Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rahul Dravid - Champion both on & off the field

(Photo via Cricket Country)
Rahul Dravid is not an unknown name in the cricketing world, his quality batting over the years has established him as one of the greatest cricketers the game has ever seen but despite of all the glories he is still humble - this is one quality you will see in almost every successful sportsperson and this is why he is one of the most respected personalities in sporting world today. A true gentleman.

Till now most of the people knew him only for his batting ability but he has some hidden talents too. Today, I'm not going to analyse his batting skills or cricket career, just want to share something outside the cricketing field. 

Rahul Dravid delivered the Sir Donald Bradman Oration at the Australian War Memorial just few hours back, he shared some interesting stories and talked about almost all aspects of the game one could imagine and made some valid points, here are some excerpts from his speech which I liked :
"When I was told that I would be speaking at the National War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly, the words 'war', 'battle', 'fight' are used to describe cricket matches."
  "My own link with Bradman was much like that of most other Indians – through history books, some old video footage and his wise words. About leaving the game better than you found it."
"I remember the excitement that went through Indian cricket when we heard the news that Bradman had seen Sachin Tendulkar bat on TV and thought he batted like him. It was more than mere approval, it was as if The great don had finally, passed on his torch. Not to an Aussie or an Englishman or a West Indian. But to one of our own."
"One of the things, Bradman said has stayed in my mind. That the finest of athletes had, along with skill, a few more essential qualities: to conduct their life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and modesty. All this he believed, were totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination and competitiveness. Maybe those words should be put up in cricket dressing rooms all over the world."
 "The Australian public will want to stand up to send Sachin off all over again this time. But I must warn you, given how he's been playing these days, there are no guarantees about final goodbyes."
 "Thanks to the IPL, Indians and Australians have even shared dressing rooms. Shane Watson's involvement in Rajasthan, Mike Hussey's role with Chennai to mention a few, are greatly appreciated back home."
 "At the moment, to much of the outside world, Indian cricket represents only two things - money and power. Yes, that aspect of Indian cricket is a part of the whole, but it is not the complete picture."
 "In this last decade, the Indian team represents more than ever before, the country we come from - of people from vastly different cultures, who speak different languages, follow different religions, belong to all classes of society. I went around our dressing room to work out how many languages could be spoken in there and the number I have arrived at is: 15, including Shona and Afrikaans."
 "Let me tell you one of my favourite stories from my Under-19 days, when the India Under-19 team played a match against the New Zealand junior team. We had two bowlers in the team, one from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh - he spoke only Hindi, which is usually a link language for players from all over India, ahead even of English. It should have been all right, except the other bowler came from Kerala, in the deep south, and he spoke only the state's regional language, Malayalam. Now even that should have been okay as they were both bowlers and could bowl simultaneous spells. Yet in one game, they happened to come together at the crease. In the dressing room, we were in splits, wondering how they were going to manage the business of a partnership, calling for runs or sharing the strike. Neither man could understand a word of what the other was saying and they were batting together. This could only happen in Indian cricket. Except that these two guys came up with a 100-run partnership. Their common language was cricket and that worked out just fine."
 "The everyday richness of Indian cricket lies right there, not in the news you hear about million-dollar deals and television rights. When I look back over the 25 years I've spent in cricket, I realise two things. First, rather alarmingly, that I am the oldest man in the game, older to even Sachin by three months. More importantly, I realise that Indian cricket actually reflects our country's own growth story during this time. Cricket is so much a part of our national fabric that as India - its economy, society and popular culture - transformed itself, so did our most-loved sport. As players we are appreciative beneficiaries of the financial strength of Indian cricket, but we are more than just mascots of that economic power. The caricature often made of Indian cricket and its cricketers in the rest of the world is that we are pampered superstars. Overpaid, underworked, treated like a cross between royalty and rock stars. Yes, the Indian team has an enormous, emotional following and we do need security when we get around the country as a group. It is also why we make it a point to always try and conduct ourselves with composure and dignity. On tour, I must point out, we don't attack fans or do drugs or get into drunken theatrics. And at home, despite what some of you may have heard, we don't live in mansions with swimming pools. The news about the money may well overpower all else, but along with it, our cricket is full of stories the outside world does not see."
 "One day out of nowhere, a boy from a village in Gujarat turned up as India's fastest bowler. After Munaf Patel made his debut for India, the road from the nearest railway station to his village had to be improved because journalists and TV crews from the cities kept landing up there. We are delighted that Umesh Yadav didn't become a policeman like he was planning and turned to cricket instead. He is the first cricketer from the central Indian first-class team of Vidarbha to play Test cricket. Virender Sehwag, it shouldn't surprise you, belongs to the wild west just outside Delhi. He had to be enrolled in a college which had a good cricket programme and travelled 84kms every day by bus to get to practice and matches."
 "The Indian cricket team is in fact, India itself, in microcosm. A sport that was played first by princes, then their subordinates, then the urban elite, is now a sport played by all of India. Cricket, as my two under-19 team-mates proved, is India's most widely-spoken language. Even Indian cinema has its regional favourites; a movie star in the south may not be popular in the north. But a cricketer? Loved everywhere. It is also a very tough environment to grow up in - criticism can be severe, responses to victory and defeat extreme. There are invasions of privacy and stones have been thrown at our homes after some defeats. It takes time getting used to, extreme reactions can fill us with anger. But every cricketer realises at some stage of his career, that the Indian cricket fan is best understood by remembering the sentiment of the majority, not the actions of a minority."
 "After India won the World Cup this year, our players were not congratulated as much as they were thanked by people they ran into. "You have given us everything," they were told, "all of us have won." Cricket in India now stands not just for sport, but possibility, hope, opportunities."
"On our way to the Indian team, we know of so many of our team-mates, some of whom may have been equally or more talented than those sitting here, who missed out. When I started out, for a young Indian, cricket was the ultimate gamble - all or nothing, no safety nets. No second chances for those without an education or a college degree or second careers. Indian cricket's wealth now means a wider pool of well paid cricketers even at first-class level. For those of us who make it to the Indian team, cricket is not merely our livelihood, it is a gift we have been given. Without the game, we would just be average people leading average lives. As Indian cricketers, our sport has given us the chance do something worthwhile with our lives. How many people could say that?"
"The October series against England was the first one at home after India's World Cup win. It was called the 'revenge' series meant to wipe away the memory of a forgettable tour of England. India kept winning every game, and yet the stands did not fill up. Five days after a 5-0 victory 95,000 turned up to watch the India's first Formula One race. A few weeks later I played in a Test match against West Indies in Calcutta, in front of what was the lowest turn out in Eden Gardens' history. Yes we still wanted to win and our intensity did not dip. But at the end of the day, we are performers, entertainers and we love an audience. The audience amplifies everything you are doing, the bigger the crowd the bigger the occasion, its magnitude, its emotion. When I think about the Eden Gardens crowds this year, I wonder what the famous Calcutta Test of 2001 would have felt like with 50,000 people less watching us." 
"Australia and South Africa played an exciting and thrilling Test series recently and two great Test matches produced some fantastic performances from players of both teams, but were sadly played in front of sparse crowds. It is not the numbers that Test players need, it is the atmosphere of a Test that every player wants to revel in and draw energy from. My first reaction to the lack of crowds for cricket was that there had been a lot of cricket and so perhaps, a certain amount of spectator-fatigue. That is too simplistic a view; it's the easy thing to say but might not be the only thing."

"The India v England ODI series had no context, because the two countries had played each other in four Tests and five ODIs just a few weeks before. When India and West Indies played ODIs a month after that the grounds were full, but this time the matches were played in smaller venues that didn't host too much international cricket. Maybe our clues are all there and we must remain vigilant. Unlike Australia or England, Indian cricket has never had to compete with other sports for a share of revenues, mind space or crowd attendance at international matches. The lack of crowds may not directly impact on revenues or how important the sport is to Indians, but we do need to accept that there has definitely been a change in temperature over, I think, the last two years." 

"Whatever the reasons are - maybe it is too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators - the fan has sent us a message and we must listen. This is not mere sentimentality. Empty stands do not make for good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings, the fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and advertisers looking elsewhere. If that happens, it is hard to see television rights around cricket being as sought after as they have always been in the last 15 years. And where does that leave everyone? I'm not trying to be an economist or doomsday prophet - this is just how I see it."
 "Disrespecting fans is disrespecting the game. The fans have stood by our game through everything. When we play, we need to think of them. As players, the balance between competitiveness and fairness can be tough but it must be found."
 "If we stand up for the game's basic decencies, it will be far easier to tackle its bigger dangers - whether it is finding short cuts to easy money or being lured by the scourge of spot-fixing and contemplating any involvement with the betting industry. When the first anti-corruption measures were put into place, we did moan a little bit about being accredited and depositing our cell phones with the manager. But now we must treat it like we do airport security because we know it is for our own good and our own security. Players should be ready to give up a little personal space and personal comfort for this game, which has given us so much. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."
 "There is a place for all three formats, though, we are the only sport I can think of which has three versions. Cricket must treasure this originality. These three versions require different skills, skills that have evolved, grown, changed over the last four decades, one impacting on the other. Test cricket is the gold standard, it is the form the players want to play. The 50-over game is the one that has kept cricket's revenues alive for more than three decades now. Twenty20 has come upon us and it is the format people, the fans want to see."
 "I don't think day-night Tests or a Test championship should be dismissed. In March of last year I played a day-night first-class game in Abu Dhabi for the MCC and my experience from that was that day-night Tests is an idea seriously worth exploring. There may be some challenges in places where there is dew but the visibility and durability of the pink cricket ball was not an issue."
"What we have to do is find a way to ensure that Test matches fit into 21st century life, through timing, environments and the venues they are held in. I am still convinced it can be done, even in our fast-moving world with a short attention span. We will often get told that Test matches don't make financial sense, but no one ever fell in love with Test cricket because they wanted to be a businessman. Not everything of value comes at a price."
 "There is a proposal doing the rounds about scrapping the 50-over game completely. I am not sure I agree with that - I certainly know that the 50-over game helped us innovate strokes in our batting which we were then able to take into Test matches. We all know that the 50-over game has been responsible for improving fielding standards all over the world."
 "The Twenty20 game as we know has as many critics as it has supporters in the public. Given that an acceptable strike rate in T20 these days is about 120, I should probably complain about it the most. The crowd and revenue numbers, though, tell us that if we don't handle Twenty20 correctly, we may well have more and more private players stepping in to offer not just slices of pie, but maybe even bigger pies themselves."
 "Because the game is bigger than us all, we must think way ahead of how it stands today. Where do we want it to be in the year 2020? Or say in 2027, when it will be 150 years since the first Test match was played. If you think about it, cricket has been with us longer than the modern motor car, it existed before modern air travel took off."
 "Sachin told us that he had asked Sir Don how he had mentally prepared for big games, what his routines were. Sir Don said, that well, before a game he would go to work and after the game go back to work. Whenever a cricketer feels a whinge coming on, that would be good to remember."
 "I have often had over the course of my career. It is not to do with individuals or incidents, but one I believe is important to share. I have sometimes found myself in the middle of a big game, standing at slip or even at the non-strikers end and suddenly realised that everything else has vanished. At that moment, all that exists is the contest and the very real sense of the joy that comes from playing the game. It is an almost meditative experience, where you reconnect with the game just like you did years ago, when you first began, when you hit your first boundary, took the first catch, scored your first century, or were involved in a big victory. It lasts for a very fleeting passage of time, but it is a very precious instant and every cricketer should hang on to it. I know it is utterly fanciful to expect professional cricketers to play the game like amateurs; but the trick, I believe, is taking the spirit of the amateur - of discovery, of learning, of pure joy, of playing by the rules - into our profession."
 "In every cricketer there lies a competitor who hates losing, and yes, winning matters. But it is not the only thing that matters when you play cricket. How it is played is as important for every member of every team because every game we play leaves a footprint in cricket's history. We must never forget that. What we do as professionals is easily carried over into the amateur game, in every way - batting, bowling, fielding, appealing, celebration, dissent, argument. In the players of 2027, we will see a reflection of this time and of ourselves and it had better not annoy or anguish us 50-year-olds."

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