Today my morning commenced with an unusual amount of emotion & nostalgia. I unfolded ‘The Telegraph’ to find those ubiquitously haunting eyes of Rahul Dravid staring back at me from the main page. The eyes, so piercing and quintessentially focused on a cricket pitch, told a different tale today. There was a tinge of sadness in those eyes which had perhaps never betrayed the man over the past 16 years as he stood firm & resolute on his crease, solid as a Wall.
Dravid was retiring today. The Great Wall of India was finally melting away to let the flood of younger blood stream through. The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwari & Cheteshwar Pujara had been snapping at his heels for quite some time now. And the great man has chosen to pass on the mantle to them, little realizing that none of them has feet as large as to fill his shoes completely. The void left by him will never be fulfilled in its entirety. The holy slot of number 3 which was Dravid’s all these years, will now, in all probability, be claimed by Kohli, and rightly so. But Kohli may only plug the hole to an extent but never will he succeed in creating that aura of a halo which enveloped Dravid throughout his career.
I looked back at the headlines screaming allowed the mournful news that every cricket lover knew beforehand. Even as I allowed time its prerogative to make the feeling sink in, a crowd of memories rushed over me, trampling my thoughts with their emotion-laden footsteps. I remember vividly how I used to envy Dravid a number of times when his heroics eclipsed the failings of Tendulkar (my personal favourite). I remember hazily how I used to pray, over the years, for Tendulkar to score a century and for Dravid to fall short. I remember vaguely still, how I feared that Dravid may eventually surpass Tendulkar’s milestones and leave behind an even greater legacy than the Master when he hangs his boots. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Tendulkar’s milestones are secure and under no immediate threat by other living greats. But I wonder if Dravid has, indeed, left behind a greater legacy, a larger imprint on the sands of time! I remember, quite clearly this time, that after Tendulkar’s cheap dismissals, how I used to frenetically pray for Dravid to see us through the victory line. And Dravid, almost always, fell prey to my bait of prayers! Perhaps, there was a bit of selfishness on my part but the unassumingly great man willfully gifted me some sugar-sweet memories against all my bitterness.
I looked back at the newspaper, and on to his smiling face (albeit tinged with sorrow & mellowed with age). His hairline had receded and I could make out quite a few strands of grey hair. This was in complete contrast to his chocolaty-boy looks of his exuberant youthful days. I turned the newspaper over. There, on the back page, they had published a much more impressive picture of his younger self. He was, indeed, charming, attractive, sexy and gentlemanly. I have always admired his intelligent-looking handsome features (even though I am not a gal). I am sure, I would have definitely been head over heels in love with him, had I been a member of the opposite sex. But does that matter? I can still love him despite all my boyishness.
Turning the paper back to the frontpage, his ageing face seemed to remind me of the eternal law of Nature. He looked wiser, calmer but mellowed & slightly worn out. Life had come a full circle. After a glorious journey, he had finally walked into the sunset……the dark evening had come over onto the Indian cricket….And as he shut the door quietly withdrawing into his room, the sky above will feel all the more darker… without its brightest star……