India head coach Rahul Dravid
India head coach Rahul Dravid Image Credit: REUTERS

On ordinary days he keeps them on a tight leash, a television advertisement was the closest Rahul Dravid came to showing emotion. Unwittingly, his acronym of the ‘wall’ has also fit outside the field. So, when it finally cracked, it was a scene of pure joy both, for him and his legion of supporters.

While tough men broke down around him, coach Dravid’s raw and unfiltered exuberance as he held the T20 World Cup trophy captured a nation’s imagination.

Rahul Dravid has for long been a lonely crusader, a fish out of water in a sport once made infamous by bodyline, and now played with the mantra of a sledge for a sledge. He, of the ‘Mr Dependable’ fame, and with his staid demeanour and dignity, on the other hand, remains a poster boy for the gentleman’s game.

It is rare for a cricketer to be remembered as much for his class as his temperament. He defied the odds and bowler Jasprit Bumrah seems to be a worthy follower.

As a batsman in a generation headlined by the omnipresence of Sachin Tendulkar and later as coach to a team with the brilliance of Virat Kohli and mercurial talent of players like Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya, he has quietly chipped away and in the mad rush that is Indian cricket, remained the team player.

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Do it for Dravid

‘Do it for Dravid,’ screamed fans going into the final. After a three-year journey as India’s coach, this was the swansong for a man who surprisingly never won an ICC trophy as a player. “You know, I don’t really believe in this ‘Do it for somebody’. I love that quote about somebody asking somebody else, ‘Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?’ and he says, ‘I want to climb Mount Everest because it’s there’. I want to win this World Cup because it’s there. It’s not for anyone, it’s not for anybody, it’s just there to win,” the unassuming coach was however unmoved.

He retires once again and this time appropriately at the top as though this was a story he scripted himself. Even if he says he is now unemployed, to say, this is the end is to write in haste, if there is one former cricketer who still has much to share with the sport and not in the commentary box alone, it is Rahul Dravid.

In 2023, when India lost the World Cup Final coach Dravid came out to address the press. A year later as India became T-20 champions, an ICC trophy that had been a long time coming — 11 years — he sent captain Rohit Sharma out to get the accolades.

Unlike some coaches in the recent past, Rahul Dravid did not take attention away from the motley crew he fired into a World Cup-winning squad. His temperament and their style may be chalk and cheese, but he gave them the space to flourish and be themselves. The results were there for all to see.

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Indian cricket no bed of roses

Indian cricket fells the most gigantic of reputations with one bad day on the field. As a nation we are demanding, treating cricketers and coaches as divine and yet the most fallible. For our fickle support, we often demand a pound of flesh.

Perhaps, MS Dhoni is the rare one to escape this curse. Watching any fall is a line-up of talent eagerly waiting in the wings, not just that, there is also a hustle of former players willing to take the reins of a team represented by the most lucrative sporting board in the world.

Gautam Gambhir is the front-runner to be the new coach. The former BJP parliamentarian is a divisive figure who is no stranger to controversies, he gives a shoulder — and allegedly a finger as he did with the crowd chanting names of Virat Kohli and Dhoni during IPL — to anything that doesn’t match his attitude. Wise men say, only fools rush in, Dravid says he is not a legacy person but unwittingly as a silent force, he leaves one.

Caribbean Islands, the scene of the T20 win has a back story for Dravid. It was here in 2007 as captain of a much-fancied Indian team that he faced his most crushing defeat when India was knocked out at the group stage. This World Cup win didn’t connect any dots except for a long pending win for a desperate cricket-crazy nation but even if Dravid says he doesn’t think about redemption they say, cricket is a funny game.

For a generation that started watching Rahul Dravid play when there were no smartphones and a newspaper’s last page was read first thing in the morning after a match, this win is also one for old-world charm, the kind that attracted us to cricket in the first place.

‘No dream is ever chased alone,’ Rahul Dravid remains the quintessential gentleman giving the game’s tagline a gravitas that is at times lost in quick-fix cricket and the 24/7 camera spotlight. More importantly, he reminded us that nice guys also come first. Coach, thank you for the memories.