Monday, July 03, 2006

The Tall Wall

I am not a cricket fanatic. i dont spout statistics at the drop of a hat. God knows, leg , to me is an antomical part and not a field area, and I realise that a point has several intriguing properties, but being silly is not one of them.

However, as a inhabitant of Mumbai, (where road traffic is a function of the crisis level in a test match being played thousands of miles away, as well as the batting of a Tendulkar or Dhoni,) throughout the last several cricket series, there is something that has stood out in all its shining glory.

Rahul Dravid.

Here is a guy who thinks . Thinks before reacting. Came up the hard way. Rose through the ranks. Became a Senior; but when they asked him to keep wickets, chipped in with a sincere effort, while the then captain enjoyed this buy -one -batsman-get one- wicketkeeper- free , facilty. There is a no- nonsense air about him. Its all about the team, and individual idiosyncracies have no place in his scheme of things. His system of leadership doesnt appear to be conducive to chamchagiri. You are given a chance to play, and a sincere intelligent effort is appreciated. You mess around , and someone else gets a chance. Its all about whats good for the team.

Dravid captains in a manner where one tends to always look up to him. Not for the glamour, nor the sound bites. But good solid knocks. Almost ALWAYS, when ever the team is in trouble, he appears at the crease, patiently piling on the runs while trying to keep the wickets intact, inspiring the player at the opposite end. Showing them how its done. He NEVER throws his wicket away, and you never hear about how pressures of captaincy are affecting the angle of swing or straightness of his bat. You never see him muttering, mouthing curses at the opposition, glaring people down. Yes, he is human, and occasional falshes of anger on and off the field are to be expected. Steve Waugh is thrilled that Dravid agrees to write a preface to his book, and after losing the Test series, Lara, selects Dravid to lavish all his praise on.

And he doesnt remove and wave his shirt; Thats just not cricket. The most one has seen him do is hold the ball up and run across the field as if in a trance , while claiming a wicket , sometime during Englands tour on India 2006. He plays mentor to those younger and newer; he doesnt create situations where there is an element of "neta giri". Even Greg Chappel appears to have nothing bad to say about him, as he makes his measured responses to queries. The coach probably cannot hide his own delight in being given a captain like this, as straight as the front face of the bat he presents to difficult balls. Cant find anything bad to say. Not about his cricket, nor about his man-management on and off the field.

He has a lfe off the field. He keeps it there. He studied when he had to study as a youngster. Did well. The studiousness has bred in him an innate curiosity about cultures and places different from his, as something to learn from. He is a keen observer of the history of any country that he visits as part of his cricket tours. He is constantly learning. While in Pakistan he made it a point to go visit Mohenjodaro and Harrappa sites. He actively campaigns for and takes part in AIDS eradication campaigns, after learning details about the problem from his wife , who is a surgeon.

He does commercial ads, and most of them non controversial. Keeps his family away from it all. You never see pictures of him hob nobbing with social butterflies, dancing away in discotheques, with groups of dubious people, flaunting style. No one has ever linked him with vague actresses, and no one ever hears of members of his family , various government types etc , commenting on the facets of cricket selection, play and treatment in India.

Young people unconsciously search for role models. Some appear fleetingly on the horizon, flashing across with the help of fawning publicists, and favoured journalists. Some are pillars of cricket but midgets when it comes to their non cricketing ways.

Somehow one feels reassured, that in a world full of Beckhams, Maradonas and such, found later on to be made of clay, so to speak, Dravid stands tall, a completely outsatnding role model for Indian children and older youth today.

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