We lost 4-0 in England. We lost 4-0 in Australia. We couldn’t make it to the ODI tri – series final in Australia. Everyone cried and debated for changes to be done, heads to roll, captaincy to change and the likes. But nothing happened. All our players and selectors made statements about India being champions at home. They felt that everyone was a tiger at home and we would reply to them in kind. They asked rank turners to be prepared when other teams visited the country. As the IPL and the NZ series came and went, the hurt, disappointment and dejection of 8-0 were long gone and buried in the annals of history so to say.
Will you open the innings? Yes. Will you keep wickets in order to accommodate an extra batsman? Yes. Will you captain the team? Yes. This was Rahul Dravid for you. A selfless team man for whom the team’s goals and ambitions came way before his own.
Most call him ‘The Wall’. While some call him ‘Mr. Dependable’. But for me he was the one reason stroke makers like Sachin, Sehwag, Dada etc. could flourish. They could play freely knowing that at the other end, ‘The Wall’ was being constructed brick by brick to stay for as long as one could imagine. This was the wall who scored a 12 hour 270* at Rawalpindi. He was the reason we knew that despite the first wicket falling for a low score, we wouldn’t collapse. He was one of the reasons we had belief in saving and even winning overseas tests. He was one of the reasons we learnt to win overseas. Dravid has been part of 15 test wins abroad and in 11 of them he has been awarded the Man of the Match.
2011 has been a pretty interesting year in many terms. From the highs of India’s World Cup victory on April 2nd to the lows of the 2G scam and the death of many prominent personalities, we have seen it all. But nothing could beat Team Anna and their campaign to bring forward the Jan Lokpal Bill.
As far as the Indian industry is concerned, Infosys and Tata lost their captains to youngsters of the next generation. But Kingfisher began facing some serious turbulence in its flight of “Good Times”. “Kolaveri” and “Flash Mobs” became the buzzwords among all of us for their own reasons.
There were many who said he can’t play One Day International (ODI) cricket.
There were many who said he can’t play the shots expected of a batsman in the 50 over game.
There were also others who said that playing in the 50 over game may bring some needless shots to his repertoire which may spoil his class for Test cricket.
But 344 matches, 196 catches, 10889 runs @ an average of 39, 12 centuries and 83 half centuries later as Rahul Sharad Dravid retires, you wonder if this was the man who had struggled in his initial days in ODI cricket. Between 1996-99 he had become used to sitting in and out of the team. Those were the years when all his doubters had their tails up constantly asking questions about his strike rate, ability to rotate the strike and what not.
He has won the T20 and ODI World Cups!
He has won the IPL 2 times out of 4 with Chennai Super Kings!
He has won the Champions League!
He has taken India to the no 1 ranking in Test cricket!
He has never lost a test series in his reign as skipper for more than 3 years!
You would believe that Dhoni could do no wrong. Opposition captains and former players call him the guy with the midas touch. There are people who say he has something which every other leader doesnt – An ability to stay cool and calm under pressure. Whether it is asking Joginder Sharma to bowl the final over in the T20 final or asking Bollinger to take the final over against a rampaging Pollard in the 2010 IPL, his mind has been as relaxed as could have been. Obviously with such praises, there are many who try to downplay his achievements by saying that he has the trinity for company or that he doesn’t have technical competence (referring to helicopter shots and so on).
When MS Dhoni smashed a six of Nuwan Kulasekara, there was a collective roar from the 1.2 billion in India as well as thousands of Indians across the world. It was the ultimate prize in cricket. It was the ultimate prize for Indian sport (since Indian sport has sadly been limited to cricket more less). It was the prize which all of us had been waiting for since the past 28 years. And finally when it was achieved, it was fitting that the captain who has led us to the Test No 1 ranking and the ICC T20 WC win in 2007 was at the forefront. The whole nation was on the roads honking with flags, with a euphoria which may have been seen only in 1947 when we got independence.
“Tweeting”, “Retweet”, “You know, I have 39 followers”, “Oh my God! Gul Panag replied to my tweet”. Wondering what am i talking about? If you are, then someone like me will surely be shocked. Ask why? Because Twitter has taken our nation by storm. A storm which has made celebrities and minsters across the world take notice.
Long before the Indian cricket team landed in South Africa, there were murmurs of India get thrashed 3-0. Corrie Van Zyl, coach of South Africa had warned about them targeting India with green, bouncy tops. Steyn and co were ready to bounce India out at every moment. Graeme Smith and AB De Villiers had openly challenged India saying that their number 1 ranking would have no meaning if they failed to win the series in South Africa. All this was compounded by the fact that India had one just one match ever in South Africa let alone win or draw a series.