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March 9, 2012

Indian cricket

Meeting Rahul Dravid: The soul of a champion

Samir Chopra
Rahul Dravid plays one to the off side, India v West Indies, 1st Test, New Delhi, 3rd day, November 8, 2011
"I told myself that I had to bat at least 30 overs in a Test. If I didn't do that, I had failed."  © AFP
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In January 2011, I travelled to Bangalore to meet Rahul Dravid and interview him for the book I was then writing. I intended to write on the changing face of modern cricket, on its response to the introduction of the franchise into a nation-based game, on the challenges Test cricket faced, and on the effects of media and technology on the game. When I thought of which Indian cricketers I would most like to talk to, Dravid's name suggested itself as an obvious choice.

Shortly after I received word that I should go ahead and contact Rahul, I called and spoke briefly with him on the phone. He was unfailingly courteous and helpful, providing detailed directions to his house, even solicitously inquiring whether I knew my way about Bangalore (I didn't, but assured him that I would be just fine).

I arrived at his residence on time, was shown in, and soon our conversation started. Dravid was dressed casually and conducted himself with a polite, relaxed informality that put me instantly at ease, and prompted me to ask all the questions I wanted to. Mrs. Dravid joined us for a few minutes, brought us tea, asked me a few questions about my background, and then left to take care of their boys.

As I talked to Dravid, a slight sense of unreality pervaded the proceedings. This man simply did not have the airs of a sporting superstar, someone who was rich and famous, and hobnobbed with other cricketing superstars (though he did sometimes casually refer to them by first name). I could have been talking to someone that was a keen fan of cricket, rather than a Test great and a former India captain. At times, I had to keep reminding myself that this was Rahul Dravid. Of course, the quality, sharpness, and sometimes bluntness of his observations on cricket, the level of cricketing knowledge on display, and the insights that only someone on the inside of the game could have, reminded me that I was talking to a person located at a very particular focal point of international cricket.

And then, it happened. The money moment, so to speak.

As we talked about the transition from first-class cricket to Test cricket, from Test cricket to one-day games and Twenty20, Dravid said, "My attitude towards batting was simple: the bowler had to earn my wicket. I told myself that I had to bat at least 30 overs in a Test. If I didn't do that, I had failed. I would do it one way or the other."

As he said this, suddenly, his expression changed. The smiling, casual, relaxed demeanour that he had assumed till that point in the conversation was gone. His face hardened, the lines on his visage tautened. I stared at him, a lump now present in my throat, as I felt a slight chill run up my spine.

At that moment, I realised I was in the presence of 10,000 Test runs, of umpteen thousands of deliveries faced, resisted, and scored off; I was in the presence of a man who had faced, among others - Ambrose, Bishop, McGrath, Walsh, Akram, Steyn, Donald, Waqar - bowlers who, quite frankly, would induce me in trouser-soiling, spit-drying fear. At that moment, the friendly mask slipped, just for a second, and I saw the steel and the grit that had made so many of India's greatest Test wins possible.

And then, we were back to being chatty about modern cricket, the big paychecks in the IPL, and the new aspirations of young Indian cricketers.

Our conversation lasted for some four hours. At the end of it, Dravid drove me to the entrance of the residential estate where his house was located so that I could hail a cab. He wished me luck with my writing, and was then gone.

While I remain grateful that he took the time to speak so frankly and voluminously to an utter stranger, I remain even more appreciative that he let me see, just for a brief moment, right into the heart of a true champion. It is the closest I have ever come to knowing what goes into the making of a great cricketer.

Good luck with the future, Rahul. You were a champion and one of the all-time greats.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by MuNi on (April 15, 2012, 20:07 GMT)

cricket will thankful to you ..the way you played the game..

Posted by raj on (April 14, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

a gentleman champion of timeless steel and dignity.

Posted by santosh joshi on (April 6, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

really going to miss you dravid.. would like to see u batting for RR in IPL.. Became RR fan just because of u.. :) all the best for leading RR to victory

Posted by sandy on (April 4, 2012, 19:43 GMT)

"TAKE A BOW SIR"..you ve left big shoes to fill..no words to express your greatness..you had an awesome technique..leaving ball @ speeds of more than 145 kmph inches from the stumps..that too consistently in swinging conditions..batting tirelessly for hours..sessions..TEST matches would never be the same for Indian fans!!

Posted by VJOSHI on (March 26, 2012, 6:51 GMT)

Rahul i becamea great fan of you from your debut. his innings are match winning or match saving so he is no1 of all time batsmen.

Posted by Cric Kirik on (March 22, 2012, 21:05 GMT)

Dravid will be missed by Indian cricket more than the other top former Indian cricketers like Vishwanath, Gavaskar, Kapil Dev or Srikanth or Azar or Kumble. Hopefully Kumble and Dravid can form one kind of acacademy to benefit Indian cricket.

Posted by Akash Toor on (March 22, 2012, 18:54 GMT)

Sir Rahul Dravid, you will be always remembered as d most selfless cricketer INDIA has ever produced. No doubt about it. Thanks for the ENGLAND tour performances at d fag end of ur career. The England tour was a reflection of ur whole career. You rocked all the way. You were not only an exceptional test batsman but also a very handy one day batsman, who although only has 12 tons beside his name but 82 half centuries reflect that you did not play for your personal milestones, instead kept the team goal above. There shall be no one matching your stature Sir.

Yours obediently, Akash.

Posted by Vasanth madhav on (March 20, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

Test selectors in India will be very much worried for selection of 11th player in future. Hitherto Rahul Dravid will be automatically selected himself in playing eleven.I thank you verymuch for giving us 100 percent entertainment in test cricket.I hope you will employ yourselves in producing another Rahul in Indian team in near future after taking good rest.As myself a universiy cricketer my hatsoff toyou. Hope you will also enjoy as a commentator as well as a coach.Wish you and your family all the best in your future commitments.

Posted by Anand Reddy on (March 20, 2012, 11:51 GMT)

Hi, I never thought of RD's retirement this early. I saw the first test played by RD against England where he scored 95 and Ganguly scoring 100+ runs, but i was fascinated the way he batted . I used to watch tests to see RD's batting and technique and skills. I am a great fan of RD and Laxman. I carry a photograph of RD in my wallet from years. My eyes were filled with tears when he announced his retirement. The Greatest Cricketer with humble nature. He conquered everybody's heart with his cricket, sportsman spirit, and as a good human being. No doubt, he is the book of techniques in cricket sport. Tests are no longer watchable after your retirement sir.

I wish you a bright future sir.

Posted by Rajeev on (March 17, 2012, 1:23 GMT)

A true legend and the teamman who believed in his accountability for the team. We miss him really in Cricket. Right decision at the right time as he was the best test cricketer last year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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