Monday 7 October 2013

My Two Cricketing Idols - Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid

I had completed my Engineering studies and was now a corporate. Few months later in December 2006, Indian cricket team were touring South Africa and part of their tour was a solitary T20 match. It was India’s first international T20 match and at the end of it, they emerged victorious. It was Sachin Tendulkar’s first and turned out to be his only T20 international. At the time of the first T20 World Cup in 2007, the trio of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly and had opted out of T20 cricket internationally as they felt it was best suited for youngsters. Rest, it turned out to be an historic moment in the evolution of present day cricket. MS Dhoni led his young team to the title which changed the course of cricketing future - Birth of Indian Premier League and the successive T20 leagues around the world.

It was the summer of 2008 when Indian television and stadium goers had got a custom made cricket event which involved international cricketers spread across eight franchises or cities in India. Sachin Tendulkar represented his home city ‘Mumbai’ while Rahul Dravid turned out in red and gold colours for ‘Bangalore’. This year IPL completed six seasons and if I look back on that night of 18th April 2008; I was celebrating my mother’s birthday with relatives and friends at home and the IPL carnival was not so far off from my place in Bangalore. For the first time Indian viewers were to be divided on city basis for its most worshipped sport. I am a Bangalorean and my cricketing idols were Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. I decided not to support anyone and I still maintain about picking my favourites on the match day or how I felt. C’est la vie for me when it comes to T20 cricket.

Around the fourth season of IPL I found myself to be in a situation where I was donning the outfits of the IPL central management team which operated the tournament. It was a dream for most youngsters, cricket fans, and game maniacs to be working on a job that involved cricket and cricketers. By that time, I had lost my innocence as a fan and looked at my idols in a different way. I became averse to the idea of clicking photographs with them and more so when it involved my revered cricketers (God knows, how many of my close friends and relatives I have denied). I was still a kid at heart when it came to these two cricketers or when it came to supporting them. Just that, I had become a more silent kid than continue being a naughty one. I felt I was different and if I ever get to meet them in person, I knew I would be not be like any other fans. Believe me it was different.

Looking back, I was thrilled when Sachin Tendulkar greeted me, shook hands and gave an autograph penned using his right hand (he is a left-handed writer) in a local cricket match and quite a similar euphoria when I met Rahul Dravid for the first time after winning a competition and second time at a game. I was a kid back then, the one who had his dreams fulfilled by these two cricketers. No they were not just cricketers, they were super-heroes to me.

And few years later I meet them as a professional. A lot had changed in my life – I was married by this time and yet I could not stop but admire these two cricketers. Yes, I was watching less of live cricket than I used to and yet was managing to follow the missed action through highlights, cricinfo and other medium of information.Cricket was not just a passion, it was my work too. 

Yesterday, both Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid played out their final limited overs game or should I say in coloured clothing. While Rahul Dravid has retired from all forms of the game internationally, Tendulkar continues to be a player in the longer version of the game (Test cricket) for India. While I am amassed and intrigued at the journey and accolades Tendulkar has been able to achieve, I am inspired by the course and journey Rahul Dravid endured. Sachin Tendulkar won his last T20 International for India, last One day international for India (including a World Cup), last IPL match for Mumbai Indians (including the trophy) and the last Champions League T20 again for Mumbai Indians (including the trophy). Even if he doesn’t play another Test for some reason or the other, he would still have the feat of winning his last Test match he played for India.

On the other hand – Rahul Dravid has not won a World Cup; he was part of the losing team on the occasion of his last Test, last ODI, his last T20 all for India, his last IPL match and the last Champion’s league T20 match with Rajasthan Royals.

Rahul Dravid will not play competitive cricket anymore and I am a grown up boy to understand his decision better than I would have few years ago. He will be missed but I am sure his family would not complain about this retirement. Personally, it was a warming experience to work with the same franchise Dravid captained and something which I cherish for a long time to come. The journey outweighs the destination and one such epitome to that is Rahul Dravid's career. 

Sachin Tendulkar has played 24 years of international cricket. I know he is not at his best at the moment and I also know he knows his cricket much better than I do. Is he destroying his legacy by not being at his best or is it a tale of perseverance and dedication to one’s skill? Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me. His effect on cricket lovers and to the world cricket has been enormous and a mighty positive one.

So on that note, I will cherish this period of dusk on the greatest cricketer I have witnessed in my lifetime. I was a five year old kid when he first played international cricket (1989) wearing the whites and he will end his playing career someday wearing whites. Among my list of childhood idols across all sports, he remains the last man standing
Image Courtesy: internationalreporter.com

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