moments we spent is his company.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. 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. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.