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Rahul carved his own space in Sachin's shadow
Sachin Tendulkar was a child prodigy. There is no young cricketer I have seen who comes even remotely close to the sheer talent that Tendulkar had at the age of 14. Rahul Dravid, in comparison, never stood out at the junior level and there was no indication that there was this amazing talent who would take the cricketing world by storm in coming years. That Dravid today has the second-best numbers in Test cricket after Tendulkar tells you everything you want to know about the man and the cricketer.
Rahul Dravid has over-achieved like no one else has. I believe a man's achievements are best judged by seeing what he has done with what he had. Rahul Dravid did not have much when he set out to become a batsman with a dream to play for India.
Granted, he had good technique and a solid defence, something that struck me when he played under me for the Rest of India team against Punjab in 1995. On a difficult pitch, Dravid stood out with his performance and after that we had no doubt he would play for India soon. That he would get so many runs and become the second-highest run-getter in Test cricket was, I must confess, unexpected. The young Dravid that we saw never warned us about this and we will all hold it against him! He gave us no idea at all at that time of his hidden greatness!
As we all know by now, more than his technique its Dravid's great mind that makes him really tick. His is a mind that just does not seem to tire, a mind that is put through a long hard wring to get a Test match hundred and 24 hours later is ready to do exactly the same thing all over again. This mental fortitude is almost inhuman, machine-like, something that I told him after the second hundred at Trent Bridge.
He once batted like his life depended on it. The Rahul Dravid of today is in a far more relaxed and happy place.
At this stage of his career and life, Dravid - the family man, cricketer and man of the world - is able to put his own game and career pursuits in proper perspective. He is able to rationalise at this stage that getting runs for India is currently a very important activity in his life but he also knows very well that the game does not define his life. This is where his intelligence has come into play: at one stage, he used to bat like his life depended on it. Now, he only looks intense but is a lot more relaxed and is actually having a lot of fun out there batting.
One very important and difficult situation that Dravid had to handle right through his career was the presence of a Sachin Tendulkar alongside him. Indian cricket fans have expended so much of their fanfare and love on Tendulkar that it seems like they have nothing left to give anyone else, even to an achiever like Dravid.
Dravid understands this better than all of us and what has really helped him is the fact that Tendulkar was already a great player, with seven years at the top, when Dravid arrived in the Indian team. So he too, like any ordinary fan, was in awe of Tendulkar. Also, Dravid as a defensive player genuinely enjoys watching Tendulkar bat with his unique flair and style. Dravid does not see himself in the same genre. That's why he also enjoys watching Virender Sehwag, and watches him like a fan would, sitting in the stands. Rahul Dravid the batsman is quite happy in his own space.
Finally, the greatest service that this humble servant of Indian cricket has performed is to give hope to a lot of upcoming cricketers. You need not have the rare, prodigious talent of a Lara or Tendulkar to achieve greatness. Having the Rahul Dravid approach is good enough. TCM
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