Sunday, 11 March 2012

The day (my) cricket died

The title is borrowed from Don McLean’s famous song American Pie – the day music died. On Friday, cricket died, at least for me. 

Of all sports, cricket stands unique. For it’s not just a sport. It’s a way of life. It’s where (at least in theory)  gentlemen rule . Where fair play reins supreme. Where there is class abundantly in display. Where you simply don’t do something, that’s “not cricket”.

That era is long gone of course. Modern day cricket more resembles a gladiatorial contest, where anything goes. But even in the modern day Colosseum, one man stood apart. He stood for the old way of cricket.  The way cricket was played through most of its history. And he proved that you could do that and still be immensely successful. But alas, he has now decided to hang up his boots. It was coming, perhaps even a long time coming. But still, when it came, something of cricket died for me.

He was the last of the gentlemen left standing on the cricket field. Soft spoken and humble. Would do anything for the team  - keep wickets, open the batting, come at number 6, whatever,  without a fuss.  No bling bling. Despite being incredibly handsome, no off the field  escapades to fill up Page 3.  Courteous to a fault to teammates and opponents alike.  Worlds like sledging were utterly alien to him.  Even staring at an umpire for an awful decision giving him out would be unthinkable – the raise of an eyebrow would the maximum permitted dissent. Who else in the world is capable of saying  “ I laud the selectors who have a thankless job – they had, on occasions, more confidence in me than I had in myself” !!

Even in the way he played, it was all about the spirit of cricket. No agricultural shots, thank you. The front foot would face the direction of the shot. Bat and pad close together. All grace like a ballerina. Grit and determination in plenty. Stoic defence – boring to many but invaluable to the team and brilliant to a connoisseur. 

A great student of the history of cricket  - he is an acknowledged expert in the game’s history. A man with huge respect for the game’s traditions.  Wonderfully articulate –see this earlier post of mine. Even the way he went on Friday was understated and all class – if you ever want a model for a going away speech, look up what he said.

His place in cricket’s Hall of Fame is assured, of course. His exploits on the field need no further mention – a few tons of newsprint have just done that yesterday.

I don’t think I’ll be a hard core cricket fan anymore. The game has changed , as it indeed should. But not in the direction to my taste.  I’ll still go to the odd game.  But the heart won’t beat to that seemingly  impossible rhythm.  The spirit of cricket was the reason I played it, watched it and followed it with such intensity. But now, the expression “its not cricket” cannot be used anymore. The last of its upholders won’t be there.  

For,  Rahul Dravid has retired.


Anonymous said...

"the heart won’t beat to that seemingly impossible rhythm" says it all- lovely post Ramesh :)


Venkat said...

In a land where cricket is religion, here is a human who watch the game rarely just for two gentlemen (Dravid & Kumble) playing. Now both the class players made a vacuum on that gentleman's game.

gils said...

the personality of dravid is such that..its very hard for anyone to really dislike him. he is one person whom anyone can aspire to be..with the belief that he is jus like us..though his achievements may be monumental..there was always an approachable glory to him. hmmmm...inimay that wud be missed

Vishal said...

I am scared to think of test cricket without Rahul Dravid. It leaves me bemoaning. Wonder how the world be without him at no. 3. Read these lines somewhere yesterday..

"Sachin may be God of cricket, Sourav may be God on the off side, VVS may be God of 4th innings, but when the doors of the temple are closed, even God is behind The Wall"

the game will not be the same, Rahul! we will miss you!

Appu said...

Total Respect to both Dravid as well as for this post!!!!

Restaurant Brugge said...

nice post thanks 4 sharing this post with us

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

I was expecting this post - and you put my own emotions brilliantly down in print.

The last time we both felt this way was when Gavaskar retired in 1986 after one of his greatest innings. At that time, I felt a twinge of regret. After all I had tuned into AIR those evenings in March 1971 to hear of his exploits as a debutant, and we all grew up with him propping up Indian batting. When Gavaskar retired, we were 25 and life was young. Something was always around the corner. 1989 - Tendulkar, and 1996 - Dravid. There was hope.

We feel the retirement of Dravid so strongly because we are 50. We are on the downhill as far as life is concerned. We are not idealists anymore and life has dealt us a few hard blows while giving us a fair share of fame and pelf. There is hope but the odds are stacked against us. In this background, to wait for another 8-9 years for a second Dravid to emerge seems too long to wait. For that's how long it takes for legends to emerge. The upward roiling progress of the Indian middle class, the influence of T20, the pervasive hold of match-fixing and bookies on the game - all of them make the probability less and less likely. We have loads of young thrusters, who want to wait at the crease and thwack the ball and feast off the offerings of money and fame and sex that's on offer to them. Why wait for the ball? Why focus on process and technique when I am paid by the six?

You and I feel that more than a legend, an era is passing. Its possible this is because of the way we see the world now at this juncture in our lives. Comebacks are few and epiphanies even rarer.

Rather than ponder these imponderables, let us stop and reflect on the awesome majesty of technique, humility, strength and determination that was Rahul Dravid.

TMM said...

thanks boss. I kinda expected you to write about Jammy.

raghavendra kotla said...

Nice tribute Ramesh. out of various articles written on Dravid in the last 3 days, this made really interesting read. Written by his wife Vijeeta on cric info.

Hema said...

Awww...thats so sweet. Thats a post from a die hard fan.
Yes, he was a legend and may be cricket would never be the same without him. Lets be positive and hope there is another similar noble shining star out there who can make your day! You shouldnt let it make your cricket spirit die though I guess.

Asha said...

I can empathize with your post.

Dravid - an apolitical, emotionally balanced man, I felt so sad for him when he was stripped of captaincy and when he was replaced as RCB captain second time around.

Wishing Dravid happy times ahead, more family time through your column. A man worth emulating especially in today's world. He will shine if not in any field atleast as a fine human.

Ramesh said...

@AJCL - Totally honoured by your comment.

@Venkat - Yes, gentlemen are rare in sports; but there are a few around. Count Nadal, Federer ....

@Gils - Yeah, the combination of great success and much humanity is rare; hence the almost universal accolade.

@Vishal - Beautiful quote. Sums it up brilliantly.

Ramesh said...

@Appu - Thanks so much

@Ravi - The most brilliant of comments there ever can be. Perfectly sums up why we are so teary eyed about Dravid's departure.

@Kiwi - Yeah; but no reference to Jammy. Seems too far in the past !

@Kotla - Thanks for the link. A totally awwww post.

@Hema- Ravi's comment is a better response than what I could have ever given !

@Asha - Indeed he will shine anywhere - for a fine human being will do exactly that.

Shachi said...

I loved him too. I don't follow cricket as much, but he was dearly admired. Even more so coz he is extended family for me. Dad would share the scoop on the personal side of things too, which made it even more interesting.

And sooperb comment from Ravi.

It seems the wrong Rahul retired (read Gandhi ;)).

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Another gifted writer like Ramesh, Ed Smith who played for Middlesex, on Rahul Dravid. Enjoy.

Ramesh said...

@Shachi - Ha Ha on the wrong Rahul bit :)

@Ravi - Lovely writeup. Thanks for the link

Sandhya Sriram said...

i was expecting your post on Rahul Dravid this sunday.

for once, when i opened this post on sunday, i felt a sense of victory, that for once, i guessed Ramesh right.

I think Rahul Dravid, has exited with something similar.

it is so nice to step down when people have only nice things to talk about you, when you have been at your best.

Having said this, i take your comment on the death of cricket with a pinch of salt. of course, Rahul Dravid is one of my most admired cricketers and he always will be, but there is something about evolution that is inevitable for every one of us.

We still have Sachin. Discounting his form offlate, he is also according to me an embodiment of sportsmanship. his own style though.

i also have great admiration for Dhoni. of course, he isnt a cricket brittanica, but in his own way, he has brought balance and maturity to the game.

and i believe, we may not have a dravid returning, but we will see a few more Sachin and Dhoni, but the time i get to your 50s something :-)

the game will never die. it will evolve for better or worse i dont know though. but a few stars it will always have who will rise, shine, maybe fade, but remain in the pages of history.

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Oh there will be many more very justified cricket heroes. But for me, the passing of the spirit of cricket is what does not draw me to the game very much anymore.

sulo badri said...

awww... u seem to be such an ardent fan of his :)

Reflections said...

Seriously u liked, scratch that, loved him that much;-o?????

I liked that speech which u made me listen...the one he gave on Don Bradmans some occasion but other than that I remember him as somebody who used to bring down our run-rate in crucial one-dayers;-P

Alright, alright I'm going....*Nancy quickly exits before Ramesh flings his morning newspaper at me*;-D

Ramesh said...

@Sulo - Not just him, but that he was the last standard bearer for the spirit of cricket.

@Reflections - Ha Ha. Me very chivalrous. Cannot even raise an eyebrow to the charming N :)

sriram khe said...

While the people we refer to in our respective posts are different, there appears to be a great deal of similarity in the contents :)
here is mine from a a few months ago:

Ramesh said...

@Sriram - Delighted and honoured to see you in this space.

Yes similar views. I had read your piece on Pat.

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