March 21, 2012

I showed the finger!

After years of believing that marriage would be a futile thing, I still could not duck this one that came at me. It was almost like God looked at me, showed me an angel and said " you don't want to get married huh! Okay, now try and resist this one."

Well, I did not resist. So decided to sacrifice (hehe) my peace and freedom for a cause - of that of keeping Sangeeta like a princess. That's her name and I showed her my finger for the engagement ring.

I got engaged on March 18!

March 14, 2012

Rahul Dravid – India's genius who could see way beyond the boundary

Rahul Dravid is congratulated by Steve Waugh following India's victory in Adelaide in December 2003. Photograph: Hamish Blair/Getty Images Sport
When most people talk, you wait for your turn to speak. With some, you listen. And with a select few, you hang on every word like it's a sermon from on high. For many cricket fans, Steve Waugh falls into the latter category. A combination of Waugh's laconic nature, his avoidance of the spotlight, his abhorrence of banality and his status as the inscrutable figurehead of the Australian team that ruled the world at the turn of the century have made his pronouncements as valuable as any in the game. He is certainly someone whose respect you would be desperate to earn. Muffled praise from Steve Waugh is worth 100 rooftop eulogies from other cricketers.

It's no surprise that Steve Waugh respected Rahul Dravid. He respected him so much that he asked him to write the foreword to his autobiography. Their mutual admiration was cemented over dinner during India's tour of Australia in 1998, when Dravid asked Waugh incessantly about the mental side of the game. They differ in some respects – Dravid's idea of mental disintegration was the watertight forward defensive – but they share crucial qualities. A love of the dying art of batting time. A rich understanding of the history of the game and particularly the importance of Test cricket. An awareness of how important cricket is but also how important it isn't. Both see way beyond the boundary.

In Dravid, Waugh saw a rare species: the truly worthy adversary, and somebody who prided himself of making the tough, important runs. Waugh wasn't in the gutter very often as Australian captain, yet he happily went there in Adelaide on 16 December 2003, to retrieve the ball after Dravid had hit the winning runs in a sensational second Test. It gave India their first victory in Australia for 23 years. Waugh collected the ball and gave it to Dravid. With this being Waugh's last series in international cricket, some saw it as a symbolic passing of the baton. "Rahul wanted the extra edge that would elevate his game to the next level," said Waugh of that dinner date in 1998, "and at the Adelaide Oval he completed the journey".

That performance was probably Dravid's finest in international cricket. He made 233 and 72 not out, batting five minutes short of 14 hours in the match. After that, even this most modest man could not avoid the spotlight. Despite that, and other legendary match-winning performances, there is a temptation to think Dravid as the guy behind the guy, someone whose career was largely spent in the shadows. When he made a gritty 95 on his Test debut at Lord's in 1996, Sourav Ganguly, also on debut, made a sparkling 131. When he batted all day against Australia at Kolkata in 2001, eventually making 180, VVS Laxman also batted all day and made a divine 281, one of the all-time great Test innings. When Dravid struck three unyielding centuries in England last summer, they were lost in Sachin Tendulkar's pursuit of his 100th hundred. Though Dravid was technically beautiful, his often weary face betrayed the fact that batting rarely came easy to him. He did not have the brutal audacity of Virender Sehwag, the poetic elegance of Laxman, the unfathomable, enduring genius of Tendulkar or the sublime cover drive of Ganguly.

What he did have was substance. Dravid will retire with a portfolio of epic innings. Most came abroad; his percentage of Test centuries scored overseas (58) and outside Asia (39) are higher than the other fourgalacticos. This point might seem piddling – runs are runs are runs – but it ignores the position India were in during the early part of Dravid's career. Between 1986 and 2000 they won just one overseas Test in 48 attempts. To say they were travel sick was an insult to spinning stomachs. Their journey under the flinty captaincy of Ganguly in the early 2000s will always be defined by that miraculous turnaround against Australia in 2000-01, yet the most striking progress came overseas. Dravid, who averaged a staggering 102.84 in victories under Ganguly, was the key to that progress. His performance of Adelaide was followed, later the same winter, by an immense 270 at Rawalpindi to set up India's first ever series win in Pakistan. Eighteen months earlier his masterful 148 in trying conditions at Headingley – the second of four consecutive Test hundreds – led to a first win in England for 16 years. In 2006, as captain, he made 81 and 68 in a low-scoring dogfight in Jamaica to give India their first series win in the Caribbean for 35 years. Dravid batted 597 minutes in the match; nobody else on either side lasted 205 minutes.

All bar one of these performances came during Dravid's peak, between July 2002 and June 2006 – the month in which his overall Test average peaked at 58.75. In that period, he scored 4316 runs at 69.61; even many of Tendulkar's disciples could not deny that Dravid was India's best batsman, and by a distance. Only Ricky Ponting rivalled him as the world's best. Dravid was also the inaugural ICC Player of the Year in 2004.

He lies second behind on the Tendulkar on the Test run-scorers list, with 13288, and fourth with 36 Test centuries. He does have a couple of records of his own. Dravid is the only man to score 10,000 runs in the pivotal No3 position, and the only man to face 30,000 deliveries in Test cricket. As Dileep Premachandran said, he had "powers of concentration that were almost yogic". He was a master of the dying art of batting time and was famously nicknamed The Wall (although, as Mike Selvey pointed out on these pages, he deserved a grander title like The Great Wall of Indore).

To talk of Dravid's ability tells only half the story. He exhibited greatness at its most humble, and is one of the most impressive men to play the game: dignified, fair-minded, eloquent (he never used a ghostwriter), gentle, yet tougher than we will ever realise. A Gary Cooper for the new millennium; the kind of man you'd want your son to grow into. Those who advocate Satan for a living would struggle to produce a bad word against him. There was one charge of ball-tampering in 2004, although most seemed to accept it was accidental. That's about it. Ganguly observed that Dravid had the eerie habit of almost always saying the right thing. He pretty much always did the right thing, too. Both were demonstrated at Edgbaston last summer when he defused the row over Ian Bell's controversial dismissal.

Dravid was also a strikingly selfless team man, and could pop up in the most unlikely places: he batted everywhere from No1 to 7 in the Test team and played 73 one-day internationals as wicketkeeper to aid the balance of the side. He could pop up in other unlikely places: playing for Scotland, or at the United Services Ground in Portsmouth, repelling Shane Warne in one of county cricket's greatest modern duels. He even appeared in the England dressing-room in 2002 to pick Michael Vaughan's brain after he had dismantled India's spinners. Imagine an Indian asking an Englishman for tips on playing spin bowling. Dravid was never too proud to seek advice. "Greatness was not handed to him; he pursued it diligently, single-mindedly," Dravid wrote of Waugh in that foreword. It's a compliment that works both ways. Waugh recognised Dravid as a rare species, and so should we: as somebody who achieved greatness as both a cricketer and as a human being.

- The Guardian (UK)

Was Rahul Dravid better than Sachin Tendulkar?

No, but he was more beloved in England

I saw Rahul Dravid get his 12 at The Oval, in 2007. It took 96 balls and lasted 140 painful, horrible, scratchy minutes.

In its sheer bloody-minded refusal to admit defeat or give in to his own lack of timing and form, it was a masterpiece; a sight both grim to behold and ghoulishly compelling, like watching Darren Gough in a pink leotard on that Wipeout gameshow.

A lesser man would have just thrown the bat at a wide one and nicked off to lick his wounds and wait for better days to come. But Rahul kept at it, mistiming and clunking and missing and edging. For over two hours. It was, in its own way, brave and inspiring. He stuck it out until the bitter end, when he was finally dismissed – in an exquisite little eff-you from the universe – by Paul Collingwood.

I’d gone to the match with a friend, who had not been to a Test match before but had got free posh seats from his work. I think my friend’s previous exposure to cricket constituted of highlights of Freddie’s Ashes, and maybe a corporate jolly to a Twenty20. It would be like preparing to join the Foreign Legion by going to Club 18-30 in Faliraki. Perhaps nothing could have readied the neophyte watcher for the prospect of Rahul’s 96-ball 12, but it’s fair to say that my mate hasn’t been near a cricket match since.

I felt at the time that Test cricket at The Oval would somehow stagger on without my friend’s interest or patronage, and sure enough, Rahul was back at that ground in 2011, promoted to open and scoring a magnificent unbeaten hundred in the first innings. He barely had time to change Suresh Raina’s nappy before trudging out to open the innings again, following on.

Rahul had to move up the order in both digs. Gautam Gambhir, one of several of the younger Indian cricketers whose reputation in England will never recover from that spineless, flabby, cowardly display on that tour, had hurt his head trying (and, naturally, failing) to take a catch and wasn’t up to batting before either innings was effectively over. Poor lamb. Even when Dravid was handed a tough decision for a bat-pad catch and given out, unluckily, for 13 in the second innings, he took it on the chin. He was a man amongst boys on that tour.

So two matches at The Oval that, I submit, encapsulate what Rahul has meant to English cricket lovers. While Sachin – perhaps distracted by the hoopla over breaking a record that nobody even knew existed until it was created for him, bespoke – floundered on that 2011 tour, Rahul’s reputation grew even greater in this country.

It is hard, sacrilegious I dare say, for Indian fans to consider, but I believe that in the UK at least, Rahul’s bravery, modesty, professionalism and courtly determination make him even more loved than Tendulkar. There is, to us non-fanatics, a machine-like efficiency to the run-compiling machine from Mumbai that makes him somehow less of a romantic figure than Rahul and, for that matter, VVS.

While Sachin and his lesser successors are bathed in the fierce gleam of the modern India, Rahul’s greatest moments seem to be shrouded in a dimming light, like the form of the game to which he was best suited. If it is to be retirement, he will be cherished in the hearts of English Test cricket fans for a very long time. Let's just hope he doesn't take Indian Test cricket with him.

- By Alan Tyers (The Telegraph, UK)

Rahul Dravid - The Warrior

This is a personal favorite b'coz Steve Waugh & Rahul Dravid have been two of the most inspirational heroes for me.

Long before the first ball was bowled in the World Cup in southern Africa in 2003, long before fans began dreaming of an impossible Indian revival which soon became a glorious reality, this writer was sure of one thing: once the skirmishes began, he was going to miss somebody hugely.

Watching cricket's most celebrated event without Steve Waugh was a bit like going to Wimbledon and finding out that Pete Sampras had not turned up, a bit like watching Godfather without Marlon Brando, a little like going to an art exhibition featuring the masterpieces of the 20th century and finding out that Picasso was missing.

That's a very personal observation, of course.

Like sages and saints, sports fans live in the now. Yesterday's men — however great, however heroic, however successful — may as well have been 19th century men.

Yet, to me, the pain lingered for some time; it lingered until the balm arrived. And it arrived in the form of one Mr. Rahul Dravid. The same gladiatorial intensity and monkish one-pointedness of purpose; the same glint in the eyes, the eyes of a born warrior marooned in the belly of the Sahara desert with less than a day's ration left; the same strength of will that propelled Steve Waugh to heroic heights.

Dravid had it all it; if anybody in cricket's post-Steve Waugh era could more than match to the Aussie master, it was the upstanding gentleman from Bangalore.

Of course, we have showered clichés on him. The Wall. Mr. Reliable. Dependable Dravid. Sheet anchor. As if these things explain everything. Actually, none of these do justice to the special skills of a very special man. Dravid has been the architect of Indian cricket. He made the blueprints, he envisioned the pillars. He was a brick by brick man who stayed to see the edifice completed. Then the interior decorators arrived with their fancy fittings and we were in awe of their minor art, the great craftsman and his rare craft already forgotten.

As much as it has suited Indian cricket, as much as it has helped the team climb great heights, from another standpoint, it's a pity that Dravid should have happened in the Sachin Tendulkar era. He would have stood out as the best in any other, barring perhaps the one that featured Sunil Gavaskar.

In my mind, both in terms of technique and success, he is among the three best batsmen in the history of Indian cricket, behind only Tendulkar and Gavaskar, according to some experts, although I am not too sure about the ranking order.

And like Ponsford in the Don Bradman era, like Gundappa Visvanath in the days of Gavaskar, like Gordon Greenidge in the halcyon days of Viv Richards, Dravid soldiered on in the giant shadow of the Sachin, leaving his stamp time and again nevertheless.

Hey, Rahul, here's the 'keeper's gloves. Hey, Rahul, will you open the innings today? But, no, Rahul, wait a minute ... maybe you can bat at No. 4. Hey, hold it. What about No. 6? No other player as good as Dravid has ever been “used”' with such cruel disregard for the man's self-respect in the entire history of Indian cricket. But these things hardly mattered to him. For, Dravid was the ultimate team-man in a very selfish sport and in the most selfish era in the history of professional sport.

Of course, he has millions of fans in this country; and many of them are his fans for probably the wrong reasons. He is cute. He has a great smile. He is a fine gentleman. That's like admiring Dravid for all the reasons that you might want to appreciate Shilpa Shetty's glamorous presence at an IPL match!
But let's get this right now. The man's a marvel because he was, like my great hero Steve Waugh, a warrior. The Indian team uniform was his battle fatigues. The bat was both his sword and his shield, more often the latter. He was not a creator/destroyer in the Tendulkar-Richards mould. He could never be that. Dravid did not have their outrageous genius. He was more Boycott than Bradman but without the selfishness of the English opener.

Most of all, he was a brave warrior, a man of character, someone you'd want to have with you when your house was on fire or when floodwaters threatened to submerge your living room; or, to be precise, when India was four down for 29 with Dale Steyn or James Anderson on fire.

What a man! Tenacity, courage, resourcefulness, selflessness and the willingness to sacrifice for the team's sake…the man had everything. Altruism is vanishingly rare in sport. But Dravid was a natural-born altruist.

Even in the brutal, gladiatorial era of modern sport, there are times when beauty can smother meaning. Watch a believe-it-or-not balletic forehand from Federer, watch a nonchalant straight drive from Tendulkar off the fastest of bowlers, and Dravid's brilliance might seem to fade into the background.

But in a landmine strewn area that must be carefully ventured into, it is Dravid's clear-eyed engagement with difficult circumstances that has quite often helped Team India overcome hurdle after hurdle.

Forget hyperbolic excesses. Dravid will be missed more than any other Indian Test cricketer.

- By Nirmal Shekar - The Hindu (Adapted from a column written during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa)

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March 13, 2012

Turn a life around

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed that the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles.

Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden. As they walked, Mark discovered the boy's name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball and history, that he was having a lot of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

Mark went home after dropping Bill at his house. They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school, where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally the long-awaited senior year came. Three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.

Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. "Do you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?" asked Bill. "You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn't want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother's sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life."

By John W. Schlatter

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around - Leo Buscaglia

March 12, 2012

My husband, the perfectionist

Vijeeta Dravid on her husband - Source: espncrininfo (thanks Vishal for bringing this piece to my notice)

I've been married to Rahul for almost nine years now and we have always been very private people. So I'm sure he will be astonished to find that I have written at length about him.

This is not meant to be a song of praise for him on his retirement; that is up to the rest of the world. I am his wife, not a fan, and the reason I am writing this is to give you an insight into the role cricket has played in his life, and to take that in for myself at the end of his 16-year international career.

Just after we got married, I remember him saying to me that he hoped to play for "the next three or four years", and that he would need me there to support him in that time. Now that he has retired, I think: "Not bad. We've done far better than the three or four years we thought about in May 2003."

The last 12 months were special for us for more reasons than the runs or centuries Rahul has scored. After the 2010-11 tour of South Africa, our older son, Samit, suddenly developed a huge interest in cricket. When he watched Rahul score his centuries in England last year, it was as if in the last year of his career, Rahul had found his best audience.

I was with the boys at Old Trafford when Rahul played his first (and last) Twenty20 international and then also travelled to every match of the one-day series. After the last ODI, we went into the Lord's dressing room and showed Samit and Anvay theirbaba's name on the honours board. It was a huge thrill for the boys to see Rahul play live in front of so many people, to see him at his "work", which kept him away from them for months.

Cricket has been the centre of Rahul's world and his approach to every season and series has been consistent in all the time we have been married. Methodical, thoughtful and very, very organised. When I travelled with him for the first time, in Australia in 2003-04, I began to notice how he would prepare for games - the importance of routines, and his obsession with shadow practice at odd hours of day or night. I found that weird. Once, I actually thought he was sleepwalking!

Now I know that with Rahul's cricket, nothing is casual, unconscious or accidental. Before he went on tour, I would pack all his other bags, but his cricket kit was sacred - I did not touch it; only he handled it. I know if I packed only two sets of informal clothes, he would rotate them through an entire tour if he had to and not think about it. He has used one type of moisturising cream for 20 years because his skin gets dry. Nothing else. He doesn't care for gadgets, and barely registers brands - of watches, cologne or cars. But if the weight of his bat was off by a gram, he would notice it in an instant and get the problem fixed.

Cricket has been his priority and everyone around him knows that. On match days Rahul wanted his space and his silence. He didn't like being rushed, not for the bus, not to the crease. All he said he needed was ten minutes to himself, to get what I call his "internal milieu" settled, before he could go about a match day.

When we began to travel with the kids - and he loved having them around during a series, even when they were babies - we made sure we got two rooms. The day before every game, the boys were told that their father had to be left alone for a while, and Rahul would go into his room for his meditation and visualisation exercises. On the morning of the game, he would get up and do another session of meditation before leaving for the ground. I have tried meditation myself and I know that the zone he gets into as quickly as he does - it takes lots of years of training to get there. It is part of the complete equilibrium he tries to achieve before getting into a series.

Like all players, Rahul has his superstitions. He doesn't try a new bat out for a series, and puts his right thigh pad on first. Last year before the Lord's Test, he made sure to sit in the same space Tillakaratne Dilshan had occupied in the visitors' dressing room when he scored nearly a double-hundred earlier in the season. Rahul scored his first hundred at Lord's in that game.

If I packed only two sets of informal clothes, he would rotate them through an entire tour if he had to and not think about it. He doesn't care for gadgets, and barely registers brands - of watches, cologne or cars. But if the weight of his bat was off by a gram, he would notice it in an instant and get the problem fixed

Once the game is on, at the end of every day he has this fantastic ability to switch off. He may be thinking about it, his batting may bother him, he will be itching to go back and try again, but he can compartmentalise his life very well. He won't order room service or brood indoors, he would rather go out, find something to do - go to a movie or watch a musical, which he loves. He will walk out to the sea to wind down or go to bookstores, or find something else to do.

He has dealt with all that goes on in cricket because he can separate the game and the rest of his life and put things in perspective. No matter what was happening in his cricket, at home he is husband, father, family man. He has never said, "Oh I've had a bad day." He wouldn't speak about his work unless asked. Other than dropped catches.

Only once, I remember, he returned from a Test and said, "I got a bit angry today. I lost my temper. Shouldn't have done that." He wouldn't say more. Many months later, Viru [Sehwag] told me that he'd actually thrown a chair after a defeat to England in Mumbai. He'd thrown the chair, Viru said, not because the team had lost but because they had lost very badly.

One of Rahul's great strengths is his ability - and he has had it all along - to accept reality. He believes you cannot complain about anything because there is no end to complaining. And he knows there is no end to improving either. He always looks within, to gain, to learn and to keep working at his cricket.

In the last few years he worked doubly hard to make sure he played the game in his best physical condition in the toughest phase of his career physically. He tried to understand his body and work on his limitations - he was able to hold off shoulder surgery despite a problem in his rotator cuff because he found ways to keep it strong. When I was pregnant with Samit, we spent two months in South Africa to work in a sports centre that focused on strengthening Rahul's shoulder. Because he sweats profusely, he has even had sweat analysis done, to see how that affects his batting. He found that Pat Rafter, the former Australian tennis player, had a similar problem.

To get fit, he went on very difficult protein diets for three months at a stretch, giving up rice, chapatis and dessert altogether - even though he has a sweet tooth. He wanted his batting and his cricket to benefit from his peak fitness, even heading into his late 30s. He has been to see a specialist in eye co-ordination techniques, for eye exercises for the muscles of his eyes. If there was a problem, he always tried to find answers.

Outside cricket, Rahul is a man of no fuss. If he's on a diet, he will eat whatever is served, as long as it fits the diet. Even if the same food keeps turning up on his plate for days in a row, he will eat it without complaint. If he drops a catch, though, it bothers him enough to talk about it on the phone when we speak in the evening; during matches, it is the only part of cricket that he will talk about without me asking him about it. In 2009 he lost his old, faded India cap, when it was stolen from a ground. He was very, very upset about it. It was dear to him and he was extremely proud to wear it.

People always ask me the reason for Rahul being a "normal" person, despite the fame and the celebrity circus. I think it all began with his middle-class upbringing, of being taught to believe in fundamental values like humility and perspective. He has also had some very old, solid friendships that have kept him rooted.

He is fond of reading, as many know, and has a great sense of and interest in history of all kinds - of the game he plays and also of the lives of some of the world's greatest men. When he started his cricket career, he had a coach, Keki Tarapore, who probably taught him to be a good human being along with being a good cricketer.

All of this has given Rahul a deep understanding of what exactly was important about his being in cricket and what was not. It can only come from a real love for the game. When I began to understand the kind of politics there are in the game, he only said one thing: that this game has given me so much in life that I will never be bitter. There is so much to be thankful for, no matter what else happens, that never goes away.

Cricket has made Rahul who he is, and I can say that he was able to get the absolute maximum out of his abilities as an international cricketer.

What next for him? I know he likes his routine and he's in a good zone when he is in his routine, so we will have to create one at home for him. Getting the groceries could be part of that. A cup of tea in the morning for his wife would be a lovely bonus, I would think, particularly now that he doesn't have to take off for the gym or for training at the KSCA at the crack of dawn.

More seriously, though, I think he will spend time relaxing and reading to let it all sink in a bit. He has loved music and wants to learn how to play the guitar. Then perhaps he would like to find something that fills in at least some of the place that cricket occupied in his life, something challenging and cerebral.

Rahul has lived his dream and he thinks it's time to move on. Retirement will mean a big shift in his life, of not have training or team-mates around him, or the chance to compete against the best. The family, though, is delighted to have him back.

More on Dravid...

... this time from a blog I love to read (

If Sachin was the teacher’s pet marked for greatness ever since he joined the school, Ganguly the arrogant gang-leader of the cool kids and VVS Laxman the freakishly-talented loner in the corner, Rahul Dravid will always be the hair-cleanly-parted, diligent “good boy”, the one who studies every waking hour to get the best grade.

The perfect student.

Not for him the arrogance of knowledge. Nor the satisfaction of absolute success. Dravid was always learning, and as one of the first ads he shot for so prophetically said, “always practicing”.

Not naturally aggressive in his batting, one of his most inspirational achievements was how he developed his limited-overs technique to retire with a record as good as the best. And even while batting in Test matches, an art he had mastered better than any of his contemporaries, you could see him continually changing, adapting, fine-tuning his game, often shaking his head in disappointment even after a perfect cover-drive. It is this relentless, almost religious, pursuit of perfection that will be remembered the most about him.

As also the precise movement of feet, the opening of the stance to counter the swing, the pivot of the heel, the last-minute leave, the perfect balance of the body at the moment of impact, the stillness of head. The man was as close to an anthropomorphism of a Swiss watch one could get, not just in its engineering precision, but in its total reliability. Session after session, like gears of platinum, he would grind out the opposition, his almost absolute invulnerability sapping them of all hope .

Time could stop. But not Dravid.

The other guy would trudge to the pavilion. Not Dravid.

He would be at the other end. Always.

However even “always” ends. It has to.

The bails are removed. Shadows creep over the pitch. The reassuring presence at number 3 takes his last walk.

Memories crowd around. Calcutta. Adelaide. Lords. Georgetown. Headingley. Rawalpindi. Now they are all a blur–one glorious image giving way to another in rapid sequence. The flick. The square-drive. That back-lift. The studious expression. The self-effacing smile. The punch in the air.

And that silently smoldering hunger—– the hunger to be the best one can possibly be.

We will miss you sir.

March 9, 2012

Open letter to Rahul Dravid

A faithful follower wishes the legend goodbye - Written by Sidvee (Source: Yahoo)

Dear Rahul,

This is not going to be easy. But I will try. One sentence at a time.

Congratulations. Is that appropriate? That’s what people at work say when someone quits. And, despite the anguish surrounding your decision, this is supposed to be a happy day. At least I would like to think of it that way.

I expected you to finish in Adelaide. The same Adelaide where, in 2003, you found gold at the end of the rainbow. The same Adelaide where another colossus, Adam Gilchrist, retired four years ago, his wife and children sitting among the press, his voice breaking towards the end of each sentence, tears trickling down his cheeks as the press conference wound down.

But the Chinnaswamy Stadium fits well. That’s where it all began. And that’s where it ends. Like Gilly, you leave with your family and former team-mates watching over your retirement announcement. And like him, you leave amid breaking voices and teary eyes.

There is a constant temptation, especially when a cricketer retires, to draw comparisons. We live in a world that loves definitives. It frowns upon ambiguity. We want to determine your exact location in the pantheon. I will refrain from this. I am sure you are tired of being compared to other great Indian batsmen. And I am not about to bore you.

But I must tell you something that has bothered me for a long time. You are too conveniently slotted as a specialist batsman. I disagree. That’s too simplistic. For me, you are an allrounder - not in the way our limited imaginations defines an allrounder but in a broader, more sweeping, sense.

I find it hard to think of a more versatile cricketer. You were one of our finest short leg fielders. You were, for the most part, a remarkable slip catcher. You have opened the innings, batted at No.3, batted at No.6 (from where you conjured up that 180 in Kolkata). I’m sure you have batted everywhere else.

You have kept wicket, offering an added dimension to the one-day side in two World Cups. You even scored 145 in one of those games. You captained both the Test and one-day teams. Sure things didn’t go according to plan but you were a superb on-field captain. More importantly you were India’s finest vice-captain, an aspect that is often conveniently forgotten. Jeez, you even took some wickets.

There’s something unique about this. In Indian cricket’s hall of fame, you can proudly share a table with Gavaskar and Tendulkar. But you can also share one with Kapil, Mankad and Ganguly - cricketers who excelled in more than one aspect of their game for an extended period of time.

The only people who will understand this are those who you played with. The only people who will begin to appreciate your value to the side are those who you propped up. Which is why it is not the least surprising when Tendulkar said yesterday, ‘There can be no cricketer like Rahul Dravid.’ Hell yeah. It’s too far-fetched.

Talking about Tendulkar, you know my best moment involving you two? Adelaide again. 2003 again. Damien Martyn c Dravid b Tendulkar 38. Ripping legbreak, spanking cut, screaming edge, lunging right hand, gotcha. That was magic. Pure magic. Swung the game. Ignited the series.

What else will I remember? Hmm. That shirt of yours immaculately tucked in. How did you manage to keep it tucked in every single time? I’ll remember the way you chased the ball to the boundary line, as if you were competing in a hundred-meter race. I’ll remember the intensity with which you studied the pitch before the game, like a geologist, scraping the surface with your palms, examining the grains of sand, gauging the direction of the breeze. You loved all these tiny details, didn’t you?

There is a general perception that you have not got the credit you deserve. I don’t know if that is accurate. I wonder if you feel that way. But just you wait. Wait for India to play a Test without you. Wait for the team to lose an early wicket, especially on a challenging pitch. You’ll hear a gazillion sighs, sighs filled with longing. India 8 for 1 and you sitting in his living room, sipping tea and watching TV. I’ll be surprised if you don’t palpably feel a nation’s collective yearning for a sunnier, glorious past.

But even that I may be able to somehow handle. What I won’t be able to come to terms with is not watching you bat. Over the years few things have given me as much joy as watching you construct an innings, hour upon hour, brick upon brick.

Here I must mention what the great American author, Edgar Allan Poe, once said about the importance of punctuation.

It does not seem to be known that, even where the sense is perfectly clear, a sentence may be deprived of half its force - its spirit - its point - by improper punctuation.

An innings of yours would be incomplete without the punctuation marks that you masterfully employed along the way: the focussed leaves, the immaculate dead-bats, the softening of the grip, the late strokeplay, the ducking, the weaving, the swaying, the head totally still, your eyes always on the ball, the focus, more focus, still more focus, even more focus.

There is no point watching an innings of yours stripped of all this. I’ve cursed all these TV producers who create highlight packages with fours, sixes, your raised bat after each fifty, a jump after a hundred, more fours, more sixes and done. Finished. Poof. That’s supposed to be a summation of your innings.

It’s the same with all these photographers who click away and the websites that use those photos to create galleries. None of them even begin to portray the painstaking manner in which you create these pearls. None of them can capture over after over of graft. There is nothing more exhilarating that being exhausted after watching you bat. But there is no technology that can capture that, no software that can simulate it.

So if my grandson were to ask me about your batting, I would be lost. The only way anyone can begin to understand your craft is by watching you bat through a whole day, by experiencing your pain. There are no short cuts.

There are a million links that pop up on YouTube when I type ‘Rahul Dravid’. All of them show you batting. None of them contain your essence. There is no Rahul Dravid in there.

That’s sad. But maybe that’s also a good thing. I was fortunate to be able to watch you bat. My grandson won’t be as lucky. He’s just going to be born at the wrong time. Let’s go with that. It’s much easier.

As I said, this is supposed to be a happy day. It’s the memories that matter. You’ve left us a world full of them.

So long, Rahul. Adios. Ciao. Auf Wiedersehen. Tata. Bye. Bye. Olleyadagali guru.

And thank you. It’s been a privilege.

Yours faithfully,

March 7, 2012

I am humbled

Warning: "Me talk" ahead :)

As I write this, the total page views on my blog has crossed 60,000 since 2009. And that is from 195 "followers" and others.

I am really humbled and thank you to each one of you for taking out time to read my musings.

I feel good :)

Keep writing and commenting!

March 6, 2012

More is not Enough

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.
One day he passed a wealthy merchant's house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it - a huge, towering rock. "How powerful that rock is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a rock!"

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the rock?" he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.

Source: Unknown