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The Rahul Paradox: Articulate with a PR deficit
Dravid is reticent, introverted even. He’s not a political creature. He hasn’t invested in building support bases for himself with the local media.
When the drama over the sacking of Sourav Ganguly as India's captain and Rahul Dravid's ascendancy to that job in 2005 was being played out to a bitterly partisan audience of a billion, the sports chief of a leading national daily in Bangalore found his phone inundated with SMSes and calls. The calls came not from local boy Dravid but the outgoing Ganguly!
While the national media in general and of West Bengal in particular, ran story after story batting for Ganguly, such fervour was conspicuous by its absence from the southern (and Bangalorean) media for Dravid. A happenstance best attributed to a confluence of the person with the place he calls home.
Dravid is reticent, introverted even. He's not a political creature. He hasn't invested in building support bases for himself with the local media. There are no pressure groups that rally to his cause. He's known to be friendly with a few cricket writers, but hasn't allowed parochial instincts to dictate those relationships. A man who believes his willow should do the talking for him, he's rarely available for a 'quote', inside info or tidbits of gossip, the lubricants that grease the PR machinery.
His relationship with the fans is equally sedate. When a Sachin Tendulkar walks in to bat at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, you can feel the electric surge, the unreserved adulation he gets from his home crowd. It's sacrilege to think of Tendulkar donning any shirt but that of the Mumbai Indians Indian Premier League team. In Kolkata, Dada (Ganguly) is God. Drop him from the team and you will have effigies burnt as Shah Rukh Khan found out when Kolkata Knight Riders axed him.
Such adoration doesn't come to Dravid. He's well liked and admired, but love would be a stretch. In Bangalore, he's greeted with enthusiastic applause. Period. When he was unceremoniously dumped by Vijay Mallya as captain of Bangalore Royal Challengers within a year for Kevin Pietersen, nobody went marching down the streets baying for the team owner's blood. When he switched to Rajasthan Royals for this season's IPL, no tears were shed either.
As said, this attitude says as much for the nature of the city and state he hails from as for the man himself. The reserved Southern culture lends itself more to restraint than to wild hero-worship. It can also be argued that Southerners by investing heavily in their celluloid heroes have no emotional surplus left to deify mere sporting gods.
Man- or culture-made, Dravid's PR deficit contrasts sharply with the articulate, smart, well spoken gent he turns out to be when the occasion calls for it. As captain of India, he came across as fast-talking and quick-thinking at post-match press conferences: confidently, clearly reasoning the defeat or win in his well-modulated, public school boy diction. In fact, corporate sponsors loved him precisely for this reason. Suave and urbane, he had huge cache in the advertising world endorsing a range of brands from razors to biscuits.
In the end, it may be that he's just a shy guy. In fact, friends from school and college say that he was never bratty. Not as class monitor, not as school headboy and obviously not as a cricketer. Someone who is simply crazy about cricket - so much so that he used to play 'paper cricket' in the classroom - but not about the celebrity status that comes in its wake.
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