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Saturday, 13 April 2013

My Friend - Rahul Dravid

“Anand………Bangalore……..St.Joseph’s, two years senior to Rahul!”

If you were a resident of Bangalore and a Josephite , it is mandatory that your introduction would not be complete without reference to the batch you studied in, relative to Rahul Dravid. Suffices to say that Rahul’s tenure at St.Joseph’s College was a benchmark almost at par with BC/AD in the Christian history  for the alumnus of this great institution. And two year seniority in the college was good enough to command a “Sir” from the freshers including the man who went on to Captain the Indian Cricket team and shrugged/smiled every time someone mentioned the mundane and lifeless nickname, The Wall. Of course we were on to first name basis once the ragging period cooled off!
I would be lying if I said the entire college wasn’t sure that RD would play for India and with distinction no less. We were confident; nay convinced that the heir to the great Gundappa Vishwanath was amidst us. Also secretly happy that finally we had an endangered species from Karnataka in the Indian team because post GRV and Brijesh Patel, the marquee players from the State were all bowlers who could at best throw their bats around in hope. Names like Jumbo Kumble, Venky Prasad, Babu Srinath, Dodda Ganesh, Sunil Joshi, Roger Binny et el were all people who lived by trying to make the ball talk. Happy that finally the bat would speak for the city!

If you are expecting that I would be dwelling on RD the player, then I would have to disappoint you. What more can I write about the Legend that has not been  already written, by wordsmiths who either make a living doing it or are much, much more well versed with their ability to dissect the gentleman’s game. What you can expect though are a few nuggets about someone whom you call The Wall, Rahul, Dravid, RDX(?),Jammy and I call a friend. And one, from whom I am proud to say I have learnt so much. I am not at all ashamed to admit so even though I am ‘two years senior to Rahul’, remember?

One of my meetings was when Jam had just quit the Captaincy of the Indian Cricket team. While nursing a drink in the Oberoi lounge, I could feel Jam, for the first time show signs of fatigue. And as close friends generally would know this was serious. What the best bowlers in World cricket, toughest of conditions, crisis prone Indian batting line up, pressures of reinventing his game to suit the slam-bang version, misguided barbs of illiterate fans who questioned his strike rate in test matches, the constant glare of 24/7 media couldn’t do to him, this one incident had managed to, pierce that legendary composure. As I was about to enquire into what was happening , a disgusted Jams stopped me from even broaching the subject. “Andy, please not today and anything but THIS today!” he pleaded. If one could be happy and sad at the same time, this was the moment. Sad, to see my dear friend going through the turmoil and happy that he chose me to spend a quiet evening with on such a day. I respected his request and we spent the next couple of hours talking about everything that the youth of Bangalore do except Cricket. Two things about my friend were reinforced that day. There was something seriously murky going on in the circles that run Cricket in India, that it became impossible for Jam to carry on with something he valued so much, the Indian Captaincy. And he will not be a party to something that his conscience didn’t permit. The other was, unless somebody from the then dressing room or from the management, fell out and squealed for either getting back at the powers that be or for 30 pieces of Silver, we will never know what went on during that phase. Jam will not open his mouth to spew filth. He is too dignified to even contemplate such an action.

The recent meeting was after he had excused himself from the assignment to do commentary on TV to prepare for IPL. This was the usual cheerful Jammy who showed up that day, this time at Taj Westend. “You know Yushi, sitting in a airconditioned cubicle and spouting wisdom is a walk in the park in comparison to the sweat and tears one sheds on the field!” he joked. Not surprisingly he gave me small lecture on the art of doing running commentary during cricket matches. “The most important thing is you must listen well, before answering”, “Never rush into an opinion unless well thought out, there is more time available than one thinks there is”, “it is not how much you speak but what you speak that is important” he went on. The same old dear dear meticulous Jammy! He must, absolutely must excel in whatever he took up.

Now with the CLT20 already underway, guess I would have to be satisfied with seeing him in the Royals’ jersey from the stands.  And I fear maybe for the last time! But I am willing to bet he will finish the tournament with his already sky high reputation further enhanced.  Jammy! Never said this before mate, but thought I should let you know. Thanks Mate for accepting this mere mortal as your friend.
PS: I wish whatever I wrote above were true and Rahul Dravid had indeed been my friend! I, needless to add, believe in every word I have typed in about him except the ‘My friend’ part! God! What I would not give for this to be real and not just a figment of my fertile imagination, not a piece of fiction which it is!

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