What did you get for your birthday this year? Your family must have gifted you something fancy to wear. Your friends would have given you something more personal. You might have gifted yourself with that gadget you have been meaning to get your hands on for a while. Chances are that, whatever gift you got, wherever you went to celebrate the special day, it was for yourself — it's your day after all.
Rahul Dravid turned 43 on Monday, 11 January. Wishes poured in from around the world — his fans reminisced on some of the greatest moments from Dravid's career, Indian players sent video wishes from Australia, tweeted their wishes. But the man himself did something that stood out for the sheer class of it. He released a short, illustrated video titled 'My First Class Journey'.
"I was told today that 43 is the new 18. So let me share a story that started almost 25 years ago," he posted on his official Facebook page.
Make no mistake, that is Dravid's gift to the youngsters aspiring to make it big as cricketers. It might have been his birthday, but he chose to share something that would help so many young cricketers understand what it means to grow up with a passion for the game. As always, he chose to put the greater good ahead of some harmless self-indulgence.
At first viewing, it seems a poignant yet simple recounting of Dravid's journey from starting as a school cricketer to representing Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy. "I can never forget the first time I was called up to play First Class cricket," the video begins as a sketch of Dravid excitedly answering a telephone call appears. He goes on to narrate his experiences playing with the likes of Syed Kirmani, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, and GR Vishwanath.
"To say that I was nervous when I went out to bat for the first time in First Class cricket would be an understatement. The 82 runs I made in that innings gave me the belief that I belonged there as a First Class cricketer," he says.
Quickly, one begins to realise that this is much more than just a video reminiscing his early days. This is a message to all cricketers starting out in their careers, to make them understand the value of playing for your state, the nature of the beast where hundreds of cricketers are vying for '3-4 spots available in the Indian team,' and how much one should value the experience of travelling around the country, learning to play under high pressure situations.
This is Rahul Dravid, the Under-19 and India 'A' coach, talking directly to the budding talent in the country. A video that is quintessential Dravid.
You can sense that this is very much a part of his vision to 'reintroduce children to the magic of cricket,' like he said during that memorable MAK Pataudi Lecture. (Go on, read the full text of his speech, if you have not already. It'll be the best 20 minutes of cricket reading you will do today.)
He then goes on to talk about how he was 'an annoying roommate in those days,' staying up late to read, then getting up to do some tapping in the middle of the room, in the middle of the night and walking around the room back and forth - all of them little ploys to ease his nerves on the eve of a match. "Sorry to all my roommates for those sleepless nights," he says.
He also talks about his 'love at first sight' with Eden Gardens, binge-eating on the free snacks there, train journeys with his teammates, pestering the likes of Vishwanath for stories from their playing days, about how Ranji Trophy is a competition that taught him humility and patience, and the late-night celebrations led by Javagal Srinath when Karnataka won the Ranji Trophy, under Dravid's leadership, in 1996.
The video finishes with Dravid talking about how first-class cricket was the perfect finishing school for him and the moment in 1996, when he was walking up the steps up at Lord's after a catching session, Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin came up to him and said: 'Rahul, tum aaj khel rahe raho' (Rahul, you are playing today).
If you have ever played cricket at a fairly high level as a youngster, the video is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. If you are hoping to make it to the Indian cricket team one day, this video is an absolute treasure — listen to it over and over again, transcribe it, pin it on your wall (pun intended).
"One of my favourite books back then was Tough Times Never Last, Tough People Do, by Robert Schuller," he says in the video.
Tough times never last, tough people do. You can almost imagine Dravid saying that to the likes of Sarfaraz Khan, Ishan Kishan when he walks into Under-19 team's dressing room as their coach. It is as if he decided to condense numerous pearls of wisdom into six minutes of a simple video.
Stay classy, Rahul bhai.
Watch the full video here: