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Friday, May 20, 2011

The T20 Specialist : Rahul Dravid

'Rahul is a test specialist. They did right by dropping him from ODIs.'
'You bet, you are right. He is test specialist. Not fit for ODIs. But yes, he should play T20 World Cup. He is a T20 specialist too.'
'Are you joking?
That is how the world is. Whenever you joke, people take it serious. When we are serious, People take it as a joke.

When I started watching cricket, there existed only two formats. Of course, there were some differences, but for the batsmen, the final aim was runs. Score runs the WAY you can, that will help you. And the way of scoring runs I liked most was proper cricket shots.This worked for both formats, tests and ODIs. Just that in ODIs you need to run better and slog in last few overs.I loved it. Most people did. In tests, try to be patient, wait for the delivery you like and suit yourself. Hit it the way you feel most comfortable. Outside off stump, try cover drive and cut shots. On legs, try straight drive, leg glance. Bouncer at a comfortable height,go for hook or pull. Sounds simple, but it all depend on the decision taken in fractions of a second. The one who thinks faster and more correctly wins the battles. and the team that wins more battles, wins the war. I liked it. Most people did. I found someone who was a master at this. Rahul Dravid it was. The years were 2003 and 2004. he was at his peak. Playing the ballls on its merit. Good delivery, better defense. Bad delivery, great shot. He was good in winning those battles, frustrating bowlers. I loved it. Most people did. If anyone wants to be a good batsman, he needs to have technique of Rahul Dravid. I was almost right. Next couple of years were his. He ruled the world. I loved. Most people did. 'He should leave his legacy behind. He will be the best batting coach ever.' 
I stood by the statement for a long time. Rahul Dravid has proved his worth among all the test playing nations. He had adjusted incredibly well in ODIs. But, Cricket was about to revolutionize. A new format was added - 20-20 over matches would be played at the international level. Different reactions came. '20 overs? Do they want to play gully cricket.', 'Good. Now we don't have to see those boring matches for five days.', 'This will harm cricket.', 'You said same when ODI came. But it benefited cricket.'

If nothing more,, people were excited. Something New! A Revolution. The concept started. The crowd buzzed in. The energy was more. And very soon, they realised, it is a great success. Mind you 'they' mostly include businessmen, not cricket experts. Everyone was ready to come over to see a result oriented game in three hours. 'Now that's worth a try.'

Spectators were excited. Cricketers were excited. The investors were excited. Why would Cricket experts complain? They were loaded with money too. They pretended. Hence Cricket experts were excited. Media [no need to mention] was excited as usual. Cricket was a business. 'T20, i LOVE IT! It is going to stay. ' Some even went to say, 'Which format do you think will demolish. I think Tests.' Another cricketer went on to say, 'ODI will stay only for two years. T20 will take over.' [The deadline is going to be over.I have not heard that they are stopping ODI matches] 
In 2006, India played its first T20. An unexpected victory! The team was smashed 4-0 in ODIs and 2-1 in Tests, but won the only T20 match. Ganguly wasn't in the scene at that moment. Rahul was injured and missed the T20 game. The only lucky guy was Sachin Tendulkar. The reason I say 'lucky' is that it was his last T20 game, and his fellow mates didn't even get a chance. T20 was certainly different. Most teams [except England] had almost same teams for Tests and ODIs. 'This won't work for T20. We need youngsters.' Eventually there was a WC in 2007, the first T20 World Cup. India had a packed schedule that year. Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, the three musketeers asked to rest and to give youngsters a chance. Everybody was taken aback. Only one question filled the air 'What will they do without the Big 3?"

But they did well, very well. Well enough to grab the trophy. It was the beginning or perhaps the ending. Worldwide there was the perception that T20 are made for youngsters. 'If you are old, stay away.' India followed it. So did many countries othen then Australia and Sri Lanka. 'Young guns. Young guns. they win T20. The older ones are for test.' Where is the rulebook? No response. Nobody listened.  
2008, IPL took over the world by surprise. T20 was in the nation which had millions of cricket lovers. Not sure about cricket, but business was at its best. 'We are adding entertainment to cricket.' Get out of here.No response. Nobody listened. IPL was everywhere. Demand of youth increased. T20 is the future. Few months ago, after India won 2007 T20 World Cup, selectors were convinced. Throw the seniors out. Youngsters can win ODIs for us. Anyway any Tom, Dick and Harry can bat. The pitches are dead. They were right. The young brigade ruled. Soon Ganguly decided to retire, not really satisfied. Probably a boost for the selectors. Ganguly probably one of the greatest ODI opener didn't get a berth in ODI team even after a good IPL. Satisfied or unsatisfied, he retired. And story was over. Not for Rahul Dravid. They tried everything, almost everything to put the train out of the track, but it knew its destination. Rahul's form wasn't great at international level. At domestic level, he scored a 100 almost each game. But somehow he was not able to put his form at the international level. They grinned 'loha garam hai, maar do hathora.' Everyone was chasing him, media, team management, critics, Everyone. They tried to pretend to be generous. 'We see Rahul is a great player to be out of form for so long. WE will give him another chance.' [And if he fails we will do what we did to Mr Ganguly, they thought, grinning.]

Last series for the Wall, people concluded. Of course, they were wrong. The Wall stroked form on the foreign soil, scoring 4 half centuries in six innings. The world was perplexed. The fanatics went wild. The critics were gasped. That was some fantasy! 'How did he manage that?' And his followers said, 'Oh that! That wasn't difficult.' 
Rahul Dravid was back. And so was IPL. Now I had started wondering. He did well last year. BUT...I was remembering my statement 'He will be the best batting coach ever.' NO, Not Now. The cricket has changed. It is no more the same as it was when I made the statement. It is no more about cover drives, straight drives, cuts and hooks. Its anything now. Inside edge [called as Chinese cut], Outside edge [The commentators say it was intended. As if we don't know] Reverse weeps, Switch hits and many varieties of slogs. and occasionally you will see an elegant cover drive. My eyes will lit up. 'I was wrong about T20. Cricketing shots exists...' And the next ball, there will be an ugly mishit slog going for a six. The ball will disappear out of the ground, and so will the glow in my eyes.

What will Rahul teach to youngsters? Cover drive? Cut shots? No, they don't need it. They will make more money by their unorthodox shots. Why learn the real art? The bats are too good. The pitches are batting friendly. Why learn the real art. 'He will never be a batting coach.'  
As IPL 2009 started, I was amazed. Rahul Dravid did it. 66 off 48 when the whole team crumbled. 20 off 18, when all the hitters were sent before him. 48 off 27 when all the so called T20 specialists had strike rate in 60s and 70s. I was giggling, convinced. It was not the runs. He had many. The fact was he did it. The Test specialist over wit the T20 specialists that too with proper cricket shots. It is possible. The chameleon adapted to another format just as it did in ODIs. I didn't see it. But I know it. Every cricket expert said, 'Rahul Dravid is surely an asset. He will go a long way. He has got everything to become a test specialist. Mind you ODIs are not his cup of tea.' I wonder whether he was deaf when media was yelling this. I know he wasn't good for ODI. He knew he was not good for ODI. But he knew more than all of us. 'I can fix it.' He would have said, 'Nobody is good from birth. They work hard and become good.' He did and he was far better than good. The world was gasped. 'The Test specialist did wonders in the ODI format.' He played many roles, all convincingly. And now he did it for T20. I am ecstatic. 'They might call you a test specialist. But I know it, you are a ODI specialist and NOW a T20 specialist.'

Thank you for being or icon, our role model. I bet you will be the best batting coach ever.

Another Article By Our Own AMAN ARORA -


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