The statistics alone are truly mind boggling. By the time he decided to hang up his boots, he had scored a whopping 13,288 runs in Test cricket, behind only Tendulkar’s 15,470. He had notched up 36 tons at an impressive average of
The Wall as it stands!
52.31. Besides, perhaps, his world record of 210 catches may never be broken. Furthermore, in the history of the game, only three Indian batsmen have retired with a higher away average than at home. The other two were Sunil Gavaskar (52.11), the original Little Master, and Mohinder Amarnath (51.86), one of the greatest come-back men. What is amazing is that Dravid did even better than them. He averaged 53.03 abroad. His highest score was recorded at Rawalpindi, where he scored a brilliant 270.
On the 18 occasions that he came to the crease, with his team tottering at 0 for 1, he averaged 51.94. On the 45 occasions that he took guard, when the first wicket fell, with the team score reading anywhere between 11 and 20, he averaged 60.54. A laborious 123.06 deliveries have separated any two times that he has been dismissed in his brilliant 16-year career, making him the second most enduring batsman in the history of the game after Jacques Kallis, who averages 125.55 deliveries between any two dismissals. During the most productive phase in his career, between 2002 and 2006, Dravid averaged 100.3 in England, 123.8 in Australia, 77.25 and 80.33 in the two series he played in Pakistan, and 82.66 in the West Indies.
Although he was not a specialist opener, he walked out to open the Indian innings as many as 23 times and scored four centuries in that position. He averaged 65.70 in India’s overseas Test wins, which is the highest in the history of Indian cricket, and 75.19 in draws abroad. So, you see, whenever Dravid did well, India won or saved the match. I could go on and on, but that is not the aim of this post because Dravid, to me, transcended statistics, despite his obvious talent and unparalleled commitment to the cause of Indian cricket. He impressed me as much by his conduct as he did by his game.
That is what set him apart. Perhaps, both his game and his conduct were meant for another era, when cricket was still a gentleman’s game, when sledging did not figure in the cricketing lexicon, and limited overs cricket had not yet ravaged the pristine beauty of willow meeting leather on the pitch, as the sun shone brightly on men in spotless white, whose mettle was put to the ultimate test of talent and temperament. Was it any surprise that this epic encounter on the field came to be called “Test” cricket? Yes, it still is, and, that is why batsmen like Dravid will be sorely missed.
Dravid, in an uncanny sort of way, personified all that cricket is and has always stood for. Perhaps, it may not be too far-fetched or fanciful to dub him “Mr. Cricket”. While Tendulkar epitomised the aspirations of Indian cricket almost at a subconscious level, Dravid transcended national boundaries to become synonymous with the game itself. Personally, I don’t think the game has had many who can claim to have been better ambassadors of the sport. And, look at the manner in which he chose to retire, quietly, without any fuss. No grand gesture of one final outing followed by a standing ovation by the spectators. Just a quiet Press conference at which he read out a statement for the media. That was it.
If actions really spoke louder than words, coming as it did from a man who never groped for words, and was arguably the most articulate Indian cricketer after Tiger Pataudi, was somewhat ironic and a bit of an anti-climax, which was not much dissimilar to Don Bradman scoring a duck in his last outing. But then, just like the Don has always been remembered as the greatest batsman ever, Dravid may well be remembered, by generations to come, as having been one of the greatest gentlemen the game has ever seen.
He has set an example for hundreds of aspirants!