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"Congratulations Rahul Bhai! D of Dravid stands for determination, dedication and discipline," I tweeted after Rahul completed his 31st Test century and the second against New Zealand in this series.
These attributes may be highly effective, but not attractive anymore, felt a couple of people who commented on the post. And that remark took me back to a conversation I'd had with a 19-year-old kid who is trying to break into the first-class circuit. This player has played for India colts and is indeed a promising youngster. He says he doesn't want to be like Dravid. "What good is a life dedicated to only cricket and nothing but cricket," he'd said. "It's quite obvious that his life has always revolved around the game and despite scoring so many more runs than the others, he isn't as popular with the youngsters.
"It's not just restricted to Dravid bhai but all the players who play just Test cricket (obviously he's unaware of Dravid's 10000-plus ODI runs). Who knows of Samaraweera and his Herculean test average? But everyone knows of Shahid Afridi and Yusuf Pathan. I want to be like them."
It's not like he does not respect Dravid's accomplishments. In fact he seems to be in awe of him and his achievements but is perhaps too scared to follow in his footsteps, for it demands sincerity and discipline of the highest order. He confesses it's too much hard work for way too long. When something similar or perhaps better, in his eyes, can be achieved with slogging then why tire yourself, batting for countless hours? In any case, who wants to go back to school again, was his thinking.
But is this how the next generation is thinking? The more I interact with the younger lot, especially the ones who have had a taste of the money and fame brought by the IPL, the more certain I become that the best Test cricketers India will ever see, are the current lot.
And it's not just the attitude but also the approach towards the game which vindicates my point. In another junior cricket game, two openers had been batting together. One, had an IPL deal, and the other was searching for one. The guy who hadn't got the IPL contract was technically more solid than the other. But he was the one who's throwing caution to the winds, for he not only wanted a contract but was also desperate to change people's opinion of him. To be called a player suited only for the longer format isn't something to be proud of; in fact today it is actually considered offensive.
The scales are heavily tilted in favour of the ones playing in the money-spinning IPL with regard to both money and recognition, and in some cases even selection. And if nothing is done soon enough to change that rather warped perception, at the risk of sounding cynical, this current set of players might be the last group who will see India at the top of Test rankings.
© 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.