Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Supporting' the Wall...

I am on a high now. No marijuana, no coke. A comprehensive series win against Australia, a wonderful performance by Team India, yes...but both those got me on level ground from a lower ground. The high was a result of a man not much known for 'grace' outside of the off-side of a cricketing pitch, bowing out in style, graciously. I cannot remember too many other recent instances of a cricketer signing off in style, on a high (notwithstanding a Bradmanesque final innings duck) the way Dada did (yes there were a few). Sourav Chandidas Ganguly gave us yet another surprise thus. Not that we ever doubted his talent or ability. Still, the way he retired probably surprised him too, albeit in a pleasant way. Of all that has been said about him, I suddenly felt this about him one fine day - Sourav Ganguly is a monk. Yes, if a monk is a person who has achieved conditioning of the mind and body. Let me unabashedly declare that I have been a fan of him for quite some time now, and I did not like him for the perceived negative characteristics that he possesses. Yes, there are some negatives about him, but the man was much more than those. People (like this one) who like him for his negativities are misguided. I loved his beautiful batting and relegated him to the top of my list of favourite cricketers not very long after he became captain. But even a die-hard fan like me did not think much about what would happen after he was dropped. I felt a sickening crunch, and was at a loss for words. But the emphatic manner of his comeback totally beat me. Here was a man well past his prime who, by sheer will of his mind, forced himself into the team purely on performance. It was quite shocking, what the mind can do. This guy is a monk. For sheer command over his mind.
How I felt when he played his final test, when he looked up to the skies on the pitch one last time after getting out for a duck, these are feelings too personal for me to reveal outside and publicise. Emotion, sorrow, happiness. Period.
But I feel for another man. And I want to make it known. And I want everyone to feel for him. Rahul Dravid has done more for this country than most of us can dream of. He is the epitome of industriousness and hard work. He is not a Sachin Tendulkar with natural brilliance. He is not a Brian Lara with born flair. Yes, cricket is in his blood, and he is one of the most beautiful batsmen ever. But Rahul Dravid is one of the all-time greats of the game simply because of his application. He is not very expressive, but his grit and effort show in his eyes when he plays for the country. He has performed when the chips are down and he has performed when the chips are up. He is more than just a crisis-man. He contributes as an individual, he is an able ally (as can be wonderfully shown by the 318-run partnership with Sourav Ganguly and 331-run partnership with Sachin Tendulkar in ODI's, and two unforgettable knocks with Laxman in Eden Gardens and Adelaide AND the fact that he shares the most number of 100-run partnerships), he is the ideal team-man, he is everything you would want from a sportsman, and everything you would want from a warrior. He respects and loves Indian cricket more than most of us. He wants to contribute to the team more than what we know is possible. And yet, even the greatest of warriors sometimes comes up against a wall he cannot scale. This man has been a wall to cricketing opponents, now he is up against another himself. He will scale it. But give him time. Don't prey for his blood. As Sachin said and Dada rightly agreed - Respect the seniors. In a way, each of the Big 5 commands as much respect as any great person in our country. Don't trivialize them by pitting one against another. Don't insult them by reminding them that their time has come. They know. They are more concerned about the future of Indian cricket than us. Simply because they have been that past which is "history". They are the present. In a way, Rahul moves me to tears like nobody else. I almost shed tears for Jumbo. I cried within for Dada, but overcame outright tears because of the manner in which he left. I cannot imagine what will happen when Sachin leaves. I will miss Laxman. But Rahul moves me beyond any of them. This despite me being a Ganguly fan. Coming to think of it, I have never called myself a Dravid-fan. But it seems I admire him and adore him as much as I do Ganguly, albeit in a different light. And I cannot bear to see what is happening to Rahul. I know he will be back. I want him to be back.
No, Please dont read this as an obituary. Respect the man. Feel for him. Pray for him. No, don't do the last two. He wouldn't like it. He is not the Terminator to "be back". He has always been here. He will always be. No excuses for a bad performance, but this isn't his time. It just isn't.
Rahul, whatever anyone criticizes you for, know you are the best and the greatest. These two series are not going to make a difference to someone who truly respects an individual's commitment and contribution. Please don't feel bad. We cannot stand it. You don't deserve to feel bad. After all, you have been an impregnable wall for India. Yes, a few bricks might be falling off. But you are a monument, and will continue to be one.