Young cricketers today have the option to become rich, successful cricketers without even aspiring to play Tests, but Rahul Dravid has urged them to "not sell themselves short" because he feels there is no match for the satisfaction that can be derived from playing Test cricket. He was quick to add that he didn't want to judge them on or blame them for their choices but that he wanted to challenge them to give Test cricket a fair go.
Dravid was speaking at the launch of the book Timeless Steel, an anthology of some of the best writings on him, published by ESPNcricinfo and Walt Disney. The book is a collection of 30 pieces, some new and some previously published; the writers include cricketers (Ed Smith, Jason Gillespie, Greg Chappell, Sanjay Manjrekar) and well-known cricket writers (Rohit Brijnath, Gideon Haigh, Rahul Bhattacharya, Suresh Menon).
"There are more options now," Dravid said of the quandary cricket faces. "Very hard for me to be judgemental about kids of today. Unfair. I had gone through a commerce degree in college, and not very successfully. When I grew up, if I wanted to be a successful professional cricketer - and making a living out of the sport became a part of that - the only option for me was to be a successful Test cricketer. There was no other way in which you could make a professional living out of the sport. I would have still played it, but I would have probably looked to do something else professionally if I wasn't good enough."
Dravid said he could understand the lure of the other options. "People now have the option of not necessarily playing Test cricket but making a living out of the game," he said. "And, you know, who's to blame kids for taking that option? Who's to blame kids for using that opportunity if they feel they are not good enough for Test cricket? If they are not good enough for Test cricket, I am sure they will feel, 'Look at least I needn't make a living out of this game. Let me at least play this, which is giving me money.'
"I won't like to judge them on that, but I will like to challenge them. What I'll like to tell young kids is that the greatest satisfaction you are going to get is by playing Test cricket and playing in some of these great stadiums of the world. That will give you the greatest personal satisfaction, so don't sell yourself short. Try and achieve. It is possible. It can be done. There might be kids in this era who will take that soft option. Some won't. We will be able to see in time. Every era there have been people who have fallen by the wayside."
When asked if he saw enough players coming in who were desperate to play Test cricket, Dravid said it was not a concern right now but one that will confront cricket soon enough. "People like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, or whoever the youngsters are, have grown up watching and idolising Test cricket," he said. "It's the kids like Samit [Dravid's son, 7] who will have grown up watching the IPL. That will be the challenge. What will those kids want? I don't see this as an immediate problem. I see it as a long-term issue.
"By long term I mean ten years, when those kind of kids grow up, what will their aspirations be? If one of the young kinds wants to play, will he want to play for a franchise? You have to understand that at the end of the day players are also performers, and they want to perform. When you look at the IPL, it's a great stage to perform. Played in front of full stadiums, there is a great viewership on television, you are playing with some of the best players in the world, you are playing at some of the greatest stadiums in the country. It's a great stage to perform. That challenge is going to arise in ten years' time, and I think we have got to address it right now."