On the occasion of Rahul Dravid's 40th birthday, we're republishing an old Tom Alter article originally published on 23 June, 2011. Enjoy.
Like John Wayne in his later films, or maybe the whole team of ‘The Misfits”, Rahul Dravid fought a lone battle – scarred and wounded, but full of such pride – the angles were not quite there, awkward jabs and quick shuffles abounding – the face under the helmet rounder now, smoother in its fullness, the cheekbones receding into the eyes now – and he is still Rahul Dravid – the Shashi Kapoor to Tendulkar’s Amitabh – or, more accurately, the Vinod Khanna – in the second innings of the First Test (what poetry in that phrase), he played the way only a champion can play, only a master, only a true Test batsman – his body leaning one way, his bat the other – a sudden heave over long-on – and finally the ugly swipe which brought the innings to a close.
And as I write, the Windies are attacking, and we have a match on our hands – a Test match.
But back to Dravid — ten years ago, he was the best in the world at the Test level – fluid, calm, a rock – then the bat began to come down from the slips, the feet became motionless, there were dabs and darts outside that ‘wall’ of an off-stump— Captaincy followed, with remarkable victories, in faraway places such as the Windies and England…
And then, as IPL began to spread its poison, captain Dravid was gone.
I saw him at Delhi airport just after he had been robbed of his captaincy, he was on his way for the first big IPL press-conference – he had that look on is face – that focused, straight-ahead, leave-me-alone look – but not a happy look – as if it was a mask, and underneath was possible anger, and hurt, and uncertainty.
It is a story which needs to be told – why Rahul Dravid was robbed of the captaincy after victory in England...
He himself is unlikely to tell it – that is not the way he is.
And now, in the Windies, with the next highest scorer Amit Mishra, with the stars of the IPL collapsing, with the youngsters as uncertain as colts in a big rodeo (shades of The Misfits again), Rahul Dravid scores his 32nd century –
He has never missed a series for personal reasons – very seldom for injuries – he wicket-kept when the team needed him – he has taken catches others would not even have reached – he has always been there – always.
And as Gambhir and Sehwag and Sachin and Zaheer and Yuvraj nurse injuries and egoes, he is still there – in the middle, doing his job, Gary Cooper at sundown –
He was ‘Matrix’ once, black-cape flowing in the wind –
He is Gregory Peck now, steely-eyed and almost expressionless, as he brings justice to his sport and his team –
Awkward, edgy, almost ill-at-ease –
But in the shadows of his eyes, he has seen more cricket and more glory and more perfection than almost anyone else.
In the slim strength of his upper body, he holds the secret to this beautiful game called Test cricket...
In the still elegant tilt of his body as he makes room to caress the ball on the off-side, there is the harmony of ease and effort which sport is truly all about...
In the always short-haired statement of his sculptured head is the understated determination of a genius...
And in his square-cut, when he finds the song and ‘sur’ even now, is the most definite statement of artistic savagery Indian cricket has ever seen...
Let us treasure him for as long he graces the game he so loves --
Let us win this Test for him – for our Rahul Dravid.