Friday, March 16, 2012

The Preciously Talented Wall

Not so long ago, I had posted a facebook status update indicating that I thought the phrase 'The Wall' was rather a poor nickname for someone who has arguably been the most effective Indian of the past decade.
This status update was made the subject of plenty of Inference and yours truly was upbraided in no small measure for using the 'F word'. Indeed this little word has caused plenty of heartache, plenty of debate and much Russell Peterhood as regards its versatility when it is in fact no more versatile than any expletive that implies the fascinating things it does.
I choose, however, for this post to dwell upon another more Inferentially acceptable F word : Fortress. And I intend to use the same Rahul Dravid for this purpose.
I first saw Dravid on TV in the Lords test of 1996, where he was overshadowed by Ganguly (my silly seven year old mind thought so anyway). He seemed rather too inclined to lean forward, plant the foot and halt the progress of the ball, in a word - defend. Furthermore, the expression on his face was rather uncomfortable; he looked to me like a toothless crocodile - menacing but incapable of causing damage.
Fortunately for me and the historical record of my intelligence, this opinion was not to last very long. Within a year, Dravid had become my favourite Indian batsman , within two years he became the reason I still supported the Indian cricket team on a few occasions. And now that I know Rahul Dravid is never again going to walk in for India at number three, those occasions are set to diminish further.
But enough about me. Let's talk about the man himself. A man who has been cliched by people as 'Lacking Talent but making up through Sheer Hard Work' .
I don't know precisely what the Oxford dictionary's definition of 'talent' is but I know very well what I consider it to be. To me, an exceptional talent is one capable of performing what very few others can. And in cricket, the ability to score of  quality bowling, particularly quality fast bowling on a helpful track, seems to be the single most elusive one.
Dravid possesses this ability in bountiful quantities, as he has proved on countless occasions, the most stark being last year, his thirty-ninth in this world and last as a Test batsman. That lightning response when he saw a fast bowler attempting to bounce him out, be it a 6'6" English Broad or a 5'8" Barbadian Edwards. That wonderful straight bat with the perfectly soft hands when  a tricky good length delivery swinging away outside the off stump approached. That rock solid defence when they tried to slip in a yorker to break through his fortress. Ever so often, that glorious square drive, never hit too hard, as authoritative as a Supreme Court judge and as balanced as the Tied Test. And occasionally, the commanding  pull shot  no one else in the team dared  play. All these are indications of an exceptional talent made all the more phenomenal by the fact that fast bowlers and greentops in India are about as sparse as hundreds have been for Tendulkar in the past year.
Yet, Dravid will continue to have patronising words like 'gritty' and 'technically perfect' associated with him. And the primary reason for this is because if he lacks one quality, it is the (quite unnecessary) ability to make his innings look spectacular. He possesses neither the crease-grace of Tendulkar  nor the flashiness of Sehwag. His style is a down to earth and practical with everything geared towards effectiveness for the team. And it is this, which is perhaps his greatest talent, which has lead the  cricket-watching flock to bandy their ridiculous adjectives around.
But then, he is a possessed of another great gift and that is wisdom. And therefore, unlike me,  while he is aware of all of this, he very likely gives not a damn about it. 

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