It was evening of eulogy, emotion and bonhomie as the past, present and future of Indian cricket gathered in Mumbai to pay tribute to one of the greatest servants of the game, Rahul Sharad Dravid.
Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni spoke fondly about Dravid, the cricketer and Rahul, the man.
“It’s been a great partnership with you, Rahul. When we look back, we can gladly say we will only remember the wonderful memories. I just spoke about the 55 catches you have taken [off my bowling].
“All of us know how he is as a person. During the evenings outs on tours, he would know exactly what I hated. He was at times lost in his own thoughts, probably thinking about how he would bat the next day or analysing the day’s proceedings. I know in the next couple of months he would be busy with the IPL. I tell you it’s going to get busier.”
“He was one of the huge pillars through which Indian cricket went forward. He is one of the greatest batsmen not just in India but in world cricket,” Ganguly said. “[Dravid] played in an era when Indian cricket went from strength to strength.
“I was lucky to have you as vice-captain for five years. During my captaincy, you and John Wright did a lot of work behind the doors to build a strong Indian team. You are one of the best No. 3 batsmen I have ever seen.”
“I will definitely be missing [Dravid] in the dressing room. When I first met you as a 16-year-old, playing for Karnataka Under-19, I was impressed with your passion for the game and your style. We then went on to play for India and I cherish our relationship that blossomed over the years.
“In 1996, Rahul made his debut at Lord’s where he got out after scoring 95. He must have been really disappointed not to have got his century. But he proved how much effort, hard work and pride he puts into his game when he scored his century at Lord’s in 2011. Celebrations showed how much it meant for him to score it at the Lord’s for his country.
“He has always been a very selfless cricketer. And that was proved by the various roles he has donned as a cricketer over the years. Right from opening the batting to keeping, he has always showed that for him the team comes first. All the best to Rahul as he prepares to spend the time with his lovely family. I would also like to congratulate his family for the upbringing and the way he has been. Even after achieving so much he has always remained grounded.”
“At a time when it is considered that aggression is verbal, he never said a word to the opposition. He showed the aggression through taking a catch or staying at the crease and channelising the discomfort and aggression in the best possible manner.
“He is one of the greatest to play the game and the greatest to play at No. 3. He has got the most catches. He was always ready to do anything for the country and the team when it came to opening the batting, wicket-keeping, or fielding at silly point or at the slips.
“India lost in the first round in the 2007 World Cup and then there was a phase were we won 20-22 matches chasing and Rahul bhai has been a part of both. He was someone who would walk through the obstacles.
“As a wicketkeeper, he has taken some catches which many regular keepers wouldn’t have. It is a tribute from a lot of youngsters who have learned from Jammy. Not to forget he could play most of the sports well, be it soccer or badminton. He is a true gentleman.
“His legacy will continue for us. I wish Jam all the best. I hope he continues to interact with young cricketers coming into NCA.”
Dravid thanked all his team-mates for their tributes.
“Thanks Anil, thanks Sourav, thanks Laxie [VVS Laxman] and thanks Mahi [MS Dhoni], your words have meant a lot to me. The memories we have shared as a team, and some of the victories and things we have achieved will be special and will remain special for me. I would like to believe that we took a great legacy of the Indian team forward. We have left a strong legacy for Mahi and his young team to take forward. I have no doubt that they will take it to even greater heights.
“Anil, I will miss your intensity. I will miss your desire. I have learned so much from watching you. I might not miss some of the vegetarian meals – without mushroom, without onions, without garlic. But there is a lot that I will miss.
“Sourav, ours was a great partnership. As you would expect with captains and vice-captains over a long period, it is a relationship like a husband and wife in some ways – it goes through its ups and downs. But I think we both agree that we came through with pretty much flying colours. There are some really good memories that we shared and there are some great moments that we can have a good laugh and a drink over, maybe in the IPL.
“To Laxman, thanks for one the greatest days in my cricketing career. Without you Calcutta would never have been possible. I was privileged to be able to have watched one of the greatest innings played by an Indian cricketer ever from the other end. Thanks for your friendship. Thanks for your conversations, thanks for your company at second slip, where many a topic, including the Ranji Trophy [and] why contractors and architects are not doing a good jobs, was discussed.
“Mahi, I think you can be really proud of what you have done with this Indian cricket team. To watch you lift the World Cup that day, it is almost a year to the day, was very special for me. Especially after what happened in 2007, to see a team and sea a group of boys go on to win the World Cup was indeed memorable. And to see something like watching Kapil Dev lift the World Cup as a ten-year-old that inspired me, to see a group of cricketers and a generation of cricketers that I had played with do it again in 2011 was special. I know that you have inspired a whole host of ten-year-olds by what you and your team did last year. There are challenges as you have noticed over the last bit of time, but I truly believe you have got the right temperament and right capability to take the legacy of Indian cricket forward.”
A transcript of Rahul Dravid’s speech, made at the function organised by the BCCI to felicitate him in Mumbai on Tuesday.
To the BCCI, former India players, members of the Indian cricket team, my various other colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
I’d made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t cry at any of the functions over the last two or three weeks. I think that has been tested to the limit today. It has been nearly three weeks since I announced my retirement from international cricket and first-class cricket. It has really given me a chance over the last three weeks to sort of sit back and, in some ways, take it all in, and look back on what, for me, is a dream come true.
At one time, I was like any other kid in the street, any other kid in India, with a love for this game and a desire to play for India. I feel so blessed that I have been able to live that dream for over 16 years. Obviously, like some of the other guys have mentioned, for the next couple of months [when the IPL will be on] it does not feel like I have retired in some ways. It is still time to stay fit – it is getting harder and harder, I’m not enjoying going to gym, but I am still being forced to, at least for the next two months.
It is only in June that I will probably get time to be unemployed, and have a lot of time on my hands. As Anil (Kumble) and Sourav (Ganguly) have warned me, it probably gets busier. I am not sure doing what, but we’ll just see…
I have had a chance over the last three weeks to try and think about what playing for India meant to me. What was this dream? What has it given me? Playing for India gave me the opportunity to travel the world, to play on some of the greatest grounds in the world. In cities and countries that I had only heard of on the radio, listening to radio commentary with my father or waking up in the morning and picking up the newspaper to see what Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, GR Viswanath had done the next day. For me to have the opportunity to play on these great grounds, to play against some of these greatest of players – players that I had growing up looking up to, it was fantastic. Cricket has given me a lifetime of experiences.
It has made me give joy to a lot of people by just playing a sport that I love. I have experienced some unbelievable victories and crushing defeats in my career as a first-class cricketer. What I have realised with it is everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive. Playing for India humbled me. It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be able to do what I did for so long.
When I look back on this long journey … you recognise that you have been very fortunate, very lucky. You have had the support of so many people who have made this dream possible. I truly feel that I have been in some ways at the right place, at the right time. For me to be able to be standing here in front of some of my heroes, people whom I admire, people whom I respect, and to be able to talk to you all … I think it has not been culmination of my efforts but the efforts of so many people who have gone into making this wonderful day possible.
I’ll probably miss out on a few people when I speak and I hope that they forgive me. But I would like to put on record and recognise so many people who were behind the scenes: groundsmen, scorers, umpires, people who organise a game. Wherever you go in India there are so many people who selflessly do honorary jobs to make this game possible for us, to set the stage for us. Without their contributions these hundreds would not have been possible, these memories would not have been possible.
When I look back on the various coaches that I have had, right from the time of the late Keki Tarapore, who first taught me the basics of the game, to the many coaches through my time at Karnataka, through all the international coaches that I have had, I feel each of them has added to my game. Each of them helped me become a better cricketer, and a better person. For that I am thankful.
When I stand here and I look at some of the senior players who have been kind enough to come for this occasion, I feel really lucky. As a young boy I dreamed of just being able to get an autograph out of them, just to be able to meet them. This sport has given me a chance to interact with some of them. I would like to thank all my senior cricketers, all my heroes, all my role models for inspiring me, for leaving behind a legacy that I was very conscious of, a legacy of Indian cricket that I was very aware of. It meant something to me, and of the life I wanted to lead. And something that I hope they will feel I have tried to take forward.
The various teams and cricketers that I have played with at Karanataka and in India have been the highlight of my career and will also be some of my fondest memories. Without my various team-mates … some of whom have spoken most eloquently and most touchingly of our time together. Thanks Anil, thanks Sourav, thanks Laxie [VVS Laxman] and thanks Mahi [MS Dhoni], your words have meant a lot to me. The memories we have shared as a team, and some of the victories and things we have achieved will be special and will remain special for me. I would like to believe that we took a great legacy of the Indian team forward. We have left a strong legacy for Mahi and his young team to take forward. I have no doubt that they will take it to even greater heights.
Anil, I will miss your intensity. I will miss your desire. I have learned so much from watching you. I might not miss some of the vegetarian meals – without mushroom, without onions, without garlic. But there is a lot that I will miss.
Sourav, ours was a great partnership. As you would expect with captains and vice-captains over a long period, it is a relationship like a husband and wife in some ways – it goes through its ups and downs. But I think we both agree that we came through with pretty much flying colours. There are some really good memories that we shared and there are some great moments that we can have a good laugh and a drink over, may be in the IPL.
To Laxman, thanks for one the greatest days in my cricketing career. Without you Calcutta would never have been possible. I was privileged to be able to have watched one of the greatest innings played by an Indian cricketer ever from the other end. Thanks for your friendship. Thanks for your conversations, thanks for your company at second slip, where many a topic, including Ranji Trophy to why contractors and architects are not doing a good jobs, was discussed.
Mahi, I think you can be really proud of what you have done with this Indian cricket team. To watch you lift the World Cup that day, it is almost a year to the day, was very special for me. Especially after what happened in 2007, to see a team and sea a group of boys go on to win the World Cup was indeed memorable. And to see something like watching Kapil Dev lift the World Cup as a ten-year-old that inspired me, to see a group of cricketers and a generation of cricketers that I had played with do it again in 2011 was special. I know that you have inspired a whole host of ten-year-olds by what you and your team did last year. There are challenges as you have noticed over the last bit of time, but I truly believe you have got the right temperament and right capability to take the legacy of Indian cricket forward.
A lot of the names and lot of the people I mentioned are legends, and have great records in terms of statistics. Sometimes the people who achieve great things, of course they do through hardwork and sacrifice, but they are also very lucky. I have played with a lot of people who in the book of history of Indian cricket probably would not be considered great, at least statistically, but in my eyes everyone who played the game with me and played it with an intention to win, with a desire to win and gave it everything was a hero. And I learned so much from you. It was inspiring to watch people work so hard and struggle so much and sometimes not achieve what they want and come back and do it again and again. I would like to thank all my team-mates for your memories, your friendships. Nothing of this would have been possible without you. It is something which I would dearly miss. Being part of an Indian cricket dressing room is something I would definitely miss – just the camaraderie, just the banter, just that striving … may be not the rap music.
I would also like to place on record my thanks to the KSCA, which was my local state association where I grew up, for their support, their guidance. Also the various officials at the BCCI for the various times when they gave me the right kind of encouragement and support. It has been a fascinating journey for me to see where Indian cricket has gone from the time I started in 1996. I still remember when we went for tours in 1996, sometimes Indian cricketers were treated, if I may use the word, as second-class citizens. We were the team that got the first tour of the summer in England, we were the team that got sent to some of the smaller grounds. The officials in the BCCI have ensured in 15 years times that we are the big boys of international cricket, that we dictate the terms. A lot of that has happened because of the performance of the players, but also because of the work that has been done by various officials, various office bearers with the BCCI during my time.
Over the last few weeks, I have also been really touched by the reaction to my decision to retire. All that I have read and listened to has really humbled me. It has humbled me not because a lot has been written and said, which in this day and age with so much media and publicity is bound to happen, but what really touched me was the care, the attention and the thought that people have put into writing some of the really nice things they have said about me. People have not gone about it casually. In fact, there are various qualities and virtues [of mine] that I have only discovered in the last few weeks, listening to people. I am not going to complain about that. It has been really touching. Thank you.
I may not be playing for India anymore but to the present Indian team what I would like to say is: guys, I will watch with great interest what I think is an extremely exciting and really talented group of young cricketers. I hope Indian cricket will always be a strong force, both on the field and off the field. And I have no doubt that I would take great pleasure, with a cup of tea and a biscuit in my hand, in watching you guys achieve great things.
Rahul Dravid on Friday announced his retirement from international cricket where he has been a star for over 15 years.
Here is the text of Rahul Dravid’s statement at his farewell press conference in Bangalore on March 9.
I would like to announce my retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket. It has been 16 years since I first played a test match for India, and I feel it’s time for me to move on. Once I was like every other boy in India, with a dream of playing for my country. Yet I could never have imagined a journey so long and so fulfilling. I have had a wonderful time, but now it is time for a new generation of young players to make their own history and take the Indian cricket team even further.
No dream is ever chased alone. As I look back, as one does at such a time, I have many people to thank for supporting me, teaching me and believing in me.
My junior coaches in Bangalore and at various junior national camps inculcated in me a powerful love of the game which has always stayed with me.
My coaches at the international level have added to my craft and helped shape my personality. They pushed me and challenged me to keep getting better. The physios and trainers worked hard to keep me fit — not an easy job — and allowed me to play late into my 30s.
The selectors who rarely receive any credit in India had, on occasions, more confidence in me than I had myself and I am grateful for that. The various captains I played under offered me guidance and inspired me.
The media has been kind to me, and I have respect for their craft.
The KSCA and BCCI have provided me a platform and the facilities to play the game.
But most of all, I have to thank the teams I played with. I know what I am going to miss the most is being part of a unit. The joy of bonding together and striving to achieve a goal is what made cricket special for me. I was lucky in my early years to play for a Karnataka team which was trying to forge itself into a strong side and they were years of fun and learning.
In the Indian team, I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful era when India played some of its finest cricket at home and abroad. Many of my teammates have become legends, not just in India but in the wider cricketing world. I admired them, learnt from them and I leave the game with wonderful memories and strong friendships. It is a great gift to have.
A career in sport is almost impossible to manage without the support, guidance and reassurance of family and friends. During tough times — and there have been many — they are the ones we go to. I found strength and encouragament from my parents (Sharad and Pushpa) and brother (Vijay) and they created around me a positive environment which was essential to my success.
My wife, Vijeeta, has been a remarkable partner in my journey. She has made sacrifices in her own career and has almost been a single parent bringing up our children alone as I travelled abroad to play. Whenever challenges appeared, she was always there, as sounding board, as ally and as guide. Being away from my family became harder and harder through the years and I look forward now to spending time at home and doing the simple things, like just taking my sons (Samit and Anvay) to school.
Finally, I would like to thank the Indian cricket fan, both here and across the world. The game is lucky to have you and I have been lucky to play before you. To represent India, and thus to represent you, has been a privilege and one which I have always taken seriously. My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.
Thank you for inviting me to deliver the Bradman Oration; the respect and the regard that came with the invitation to speak tonight, is deeply appreciated.
I realise a very distinguished list of gentlemen have preceded me in the ten years that the Bradman Oration has been held. I know that this Oration is held every year to appreciate the life and career of Sir Don Bradman, a great Australian and a great cricketer. I understand that I am supposed to speak about cricket and issues in the game – and I will.
Yet, but first before all else, I must say that I find myself humbled by the venue we find ourselves in. Even though there is neither a pitch in sight, nor stumps or bat and balls, as a cricketer, I feel I stand on very sacred ground tonight. When I was told that I would be speaking at the National War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly, the words ‘war’, ‘battle’, ‘fight’ are used to describe cricket matches.
Yes, we cricketers devote the better part of our adult lives to being prepared to perform for our countries, to persist and compete as intensely as we can – and more. This building, however, recognises the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, fight – for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished.
The people of both our countries are often told that cricket is the one thing that brings Indians and Australians together. That cricket is our single common denominator.
India’s first Test series as a free country was played against Australia in November 1947, three months after our independence. Yet the histories of our countries are linked together far more deeply than we think and further back in time than 1947.
We share something else other than cricket. Before they played the first Test match against each other, Indians and Australians fought wars together, on the same side. In Gallipoli, where, along with the thousands of Australians, over 1300 Indians also lost their lives. In World War II, there were Indian and Australian soldiers in El Alamein, North Africa, in the Syria-Lebanon campaign, in Burma, in the battle for Singapore.
Before we were competitors, Indians and Australians were comrades. So it is only appropriate that we are here this evening at the Australian War Memorial, where along with celebrating cricket and cricketers, we remember the unknown soldiers of both nations.
It is however, incongruous, that I, an Indian, happen to be the first cricketer from outside Australia, invited to deliver the the Bradman Oration. I don’t say that only because Sir Don once scored a hundred before lunch at Lord’s and my 100 at Lord’s this year took almost an entire day.
But more seriously, Sir Don played just five Tests against India; that was in the first India-Australia series in 1947-48, which was to be his last season at home. He didn’t even play in India, and remains the most venerated cricketer in India not to have played there.
We know that he set foot in India though, in May 1953, when on his way to England to report on the Ashes for an English newspaper, his plane stopped in Calcutta airport. There were said to be close to a 1000 people waiting to greet him; as you know, he was a very private person and so got into an army jeep and rushed into a barricaded building, annoyed with the airline for having ‘breached confidentiality.’ That was all Indians of the time saw of Bradman who remains a mythical figure.
For one generation of fans in my country, those who grew up in the 1930s, when India was still under British rule, Bradman represented a cricketing excellence that belonged to somewhere outside England. To a country taking its first steps in Test cricket, that meant something. His success against England at that time was thought of as our personal success. He was striking one for all of us ruled by the common enemy. Or as your country has so poetically called them, the Poms.
There are two stories that I thought I should bring to your notice. On June 28, 1930, the day Bradman scored 254 at Lord’s against England, was also the day Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested by the police. Nehru was, at the time, one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement and later, independent India’s first Prime Minister. The coincidence of the two events, was noted by a young boy KN Prabhu, who was both nationalist, cricket fan and later became independent India’s foremost cricket writer. In the 30s, as Nehru went in and out of jail, Bradman went after the England bowling and, for KN Prabhu, became a kind of avenging angel.
There’s another story I’ve heard about the day in 1933, when the news reached India that Bradman’s record for the highest Test score of 334 had been broken by Wally Hammond. As much as we love our records, they say some Indian fans at the time were not exactly happy. Now, there’s a tale that a few even wanted to wear black bands to mourn the fact that this precious record that belonged to Australia – and by extension, us – had gone back. To an Englishman. We will never know if this is true, if black bands were ever worn, but as journalists sometimes tell me, why let facts get in the way of a good story.
My own link with Bradman was much like that of most other Indians – through history books, some old video footage and his wise words. About leaving the game better than you found it. About playing it positively, as Bradman, then a selector, told Richie Benaud before the 1960-61 West Indies tour of Australia. Of sending a right message out from cricket to its public. Of players being temporary trustees of a great game.
While there may be very little similarity in our records or our strike-rates or our fielding – and I can say this only today in front of all of you – I am actually pleased that I share something very important with Sir Don.
He was, primarily, like me, a No.3 batsman. It is a tough, tough job.
We’re the ones who make life easier for the kings of batting, the middle order that follows us. Bradman did that with a bit more success and style than I did. He dominated bowling attacks and put bums on seats, if I bat for any length of time I am more likely to bore people to sleep. Still, it is nice to have batted for a long time in a position, whose benchmark is, in fact, the benchmark for batsmanship itself.
Before he retired from public life in his 80s, I do know that Bradman watched Sunil Gavaskar’s generation play a series in Australia. I remember the excitement that went through Indian cricket when we heard the news that Bradman had seen Sachin Tendulkar bat on TV and thought he batted like him. It was more than mere approval, it was as if the great Don had finally, passed on his torch. Not to an Aussie or an Englishman or a West Indian. But to one of our own.
One of the things, Bradman said has stayed in my mind. That the finest of athletes had, along with skill, a few more essential qualities: to conduct their life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and modesty. All this he believed, were totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination and competitiveness. Maybe those words should be put up in cricket dressing rooms all over the world.
As all of you know, Don Bradman passed away on February 25, 2001, two days before the India v Australia series was to begin in Mumbai.
Whenever an important figure in cricket leaves us, cricket’s global community pauses in the midst of contests and debates, to remember what he represented of us, what he stood for, and Bradman was the pinnacle. The standard against which all Test batsmen must take guard.
The series that followed two days after Bradman’s death later went on to become what many believe was one of the greatest in cricket. It is a series, I’d like to believe, he would have enjoyed following.
A fierce contest between bat and ball went down to the final session of the final day of the final Test. Between an Australian team who had risen to their most imposing powers and a young Indian team determined to rewrite some chapters of its own history.
The 2001 series contained high-quality cricket from both sides and had a deep impact on the careers of those who played a part in it. The Australians were near unbeatable in the first half of the new decade, both home and away. As others floundered against them, India became the only team that competed with them on even terms.
India kept answering questions put to them by the Australians and asking a few themselves. The quality demanded of those contests, sometimes acrimonious, sometimes uplifting, made us, the Indian team, grow and rise. As individuals, we were asked to play to the absolute outer limits of our capabilities and we often extended them.
Now, whenever India and Australia meet, there is expectation and anticipation – and as we get into the next two months of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, players on both sides will want to deliver their best.
When we toured in 2007-08, I thought it was going to be my last tour of Australia. The Australians thought it was going to be the last time they would be seeing Sachin Tendulkar on their shores. He received warm standing ovations from wonderful crowds all around the country.
Well, like a few, creaking Terminators, we’re back. Older, wiser and I hope improved.
The Australian public will want to stand up to send Sachin off all over again this time. But I must warn you, given how he’s been playing these days, there are no guarantees about final goodbyes.
In all seriousness, though, the cricket world is going to stop and watch Australia and India. It is Australia’s first chance to defend their supremacy at home following defeat in the 2010 Ashes and a drawn series against New Zealand. It is India’s opportunity to prove that the defeat to England in the summer was an aberration that we will bounce back from.
If both teams look back to their last 2007-08 series in Australia, they will know that they should have done things a little differently in the Sydney Test. But I think both sides have moved on from there; we’ve played each other twice in India already and relations between the two teams are much better than they have been as far as I can remember.
Thanks to the IPL, Indians and Australians have even shared dressing rooms. Shane Watson’s involvement in Rajasthan, Mike Hussey’s role with Chennai to mention a few, are greatly appreciated back home. And even Shane Warne likes India now. I really enjoyed playing alongside him at Rajasthan last season and can confidently report to you that he is not eating imported baked beans any more.
In fact, looking at him, it seems, he is not eating anything.
It is often said that cricketers are ambassadors for their country; when there’s a match to be won, sometimes we think that is an unreasonable demand. After all, what would career diplomats do if the result of a Test series depended on them, say, walking? But, as ties between India and Australia have strengthened and our contests have become more frequent, we realise that as Indian players, we stand for a vast, varied, often unfathomable and endlessly fascinating country.
At the moment, to much of the outside world, Indian cricket represents only two things – money and power. Yes, that aspect of Indian cricket is a part of the whole, but it is not the complete picture. As a player, as a proud and privileged member of the Indian cricket team, I want to say that, this one-dimensional, often cliched image relentlessly repeated is not what Indian cricket is really all about.
I cannot take all of you into the towns and villages our players come from, and introduce you to their families, teachers, coaches, mentors and team-mates who made them international cricketers. I cannot take all of you here to India to show you the belief, struggle, effort and sacrifice from hundreds of people that runs through our game.
As I stand here today, it is important for me to bring Indian cricket and its own remarkable story to you. I believe it is very necessary that cricketing nations try to find out about each other, try to understand each other and the different role cricket plays in different countries, because ours is, eventually, a very small world.
In India, cricket is a buzzing, humming, living entity going through a most remarkable time, like no other in our cricketing history. In this last decade, the Indian team represents more than ever before, the country we come from – of people from vastly different cultures, who speak different languages, follow different religions, belong to all classes of society. I went around our dressing room to work out how many languages could be spoken in there and the number I have arrived at is: 15, including Shona and Akrikaans.
Most foreign captains, I think, would baulk at the idea. But, when I led India, I enjoyed it, I marvelled at the range of difference and the ability of people from so many different backgrounds to share a dressing room, to accept, accommodate and respect that difference. In a world growing more insular, that is a precious quality to acquire, because it stays for life and helps you understand people better, understand the significance of the other.
Let me tell you one of my favourite stories from my Under-19 days, when the India Under-19 team played a match against the New Zealand junior team. We had two bowlers in the team, one from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh – he spoke only Hindi, which is usually a link language for players from all over India, ahead even of English. It should have been alright, except the other bowler came from Kerala, in the deep south, and he spoke only the state’s regional language, Malayalam. Now even that should have been okay as they were both bowlers and could bowl simultaneous spells.
Yet in one game, they happened to come together at the crease. In the dressing room, we were in splits, wondering how they were going to manage the business of a partnership, calling for runs or sharing the strike. Neither man could understand a word of what the other was saying and they were batting together. This could only happen in Indian cricket. Except that these two guys came up with a 100-run partnership. Their common language was cricket and that worked out just fine.
The everyday richness of Indian cricket lies right there, not in the news you hear about million-dollar deals and television rights. When I look back over the 25 years I’ve spent in cricket, I realise two things. First, rather alarmingly, that I am the oldest man in the game, older to even Sachin by three months. More importantly, I realise that Indian cricket actually reflects our country’s own growth story during this time. Cricket is so much a part of our national fabric that as India – its economy, society and popular culture – transformed itself, so did our most-loved sport.
As players we are appreciative beneficiaries of the financial strength of Indian cricket, but we are more than just mascots of that economic power. The caricature often made of Indian cricket and its cricketers in the rest of the world is that we are pampered superstars. Overpaid, underworked, treated like a cross between royalty and rock stars.
Yes, the Indian team has an enormous, emotional following and we do need security when we get around the country as a group. It is also why we make it a point to always try and conduct ourselves with composure and dignity. On tour, I must point out, we don’t attack fans or do drugs or get into drunken theatrics. And at home, despite what some of you may have heard, we don’t live in mansions with swimming pools.
The news about the money may well overpower all else, but along with it, our cricket is full of stories the outside world does not see. Television rights generated around Indian cricket, are much talked about. Let me tell you what the television – around those much sought-after rights – has done to our game.
A sport that was largely played and patronised by princes and businessmen in traditional urban centres, cities like Bombay, Bangalore, Chennai, Baroda, Hyderabad, Delhi – has begun to pull in cricketers from everywhere.
As the earnings from Indian cricket have grown in the past 2 decades, mainly through television, the BCCI has spread revenues to various pockets in the country and improved where we play. The field is now spread wider than it ever has been, the ground covered by Indian cricket, has shifted .
Twenty seven teams compete in our national championship, the Ranji Trophy. Last season Rajasthan, a state best known for its palaces, fortresses and tourism won the Ranji Trophy title for the first time in its history. The national one-day championship also had a first-time winner in the newly formed state of Jharkand, where our captain MS Dhoni comes from.
The growth and scale of cricket on our television was the engine of this population shift. Like Bradman was the boy from Bowral, a stream of Indian cricketers now come from what you could call India’s outback.
Zaheer Khan belongs to the Maharashtra heartland, from a town that didn’t have even one proper turf wicket. He could have been an instrumentation engineer but was drawn to cricket through TV and modelled his bowling by practicing in front of the mirror on his cupboard at home, and first bowled with a proper cricket ball at the age of 17.
One day out of nowhere, a boy from a village in Gujarat turned up as India’s fastest bowler. After Munaf Patel made his debut for India, the road from the nearest railway station to his village had to be improved because journalists and TV crews from the cities kept landing up there.
We are delighted that Umesh Yadav didn’t become a policeman like he was planning and turned to cricket instead. He is the first cricketer from the central Indian first-class team of Vidarbha to play Test cricket.
Virender Sehwag, it shouldn’t surprise, you belongs to the wild west just outside Delhi. He had be enrolled in a college which had a good cricket programme and travelled 84kms every day by bus to get to practice and matches.
Every player in this room wearing an India blazer has a story like this. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart and soul of Indian cricket.
Playing for India completely changes our lives. The game has given us a chance to pay back our debt to all those who gave their time, energy and resources for us to be better cricketers: we can build new homes for our parents, get our siblings married off in style, give our families very comfortable lives.
The Indian cricket team is in fact, India itself, in microcosm. A sport that was played first by princes, then their subordinates, then the urban elite, is now a sport played by all of India. Cricket, as my two under-19 team-mates proved, is India’s most widely-spoken language. Even Indian cinema has its regional favourites; a movie star in the south may not be popular in the north. But a cricketer? Loved everywhere.
It is also a very tough environment to grow up in – criticism can be severe, responses to victory and defeat extreme. There are invasions of privacy and stones have been thrown at our homes after some defeats.
It takes time getting used to, extreme reactions can fill us with anger. But every cricketer realises at some stage of his career, that the Indian cricket fan is best understood by remembering the sentiment of the majority, not the actions of a minority.
One of the things that has always lifted me as a player is looking out of the team bus when we travelled somewhere in India. When people see the Indian bus going by, see some of us sitting with our curtains drawn back, it always amazes me how much they light up. There is an instantaneous smile, directed not just at the player they see – but at the game we play that, for whatever reason, means something to people’s lives. Win or lose, the man on the street will smile and give you a wave.
After India won the World Cup this year, our players were not congratulated as much as they were thanked by people they ran into. “You have given us everything,” they were told, “all of us have won.” Cricket in India now stands not just for sport, but possibility, hope, opportunities.
On our way to the Indian team, we know of so many of our team-mates, some of whom may have been equally or more talented than those sitting here, who missed out. When I started out, for a young Indian, cricket was the ultimate gamble – all or nothing, no safety nets. No second chances for those without an education or a college degree or second careers. Indian cricket’s wealth now means a wider pool of well paid cricketers even at first-class level.
For those of us who make it to the Indian team, cricket is not merely our livelihood, it is a gift we have been given. Without the game, we would just be average people leading average lives. As Indian cricketers, our sport has given us the chance do something worthwhile with our lives. How many people could say that?
This is the time Indian cricket should be flowering; we are the world champions in the short game, and over the space of the next 12 months should be involved in a tight contest with Australia, South Africa and England to determine which one of us is the world’s strongest Test team.
Yet I believe this is also a time for introspection within our game, not only in india, but all over the world. We have been given some alerts and responding to them quickly is the smart thing to do.
I was surprised a few months ago to see the lack of crowds in an ODI series featuring India. By that I don’t mean the lack of full houses, I think it was the sight of empty stands I found somewhat alarming.
India played its first one-day international at home in November 1981, when I was nine. Between then and now India have played 227 ODIs at home; the October five-match series against England was the first time that the grounds have not been full for an ODI featuring the Indian team.
In the summer of 1998, I played in a one-dayer against Kenya in Kolkata and the Eden Gardens was full. Our next game was held in the 48-degree heat of Gwalior and the stands were heaving.
The October series against England was the first one at home after India’s World Cup win. It was called the ‘revenge’ series meant to wipe away the memory of a forgettable tour of England. India kept winning every game, and yet the stands did not fill up. Five days after a 5-0 victory 95,000 turned up to watch the India’s first Formula One race.
A few weeks later I played in a Test match against West Indies in Calcutta, in front of what was the lowest turn out in Eden Gardens’ history. Yes we still wanted to win and our intensity did not dip. But at the end of the day, we are performers, entertainers and we love an audience. The audience amplifies everything you are doing, the bigger the crowd the bigger the occasion, its magnitude, its emotion. When I think about the Eden Gardens crowds this year, I wonder what the famous Calcutta Test of 2001 would have felt like with 50,000 people less watching us.
Australia and South Africa played an exciting and thrilling Test series recently and two great Test matches produced some fantastic performances from players of both teams, but were sadly played in front of sparse crowds.
It is not the numbers that Test players need, it is the atmosphere of a Test that every player wants to revel in and draw energy from. My first reaction to the lack of crowds for cricket was that there had been a lot of cricket and so perhaps, a certain amount of spectator-fatigue. That is too simplistic a view; it’s the easy thing to say but might not be the only thing.
The India v England ODI series had no context, because the two countries had played each other in four Tests and five ODIs just a few weeks before. When India and West Indies played ODIs a month after that the grounds were full, but this time the matches were played in smaller venues that didn’t host too much international cricket. Maybe our clues are all there and we must remain vigilant.
Unlike Australia or England, Indian cricket has never had to compete with other sports for a share of revenues, mind space or crowd attendance at international matches. The lack of crowds may not directly impact on revenues or how important the sport is to Indians, but we do need to accept that there has definitely been a change in temperature over, I think, the last two years.
Whatever the reasons are – maybe it is too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators – the fan has sent us a message and we must listen. This is not mere sentimentality. Empty stands do not make for good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings, the fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and advertisers looking elsewhere.
If that happens, it is hard to see television rights around cricket being as sought after as they have always been in the last 15 years. And where does that leave everyone? I’m not trying to be an economist or doomsday prophet – this is just how I see it.
Let us not be so satisfied with the present, with deals and finances in hand that we get blindsided. Everything that has given cricket its power and influence in the world of sports has started from that fan in the stadium. They deserve our respect and let us not take them for granted. Disrespecting fans is disrespecting the game. The fans have stood by our game through everything. When we play, we need to think of them. As players, the balance between competitiveness and fairness can be tough but it must be found.
If we stand up for the game’s basic decencies, it will be far easier to tackle its bigger dangers – whether it is finding short cuts to easy money or being lured by the scourge of spot-fixing and contemplating any involvement with the betting industry.
Cricket’s financial success means it will face threats from outside the game and keep facing them. The last two decades have proved this over and over again. The internet and modern technology may just end up being a step ahead of every anti-corruption regulation in place in the game. As players, the one way we can stay ahead for the game, is if we are willing to be monitored and regulated closely.
Even if it means giving up a little bit of freedom of movement and privacy. If it means undergoing dope tests, let us never say no. If it means undergoing lie-detector tests, let us understand the technology, what purpose it serves and accept it. Now lie-detectors are by no means perfect but they could actually help the innocent clear their names. Similarly, we should not object to having our finances scrutinised if that is what is required.
When the first anti-corruption measures were put into place, we did moan a little bit about being accredited and depositing our cell phones with the manager. But now we must treat it like we do airport security because we know it is for our own good and our own security.
Players should be ready to give up a little personal space and personal comfort for this game, which has given us so much. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
Other sports have borrowed from cricket’s anti-corruption measures to set up their own ethical governance programmes and we must take pride in belonging to a sport that is professional and progressive.
One of the biggest challenges that the game must respond to today, I believe, is charting out a clear road map for the three formats. We now realise that the sport’s three formats cannot be played in equal numbers – that will only throw scheduling and the true development of players completely off gear.
There is a place for all three formats, though, we are the only sport I can think of which has three versions. Cricket must treasure this originality. These three versions require different skills, skills that have evolved, grown, changed over the last four decades, one impacting on the other.
Test cricket is the gold standard, it is the form the players want to play. The 50-over game is the one that has kept cricket’s revenues alive for more than three decades now. Twenty20 has come upon us and it is the format people, the fans want to see.
Cricket must find a middle path, it must scale down this mad merry-go-round that teams and players find themselves in: heading off for two-Test tours and seven-match ODI series with a few Twenty20s thrown in.
Test cricket deserves to be protected, it is what the world’s best know they will be judged by. Where I come from, nation versus nation is what got people interested in cricket in the first place. When I hear the news that a country is playing without some of its best players, I always wonder, what do their fans think?
People may not be able to turn up to watch Test cricket but everyone follows the scores. We may not fill 65,000 capacity stadiums for Test matches, but we must actively fight to get as many as we can in, to create a Test match environment that the players and the fans feed off. Anything but the sight of Tests played on empty grounds. For that, we have got to play Test cricket that people can watch.
I don’t think day-night Tests or a Test championship should be dismissed.
In March of last year I played a day-night first-class game in Abu Dhabi for the MCC and my experience from that was that day-night Tests is an idea seriously worth exploring. There may be some challenges in places where there is dew but the visibility and durability of the pink cricket ball was not an issue.
Similarly, a Test championship, with every team and player driving themselves to be winners of a sought after title, seems like it would have a context to every game.
Keeping Tests alive may mean different innovations in different countries – maybe taking it to smaller cities, playing it in grounds with smaller capacities like New Zealand has thought of doing, maybe reviving some old venues in the West Indies, like the old Recreation Ground in Antigua.
When I was around seven years old, I remember my father taking a Friday off so that we could watch three days of Test cricket together. On occasions he couldn’t, I would accompany one of his friends, just to soak in a day of Test cricket and watch the drama slowly unfold.
What we have to do is find a way to ensure that Test matches fit into 21st century life, through timing, environments and the venues they are held in. I am still convinced it can be done, even in our fast-moving world with a short attention span. We will often get told that Test matches don’t make financial sense, but no one ever fell in love with Test cricket because they wanted to be a businessman. Not everything of value comes at a price.
There is a proposal doing the rounds about scrapping the 50-over game completely. I am not sure I agree with that – I certainly know that the 50-over game helped us innovate strokes in our batting which we were then able to take into Test matches. We all know that the 50-over game has been responsible for improving fielding standards all over the world.
The future may well lie in playing one-day internationals centered around ICC events, like the Champions Trophy and the World Cups. This would ensure that all 50-over matches would build up for those tournaments.
That will cut back the number of one-day internationals played every year but at least those matches will have context. Since about I think 1985, people have been saying that there is too much meaningless one-day cricket. Maybe it’s finally time to do something about it.
The Twenty20 game as we know has as many critics as it has supporters in the public. Given that an acceptable strike rate in T20 these days is about 120, I should probably complain about it the most. The crowd and revenue numbers, though, tell us that if we don’t handle Twenty20 correctly, we may well have more and more private players stepping in to offer not just slices of pie, but maybe even bigger pies themselves.
So I’ll re-iterate what I’ve just said very quickly because balancing three formats is important:
We have Test cricket like we have always had, nation versus nation, but carefully scheduled to attract crowds and planned fairly so that every Test playing country gets its fair share of Tests. And playing for a championship or a cup, not just a ranking .
The 50-overs format focused around fewer, significant multi-nation ICC events like the Champions Trophy and the World Cup. In the four-year cycle between World Cups, plan the ODI calendar and devise rankings around these few important events. Anything makes more sense than seven-match ODI series.
The best role for Twenty20 is as a domestic competition through official leagues, which will make it financially attractive for cricketers. That could also keep cricket viable in countries where it fights for space and attention.
Because the game is bigger than us all, we must think way ahead of how it stands today. Where do we want it to be in the year 2020? Or say in 2027, when it will be 150 years since the first Test match was played. If you think about it, cricket has been with us longer than the modern motor car, it existed before modern air travel took off.
As much as cricket’s revenues are important to its growth, its traditions and its vibrancy are a necessary part of its progress in the future. We shouldn’t let either go because we played too much of one format and too little of the other.
Professionalism has given cricketers of my generation privileged lives and we know it, even though you may often hear us whining about burn-out, travel and the lack of recovery time.
Whenever we begin to get into that mindset, it’s good to remember a piece of Sachin’s conversation with Bradman. Sachin told us that he had asked Sir Don how he had mentally prepared for big games, what his routines were. Sir Don said, that well, before a game he would go to work and after the game go back to work. Whenever a cricketer feels a whinge coming on, that would be good to remember.
Before I conclude, I also want to talk briefly about an experience I have often had over the course of my career. It is not to do with individuals or incidents, but one I believe is important to share. I have sometimes found myself in the middle of a big game, standing at slip or even at the non-strikers end and suddenly realised that everything else has vanished. At that moment, all that exists is the contest and the very real sense of the joy that comes from playing the game.
It is an almost meditative experience, where you reconnect with the game just like you did years ago, when you first began, when you hit your first boundary, took the first catch, scored your first century, or were involved in a big victory. It lasts for a very fleeting passage of time, but it is a very precious instant and every cricketer should hang on to it.
I know it is utterly fanciful to expect professional cricketers to play the game like amateurs; but the trick, I believe, is taking the spirit of the amateur – of discovery, of learning, of pure joy, of playing by the rules – into our profession. Taking it to practice or play, even when there’s an epidemic of white-line fever breaking out all over the field.
In every cricketer there lies a competitor who hates losing, and yes, winning matters. But it is not the only thing that matters when you play cricket. How it is played is as important for every member of every team because every game we play leaves a footprint in cricket’s history. We must never forget that.
What we do as professionals is easily carried over into the amateur game, in every way – batting, bowling, fielding, appealing, celebration, dissent, argument. In the players of 2027, we will see a reflection of this time and of ourselves and it had better not annoy or anguish us 50 year-olds.
As the game’s custodians, it is important we are not tempted by the short-term gains of the backward step. We can be remembered for being the generation that could take the giant stride.
Thank you for the invitation to address all of you tonight, and your attention.
Rahul Dravid Speech – Sir Donald Bradman Oration (Video)
India’s Rahul Dravid will deliver the Sir Donald Bradman Oration at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra tonight. The evening will be hosted by Channel Nine cricket presenter, Mr Mark Nicholas.
Dravid is the first Indian invited to deliver the Oration at the event which honours the career, contribution and memory of the world’s greatest-ever cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman.
The Oration will be live streamed on the Cricket Australia website from 8.30pm. You can watch the live streaming of Bradman Oration from here.
Dravid will speak on a wide range of issues, including:
The strong link between India and Australia during the first World War
What Don Bradman meant to India in the 1930s
Cricket’s place in India and India’s place in world cricket
The challenges for cricket, including scheduling and balancing the three formats of the game
Tonight’s event will also include a tribute to a group of Australian servicemen who helped restore public morale, and cricket’s place in the community, in the weeks following the final shots of World War II in Europe.
At the request of then Prime Minister John Curtin, a group of Aussie soldiers and airmen were pulled together to play a series of “ Victory Tests” in England in May-August 1945.
They took on Wally Hammond and Len Hutton’s Englishmen in front of packed houses – 375,000 attended the five games – and held them to a 2-2 series draw.
Reg Ellis, the sole remaining survivor from the Combined Services team, will be a special guest of Cricket Australia tonight.
Trained by Clarrie Grimmett before WWII, Ellis was a slow left arm bowler and was Australia’s top wicket-taker in the Victory Tests.
Since 2000, the Sir Donald Bradman Oration has provided a platform for a prominent national or international figure to reflect on Sir Donald’s career, and on cricket’s place in their own lives and the life of their nation.
Past orators have been former Prime Minister John Howard, General Peter Cosgrove, Sir Michael Parkinson, Richie Benaud, Alan Jones, Ricky Ponting, Greg Chappell and Sir Tim Rice
Indian batsman Rahul Dravid was on Saturday named captain of the Indian Premier League team Rajasthan Royals, replacing Australian spin legend Shane Warne, who quit the IPL after the fourth edition.
“…gotta make another huge announcement, the new captain for Rajasthan Royals..Proud 2 have Rahul Dravid head the team this season,” tweeted Rajasthan’s co-owner Shilpa Shetty.
“So its Official now! The ‘Wall’ it is; Congratulations Rahul, am sure you will make us all very proud at RR..Go Royals,” Shilpa added.
Dravid, who was part of Royal Challengers Bangalore for the first three years, was bought by the Rajasthan team for USD 500,000 in the players’ auction before the start of IPL 4 this year. He scored 343 runs at an average of 31 in 12 matches in his debut season for the Royals this year.
“It is lovely to be back after my first season and it would a privilege and honour to lead a side which has a bunch of talented youngsters. I had enjoyed my last stint with the Royals and I am excited and looking forward to lead the side,” Dravid said.
The fifth edition of the Twenty20 league will be played from April 4 to May 27 next year.