On 30th July 2011, a hot Saturday evening in the mecca of cricket, Lord's, as Rahul Dravid paddle swept Graeme Swan for a four, he entered in the league of legends in the cricketing world. 'The wall' as he has been hailed in the international cricket arena, scored his 34th century, thereby equaling the records of West Indian icon Brian Lara and the Indian batting wizard, Sunil Gavaskar. The 38-year-old 'Jammy' displayed remarkable skill and exceptional courage to take on the English bowlers, surviving all blows and injuries, but not succumbing to any pressure. With his impeccable techniques and an unfaltering resolve, Dravid stood facing the wicket, unperturbed. For most of the cricket obsessed individuals like me, Rahul Dravid is not just about statistics. He has surpassed most of the benchmarks of cricketing excellence and is equaled to the likes of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar or our dear Dada, Sourav Ganguly. The making of Rahul Dravid hasn't been an easy one. He has seen it all. Failures and critcism in his initial stages of ODI career were enough to put an average guy on the backfoot. But Mr. Dependable never lost his nerves and made sure he is in the Indian squads. Dravid's career is an example of the fact that determination can make the impossible possible. He has been described as 'The nice guy who finished first' by Devendra Prabhudesa in a biographical book titled with the same epithet. Some classic lessons to extract from this legend's life can be the following.
Love What You Do
I remember a video speech I saw on the Internet by a popular cricket commentator and journalist, Harsha Bhogle in the campus of prestigious IIM - A. In the video, Harsha described his interview experience with iconic Allan Border on coaching budding cricketers. As per Harsha, Allan Border said, "If you take care of the runs, the dollars will look after themselves." Rahul Dravid has been a classic example of a youth who wasn't distracted by the lure of dollars, or rather, rupees. His single minded dedication was the love for cricket. Money and fame, as we know, followed and that too in abundance. But Dravid's love for his game never changed.
Be a Fighter
Remember the starting days of Dravid's career in ODI's. When he was criticized badly by every Indian who loves cricket. He was so slow in his debut ODI series against Sri Lanka in Singer Cup in Singapore, after 1996 World Cup that he was dropped after that from the team. Dravid didn't lose patience but worked upon his techniques. When he was again picked up for playing his debut test match against England along with Ganguly, he gradually flourished. He fought for his place by working hard and improving his techniques. In an interview to a special correspondent of the Hindu on 24th July, 2011, Dravid said, "There have been stages when I've doubted myself but that's just natural being a professional sportsman when you go through some tough times. You just have to enjoy what you do and keep trying to get better."
Capitalize On Your Strengths
Dravid started doing well in the test matches. His slow batting and impregnable defense that attracted him criticism in ODIs proved to be a boon in tests. He knew his strengths and when the opportunity came, he didn't let it go. In tests he made sure that his ability to play longer innings and demolish the moral of opposition only developed with every match he played. In his debut against England in the Lord's in 1996, he made 95. Now in 2011, he is back in the same hallowed stadium with two consecutive brilliant test centuries!! Gradually, Dravid's techniques have improved to such an extent that his shots are now revered as the guide books for young cricketers. Know your strengths. It helps immensely.
Work Upon Your Mistakes
Our strengths boost our confidence but our minor or major weaknesses can delude us from success. Rahul focused his energy on tests but never ignored the ODIs. He was determined to adapt to the ODI format of the game and he as usual, did it with panache. The 1999 world cup edition marked the big bang entry of Dravid in the ODI games. By becoming the highest run scorer (461) in 1999 world cup, Dravid stunned the nation. Moreover, his blistering back-to-back centuries in the world cup were enough proof of his ability to bat with an excellent pace in the ODIs.
Want it Badly
Read any piece of writing about 'The Wall' from some of the best sports journalists or people who have known Dravid since his school days and you will come to the conclusion that, he has been a dedicated worshiper of cricket. He has honed his skills to an extent that he can't be ignored by the cricketing world. If dedication is what matters the most, Dravid is amongst the finest examples of it.
Believe in Your Uniqueness
Everyone is unique but not all of us realize this. Most of the time, we are running chasing others dreams. In a team with biggies like Sachin, Sehwag and Ganguly, Rahul always knew he wasn't like them. He knew it so well that he started crafting his own techniques and building his own temperament. He isn't known for the fire works in a cricket match like the dominating Sehwag or for the exquisite punches like Sachin but well, he is known for those lofty and delicate touches that define grace in the cricketing world. His swiftness and elegance in cricketing shots is in itself an example of his amazing understanding of this game.
Team Before Self
In the 2003 world cup, Dravid played a major role in making it possible for India to reach the finals. He proved his efficiency by playing in dual capacity, as the best batsmen of his side and also as a wicket keeper. India was able to accommodate a batsman in their side and that really helped India in the entire series. Dravid was also the vice captain of the Indian cricket team in the 2003 world cup.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
Be it the failure to lead his team successfully in the 2007 world cup or his most debated decision of Multan declaration, in which he called off the innings, even when Sachin was about to complete his double hundred, Rahul Dravid has handled all with equanimity, honesty and articulation. Even though he wasn't able to make it to the Indian World Cup Cricket squad 2011, he is the sixth player in the world to score more than 10,000 runs in ODIs, a feat remarkable for a batsman who was infamous initially for his poor batting style in ODIs. In the Indian cricketing history, only Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid have been able to cross the 10,000 mark. Rahul's story, just like any other legend's, is a testimony to the fact that you win some, you lose some. Nevertheless, you continue doing what you love to do, to the best of your ability.
Humility is the mark of great men and players like Dravid prove it time and again. Coming from a humble background, Dravid has been a star in his own accords and has found a place in the annals of cricketing history, not only by his runs but also by his simplicity, temperament and the never say die attitude. As we look back, his career has some miraculous records that are sure to make many cricketers envious. Be it the tests or the ODIs, Dravid has transformed himself from a mere cricket player to a cricketing juggernaut, making the best of bowling attacks in the world, crumble under his unassailable attack. Rahul, you're truly the Great Wall of India.