There is a certain amount of irony in Rahul Dravid’s last competitive cricket match being a Twenty20 final. That it was also Sachin Tendulkar’s final T20 game only heightened the contrast.
Tendulkar has made sure his final act comes as a Test cricketer, which is of course where Dravid excelled and how he will be primarily remembered.
Tendulkar has also won the IPL and the Champions League T20 with Mumbai Indians, while Dravid failed to win either. Yet with his inspirational captaincy and ability to get the most of his team, it is Dravid who leaves the greater T20 legacy, even if his numbers and achievements don’t quite match those of his long time India team-mate.
For all of the criticism against Tendulkar in T20s, his career numbers show him to be a solid enough opener.
He scored 2797 runs at an average of 32.90 over 96 T20 innings with a strike-rate of 121.08. He suffers in comparison to the Chris Gayles and Dwayne Smiths of the world, but he has provided a better return than Ajinkya Rahane, who averages 28.29 with a strike-rate of 115.51 over 85 innings.
The criticism of Tendulkar has been clouded by his recent struggles. He made just one half-century over his last 23 T20 games, but for the majority of his T20 career, his selection for Mumbai Indians was more than justified, though he is far from an all-time great, as is the case in Test and ODIs.
Dravid was not quite as good with the bat as Tendulkar. He made 2586 runs at an average of 27.51 over 101 innings, with a strike-rate of 113.87. But his batting was not his primary virtue.
Rajasthan Royals drafted him in 2010 specifically as a replacement for their retiring captain, Shane Warne. A small market team, the Royals need every edge they can get to compete with the big boys of the IPL and they were lucky Dravid was available. Mumbai Indians can afford to spend a million dollars on Glenn Maxwell and still bury him on the bench. Had Rajasthan done that, it would have buried the team.
Dravid’s captaincy style is very different from the brasher Warne, who loved being a showman. What they have in common though, is the ability to bring a team together and instill belief in their team-mates that they are a match for anyone on their day. Dravid’s impact can be seen in the way Royals players talk about their team.
Ashok Menaria talked about Royals might have the best team bonding in the IPL; the 41-year-old Pravin Tambe was their best bowler in the CLT20, and credited the support he got from Dravid and Paddy Upton and the rest for giving him the belief that he could succeed, age be damned.
After his team beat Perth Scorchers to reach the semi-finals, Kevon Cooper explained the difference between Royals and the rest: “We are different from other franchise because we are more than a team. We enjoy each other's company and are a closely knit unit."
"We sit together and discuss the strategy with openness and this is the secret of our success. I feel it is great to be playing with skipper Rahul Dravid. He and coach Paddy Upton have created a fine environment," he said.
This ability to construct that environment is Dravid’s greatest asset. Rajasthan's ability to win games after the IPL spot-fixing scandal that swallowed up four of their players is the best testimony Dravid could have. His calm presence and tremendous experience and tactical nous are not easily replicable. Rajasthan without Dravid will feel like a different team.
The fans understand this, as these tweets make clear
"Winning hearts is more important than winning trophies" Someone may won trophy but rahul Dravid won hearts #ThankYouDravid
— Rahul Banik (@IamRahulB) October 7, 2013
LIFE is about giving more and taking less, of what RAHUL DRAVID is a fine example. #ThankYouDravid
— Ashwini Mudgal (@Ashwinimudgal) October 7, 2013
Now Tendulkar will also leave a void with Mumbai Indians, but that is simply because he is Tendulkar, who comes with the weight of a 24-year career that is unsurpassed in modern cricket. MI will not struggle to replace what he brought to the team on the field (off the field in terms of brand value is a different story). They can simply go out and buy another opener.
Rajasthan, on the other hand, cannot simply go out and buy another leader like Dravid.
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Updated Date: Oct 08, 2013 12:41:07 IST