I could have chosen to defend Hinduism or Keynesian economics. I could have chosen to fight crime or raise awareness of the many things this world needs awareness about. Instead, I chose the life and times of Rahul Dravid. He is the only cause I have ever really fought for. Insult me and I go blah! Question his skills and I become the president from ‘Independence Day.’ Question it some more or pretend that you can’t hear me, and I become the Incredible Hulk.
Since the summer of ’96, I have proudly represented Dravid at colleges, corporations and coffee shops. I was a Dravid fan before it was hip and I have been in more Dravid-Sachin debates with friends than is clinically safe.
I was there for the cause in the pre-Cricinfo age. I had to remind everyone that ‘slow’ is not the same as ‘boring’. I would much rather watch him get to his maiden Test hundred than prepare for the all-important Board exam, and chose to watch his maiden ODI hundred than attend one of the many college entrance exams. I was there during the 1999 World Cup, reminding everyone that limited-overs cricket did not necessarily mean limited-skills cricket. I was there in 2000 during the darkest of days, telling friends and family that he was squeaky clean and that meant something too.
I was there in 2001, savouring Kolkata in awe and disbelief. I was telling people “I told you so” even if I’d given up right about when they did. I watched him strike Jason Gillespie for a six (little did I know it would be the last time I would see him in person) at Chennai and mocked the Sachintards with a “Now, what do you want next?” smirk. I waded through the early 2000s with the ridiculous tone and look of a proud parent. I pumped my fists at the TV screen right after he did so at Adelaide.
I lectured bosom buddies on the real meaning of being a team player the night after the Multan declaration. I counted the several memorable road wins and marvelled at his incredible consistency and sustained contributions. I defended his captaincy as one that was just right for the times.
I cried when he flailed away hopelessly that tragic Friday at an impotent Sri Lankan attack, wondering why bad things happen to nice people and good captains. When he struggled through a horrid patch in 2008 and ’09, I dug deep into the cliché truck to rave and rant about his oh so permanent class. When he scored three centuries in four Tests in England in 2011, I felt happier than when India won the World Cup. When he embarked on what I surely knew would be his last ever tour, I told my friends “This is the last cricket series I will ever watch!”
None of this makes much sense. Surely, I will watch more cricket and surely, there will be many memorable cricketers and cricket matches in my lifetime. Surely, Rahul Dravid did not do as much for India and cricket as Sachin Tendulkar did. Surely, my life would be better and I’d be happier if my energies had been directed at things that directly impacted or concerned me. When my grandkids ask me in 2050 what it was I fought for, surely, this answer is not going to evoke pride or passion!
I am not yet talented enough to figure out why this is the story of my life. There was something about an unassuming cricketer and how well he did his job every single day and how hard he worked every single day that appealed to me more than anything or anyone else. There was sweat in his persistence at his job that showed he cared. I wish I cared, for something, for anything. There was skill in his judgment that I wished I had. There was a style to his batting that inspired me. I wish I could inspire someone. There was eloquence to his talk and calm to his demeanor. Stone my house and I’d probably run to the madhouse. He was always above board and underappreciated. He was and is who I want to be.
Thank you for the joys to last me a lifetime and for being the only cause I ever cared about. Thank you, Rahul Dravid!