As Rahul 'The Wall' Dravid bids adieu to international cricket, India can't stop applauding one of the country's finest and most loved players. Dravid departs having scored 13,288 runs in 164 Tests at an average of 52.31 with a Test best of 270. In a career full of achievements, Dravid would probably still have two grouses. One - he missed out on winning the World Cup as he did not make the squad that won the tournament in 2011 - and second - he failed to leave on a high or rather finished as what people are calling 'a crumbled wall'.
But knowing Dravid and the passion and pride that the man personifies, it would probably be the second that would weigh more heavily on his mind. The 39-year-old's decision this time could very well have been prompted by the fact that India have no Test cricket, the only format that Dravid was yet to retire from, lined up for the next six to eight months. So, it seemed like the perfect time to take the call. Now if only there had been one more series soon after the Australia tour Dravid could have got the chance to pick himself up and sign off on a high. But I guess what is sport without its unpredictability and what is a sportsman without its failures.
Of course which player doesn't like bowing out on a high but few get to do so. Dravid, however, seemed to be part of the chosen few after he discovered his form on the tour of England, the series that started India's slide to disasterland. Not only was he the only Indian to score a century in the 4-Tests, he slammed three of them. His form in fact became so crucial to the Indian team's chances that Dravid was recalled to the ODI squad after being overlooked for more than two years.
Any player at this point would have felt vindicated and been happy to cash in. But not Dravid for whom words such as pride and dignity still hold meaning. He chose to announce his retirement from ODI cricket the very next day. However, remaining true to his style, not wanting to leave the team in a lurch, he did not quit playing the 50-over format immediately, but only after the series he had been selected for had been done away with. That's Dravid for you.
Dravid was always an athlete in a different mould. The solid rock among the flowing sand. The simple and humble man in a team of superstars and not because he couldn't be one but because he chose not to be one. A cricketer who everyone agreed put individual records on the backburner and played for the team, a team that has often been accused of housing players who put personal glory ahead of the team's ambitions and success.
He always went about his job silently, putting in the extra yard on the field rather than in press conferences. Throughout his career he never let his emotions get the better of him and he wasn't going to let retirement change that. There was no drama, only a short and staid goodbye. Only we are not ready to say goodbye to the man yet. Yes he has served India relentlessly (I could swear I heard someone say Bharat Ratna even as I wrote this line) since making his debut in 1996 but the country and the sport still need him, if not as a player then as an administrator. And, there could hardly be a better time for him to start his second innings.