I read somewhere that former India captain Rahul Dravid dislikes the nickname “The Wall,” because it implies he can’t do anything but block and return what comes at him. And while many believe it’s a compliment, Dravid’s right that it’s somewhat back-handed. After all, most Indian fans think he scores too slowly or is too defensive and are only too happy when he makes way for Sachin Tendulkar or V.V.S. Laxman in the Test line-up.
In the frenzied, supposedly hip IPL, however, he hasn’t disappointed at all. He is currently the top scorer (wearing the orange or pink or whatever gimmicky cap) in the 2009 edition. And in the last one — an atrocious season for his team, which saw forced resignations, multiple strategies, public apologies and angry owner rants — he was among the top 10 scorers, notching up 371 at an impressive strike rate over 124. Even then, he was blamed: he picked the wrong sort of team, the owner said; he scored too slowly, others said.
What does it mean? A couple of things: first, he could easily qualify for the ODI squad, were it not for India’s long-term strategy of investing in youth. Second, a really good player can adjust his game, as commentators like to say, and adapt. Dravid is an example. Third, perhaps age doesn’t matter all that much in Twenty20, given Dravid is way past 35 now. Fourth, of the Fab Four, I feel sorry most for Rahul Dravid. He was never flashy or a crowd-pleaser as Ganguly was; his captaincy tenure was lobotomized and ruined by an argument he couldn’t control (even though he was on the right side), and, unlike Tendulkar or even Ganguly, he did not get the chance to retire from ODIs with the respect he deserves. For whatever reason, he could not command the clout that Tendulkar earned through genius and Ganguly through sheer will.
And this is the biggest irony of all: the IPL — that awful, hyper-commercialized circus with its triflling stakes — may very well turn out to be Dravid’s finest hour, when he reminds his fans and detractors of the transcendantal skills that, for a time, made him the greatest batsman in the Test and ODI realm. Funny, that.