I first heard of Rahul Dravid in 1996 just before the India tour of England. I was 11 years old at that time and just starting my cricket-watching career.
I remember watching that first test match at Lords. I remember watching Saurav Ganguly’s effortless drives through the covers. However what I remember more were the sweetly timed on drives of Dravid coupled with rock solid defense and finally his disappointing dismissal on 95.I think I immediately developed a liking for him from that day.
I had the honour of meeting him a few months later when India played a test match with Australia in Delhi during the Border Gavaskar trophy.
The match had ended and I met him for dinner at the Taj Hotel. I was 11 years old at that time but i still remember asking him why he would keep getting out in the 90s.
He smiled back, said he didn’t know but said he was sure he would get a hundred soon. He was not wrong because on the 1996/1997 India tour of South Africa he showed that he had arrived.
In the first match at Durban the Indian team was dismissed cheaply but Rahul stood out in the second inning with three stunning pull shots to bouncers and remained not out.
Two test matches later he scored his first hundred scoring 148 at the Wanderers. He did get his hundred soon and showed us that he would be India’s star performer oversees for years to come.
A few years later I had another honour of meeting him when I was much older. I was 16 and he came to the MadanLal cricket academy in Delhi. By now I was seriously pursuing cricket and the inspiration for that was of course Rahul himself.
He was extremely patient with young cricketers and gave all of us great tips and insights into the game. He was clearly someone who you could see would become India’s captain one day.
As the years went by I keenly followed all of Rahul innings. I saw him score centuries after centuries in tests. I saw him finishing various games for India in ODIs. I saw him keeping wickets and I saw taking superb catches at slips.
For me like many others of my generation he along with a few other cricketers defined the game of cricket. Now i am 26 and I did not become a cricketer but cricket left a great mark on my life and therefore in an indirect way Rahul Dravid left a mark on my life.
Everybody will talk about his stats and figures and there is no doubt that he is one India’s greatest cricketers. However when I think of Rahul Dravid and the impact that he left on my life I remember him as a quiet man who came, who saw and conquered and did it in the rare gentlemanly way that once defined this lovely game of cricket.
Thank you Rahul Dravid. All the best!