He's all about balance
To me Rahul Dravid is the perfect cricketer. By the time I decided I would take cricket seriously and make it my profession, Rahul was already doing wonders with his bat. While I always wanted to be like Sachin Tendulkar, there have been plenty of things I have learned from Rahul.
His technique and temperament always fascinated me and now it is clear that his success abroad is because of those two factors. His technique is so good that he can be at ease on any sort of wicket and in any sort of conditions. His temperament and discipline allow him to adapt to different situations without discomfort.
But it was only when I met him that I realised he is a special player because of more than just these two qualities. I read somewhere that attitudes are contagious; if that's true, his is definitely worth catching. Everything about him is so solid - his character, his technique, everything. He is precise about his practice, and even in his speech he is to the point. There is nothing wasteful about him. Any kind of match is a battle to be won for him. You won't find any difference in his level of commitment, whether it's a domestic game, a Test match or even a practice game.
I still remember my debut at Mohali. Rahul tried his best to make me comfortable in the dressing room. For a youngster these things make a lot of difference. When you are out of form, he is the best person to go to. His knowledge, about cricket and about things outside it, means that he can answer all sorts of questions, address all kinds of insecurities you can have at this level of cricket. For younger players, he is a psychological guru and motivator.
Last year in Mohali when he was captaining the side, he told me: whenever you go out to bat, think that this is your day. When I got out after making 195 at Melbourne, Rahul said I wouldn't realise then what I'd done on that day but would understand the worth and the implications of what I had done only later, and that sooner or later I would come to terms with it. It didn't take very long for me to realise that if I had stayed at the crease a bit longer we could have made history. I think those two things really helped me plan my innings in Pakistan.
|He got so emotional after winning the Adelaide Test last year he didn't want to take off his whites, and I remember he wore them to the bar that night also|
Rahul understands people so well that when he talks to you it's in a language you understand; he communicates not only with you but with your personality in a way. To me, he always gives small goals. He says, 'Veeru, you stay here for an hour and the scoreboard will be full of runs.' When I play a rash shot he comes and says, 'Yaar why are you in a hurry to go to the dressing room? What will you do there? You'll have to sit and watch others and think, O Shit, I've lost a golden opportunity to get a big one.' Things like that immediately bring your focus back. Batting with him makes things simple. Like in a Test match when you see him bat and he's looking rock solid, you start to think, 'These guys can't even beat his bat; the bowling's not that great.'
He is the pillar of our team and the batting revolves around him. Whenever we have done well as a batting unit, whether in Tests or one-dayers, it's largely due to Rahul. Front foot or back, spin or pace, he has all the shots. But it's his judgment about what shot to execute and when that makes him special.
Whenever he gets out, the first thing we think is that we have lost almost fifty overs worth of batting. You know he puts a price tag on his wicket. Whenever he does lose it cheaply, he gets really upset. Everyone gets sad after losing his wicket, but after a while we forget and think ahead. But with Rahul he will think about it, work it out in the nets and make sure that it doesn't happen again. You won't see him get out in the same way very often. It just shows that he is quick to learn from his mistakes. There is a lot of passion in his performance. He got so emotional after winning the Adelaide Test last year he didn't want to take off his whites, and I remember he wore them to the bar that night also.
As told to Nishant Arora. This article first appeared in the August 2004 issue of Wisden Asia Cricket