Rahul Dravid fans, a harried lot for the past half-decade, have reason to cheer again. Another century, and the perfect ‘Dravid kind.’ Tell-tale features include: 1) A mini-collapse of the line-up; 2) A boring solidity, taking the sting out of the pitch and the bowlers by simply standing there; 3) The ‘quiet accumulation of small triumphs,’ to quote a cliche.
But while the performance was surely impressive, I want to make a somewhat ancillary argument about Dravid’s true attraction: his nerdy chic. Have you ever typed in Dravid’s name in Google Image Search? The collection of photos that pops up reveals a thoroughly unassuming middle-class man: handsome, but not distinctive; a flat hairstyle with a neat side-parting; family shots with his wife and child; the ‘forlorn’ look he famously perfected at the 2007 World Cup.
Dravid’s talents are immense, but out of the Big Five (Laxman, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid), he alone is the most accessible to mere mortals. He lacks Tendulkar’s spark; Sehwag’s confidence; Laxman’s style; Ganguly’s shrewd mind — no, he is what talent looks like after it has been molded and beaten into submission by years and years of rigorous practice. He is the Asian nerd picked on in Harry and Kumar; he is also an example of cricket’s chief delight: our sportsmen are not ‘jocks’ and muscle-men. They really are gentlemen. (Well, most of ’em.) And they part their hair down the side.