A buzz on the cell phone on a Wednesday morning shatters an adventurous dream. A dream that had me chasing trains on a crowded platform on a rainy evening; a dream that that is encountered quite frequently. Thankfully, it was just a buzz which meant that it was a text message from a friend. Usually I would have read the message and would have gone back to sleep.This message woke me up and the dream got shattered; a dream always remembered in bits and pieces. This is not about the dream.
The message read:
Bye bye RfD
Something snapped inside me. More than the dream.
The news channels termed it as an end of an era but only I knew that it marked the end of my childhood and more importantly my youth. The glimpses of the past flashed in front of my eyes. This made me remember one and all; the good days, the bad days and the ugly days; the people that I had encountered in my entire life; the various happenings of my eventful life.
These days of the past were marked by alarms ringing at 4.00 am to watch the matches in New Zealand and Australia. Also remembered were the days of switching on the TV sets for getting an action for 5 minutes or 1 over and ending up watching for hours or sessions of Cricket during the exam days, which was followed by the furious mugging up throughout the nights before the day of the exam to make up for the time passed watching the match. This was always the case.
The recollected faces of the people with whom Cricket was shared, discussed, argued flashed at an unreal pace. Upon seeing the message these memories were dug out from the sub-conscious, scanned through, re-lived and laid to rest forever. Truly a part of me had died that day.
That Wednesday, Rahul Dravid announced his retirement from International Cricket.
Generally a late starter, a laidback learner, a reluctant follower, I started following the game a little late. Little later than others usually do. I was 13 back then in 1997. I saw his innings in Johannesburg where a young Rahul Dravid carved 148 runs against a lethal South African bowling attack and there and then I had a favourite to root for.
The affair began & continued and his game was religiously followed ever since. I can still recall the 190 against New Zealand at Hamilton on a New Year’s Test in ’99. The agony of missing the 1st Double Century was immediately allayed by the unbeaten century that followed the very next innings in the same match. Dravid was here to stay.
The romance with the so called text book shots continued and the claps in front of the TV set after each classic drive or punch or cut got louder as if he could hear them.
200* Zimbabwe, 144* West Indies, 217 England, 222 New Zealand, 270 Pakistan, 233 & 72* Australia are all etched in the mind. The results of the matches seemed as much immaterial then as they seem now. All the hopes were to see this guy bat his guts out. A century of a mis-timed hook shot for a six or the ever so elegant square cut followed by the pure joy of winning on his face; all are clearly imprinted forever.
The eternal # 3 batsman who was almost assured to be seen as soon as you turn on the TV sets given the shaky opening pairs the team has had over the past years. TV is a funny device. Here Sound travels faster than Light given the time it takes the CRT tube to heat up and display pictures. This gap in time between receiving the audio and visual signals brought a relief once one heard the frantic but assured tapping of the bat on the crease. One could tell the situation was under control.
I re-lived my past juxtaposing it with each of his innings as I went through the list of his scores. A century to make up for flunking in the Chemistry exam, a double one gave solace to the anguish felt upon seeing the crush going around with someone, a marvelous square cut for a birthday, a man-of-the-series for graduating the Bachelors.
I never called him the Wall. How could he be a wall? The defense on the front foot which forced the ball to land on the pitch in front of him exactly where it was intended to drop whilst both fielders on either side in the catching position were mere spectators, this was the work of an artist. He used the artistry of a mason to carve the perfect wall of defence. He wasn’t the end product (a wall in this case) but the creator of that art. Upon being asked after retiring in an interview, one of the great fast bowlers of the modern day era splashed a few names of the batsmen who were tough to bowl to. And yet, a special mention was for this man who would milk the bowlers with his gritty technique and patience after they come charging towards him for his wicket. This, he said, would break down any bowler’s zest to pick up wickets. This is art.
Rahul f* Dravid was coined after a night long bacchanalia. The ‘f’ word in today’s parlance is used to describe something that cannot be described, and hence used. What would you call a lone ranger in tough conditions who survives the entire bowling line up under challenging conditions in England towards the end of his career; scores with the same panache as he used to. Rotates himself up and down in the batting order when the team asks him to. Keeps wickets whenever the gloves are thrown at him. At any age.
No ‘f’ word describes Dravid. He defines sportsmanship. He defines cricket. I always sought after newer inspiration within the game to hold onto for the love of the game but in vain. And now that I won’t get to see him again in that faded blue cap and the cricket whites, will I be able to follow the game with the same sincerity remains unknown. There is only one Dravid and the search in the toolbar on cricinfo.com confirms this. This is not about a dream. This is not about the game. This is not about the nation. This is about a man. The man. The Artist. RfD.
P.S.- The blog is about Arts and hence this article.