Rahul Dravid, the very name brings to mind solidity, dependability, work ethic and a lot else that I shall elaborate upon here. The guy that each one wants on the team but is not a model that anyone would like to personally emulate! And the fall guy, the soft target, the person who is remembered for failures, whose success gets overshadowed by his drumbeating colleagues, who draw media attention for their flamboyance, and by the pressure of ad power generated by their sponsors.
I am writing this a day before the Asia Cup match between India and Bangladesh. It does not need an astrologer to predict that just in case Tendulkar gets his elusive hundredth hundred tomorrow, the media, the Corporate world and a few million fans will go totally gaga, forgetting his numerous failures in the past year and the fact that his reflexes have really slowed down now. And also that he had to get on to the aircraft to Bangladesh, a place he has generally been avoiding in preference to the cooler climes of England and Australia, for his best chance to get to his hundredth ton. This is not to belittle Tendulkar’s great achievements in the past, which would be etched in gold. But these are in the past! Despite all the hype of the media and the clamour and din of his fanboys, Sachin is but a shadow of his former free stroking self. His technique has always been based on superb reflexes allied with a God given talent and a very good defence that allows him to drop anchor and stick around waiting for the bad ball. Now that the reflexes have slowed, though talent and the defence remain, there are chinks in his armour that opposition bowlers have exploited. This piece is more on Dravid and less about Tendulkar, God Bless Tendulkar in his quest for the hundredth ton! (Incidentally he did get it and I was among a few millions praying and hoping that he would get it.)
This is all about Dravid and why he is and yet is not a corporate role model. What is there to write about Dravid, the warrior on the Cricket field, a person completely focused on the team and one who preserved his wicket and played riskless Cricket in the team’s interests? We need to take up each of his qualities, relate them to the corporate world and examine whether they are worthy of emulation as a strategy, for enhancing ones career prospects. The first one that comes to my mind is taking on multiple roles such as wicket keeper and playing up and down the order in the team’s interests. Siddhu said that Dravid would walk barefoot on broken glass if the team needed it! Be that as it may! Where does that leave a person who is ready to do anything for a company, for instance, taking up slack in sales, or helping out in finance or in development of software? Assuming that a person specializes in something and yet does something for the team that is outside his area of specialization, he would end up doing it in a passable way and not as well as a specialist in the field. Worse still, this could affect his area of specialization. All in all, this person would be a sitting duck for being sacked whenever appraisal time comes around. Dravid survived this only because of the bloody minded focus he brought into every job he took up and never let anything affect what was his core competence, viz. his batting. He was also prudent enough to let go of wicket keeping the moment he got a chance, when Ganguly was sacked, he became the Captain and Dhoni came into the team. This was the phase in which he kept achieving his best successes as Captain.
The defining word for Dravid is Gentleman. There is no better example of fair play and rectitude than this Cricketer, who is universally respected for this quality all over the globe. Some examples of this are his walking off on numerous occasions when he thought he was out, regardless of the situation. This happened in the first test match he played in England, where he was tantalizingly close to a debut ton. When asked, he just shrugged it aside saying the snick could be heard in the stands. This is something which no one else would have done. We know of many, who shall be nameless, who would point to their boot or any other part of their anatomy to indicate that bat made no contact. But not Dravid the gentleman, playing in his first Test, at Lords. For anyone else the name being up there among greats on the honours board would have lead to bending their ethics a wee bit! In a corporate situation, this is like the last sale that would take you to the target that would get you a nice fat bonus. Booking that sale, even when you know that the party of the second part is unlikely to pay is like not walking.
Another of Dravid’s quality is to subsume his own strokeplay in the interests of the team. Often he would walk in with the team at 15 for 1. Not the best time to start stroking the ball. But what Dravid would do was to wait and wait till bowlers got tired and then start with his strokeplay. This gave the impression of stodginess and a play safe attitude, but was only that Dravid always took complete ownership for the team’s performance. This saved India on numerous occasions but did not endear Dravid to a generation bred on slam-bang cricket of the IPL and ODIs replete with scoop shots, reverse sweeps and helicopter shots. Dravid certainly had the talent to be a lot more flamboyant but he thought of team first and hid his light under a bushel. Never mind that the sponsors moved away from him, or that fans slavered over Tendulkar or, worse still, Dhoni with a penchant for rustic shots but without a fraction of the talent of Dravid. This brings us to one more lesson to learn from Dravid’s experience. Never but never hide your talent if you value the good things in life on a continuing basis! Make a big noise of the little things that you do and do not be so damned British! From a corporate point of view, employees like Dravid always are appreciated but never rewarded. If it is rewards that you crave for, please learn to work hard but carry a big loudspeaker (with apologies to Theodore Roosevelt).
Last of all, it is all very well to say that a person should leave when he knows it is time to leave. Here Dravid used his judgment in quitting after a particularly disastrous tour of Australia. Never mind that the previous tour of England was one of his most successful sojourns. That England series was preceded and succeeded by a West Indies Test series and a domestic Test series, which saw Dravid score a few centuries in what were difficult circumstances. And this is where I feel that Dravid erred in his assessment. A few more cheap centuries were definitely on in the next few test series, all in subcontinent conditions. That is where Sachin scores over Dravid. He was a flop in Australia, okay, okay, maybe to a lesser degree than Dravid. However, he continued trying to get to his hundredth ton in Australia and then latched on to the Asia Cup, an event he would normally have avoided because of mysterious injuries cropping up in some part of his limbs or shoulder etc. This enabled him to get to that elusive ton of tons, never mind that a ton made in a Test match is totally different from one in an ODI and also that India lost the match, thanks in part to the 80 or so dot balls conceded by him.
So the final lesson here is that never leave when you think you have had enough, when you are Captain. Because it is a dog eat dog world and the guy you encouraged and nurtured so well will decide to kick you in the solar plexus. Yes, Dravid got kicked out of the ODI team by Dhoni, who must have been sharpening his knife once again for excising Dravid from the Test team, in order to bring in another of his cronies. Dravid refrained from even mentioning one word about Dhoni in his retirement speech, a fact that hurt a lot of Dhoni’s supporters, notably one Zee News. Being honorable and doing the moral thing is all very well in stories but not in the hurly burly of the Corporate world. Dravid should have played a couple of matches against New Zealand and then announced his retirement after getting a couple of centuries in. But that was never his style, as he has been harder on himself than anyone else.
In an ideal world a Rahul Dravid is a hero. He is the epitome of the word Gentleman, decent,honorable and always evaluating himself by higher standards than by what others evaluate him. In the Corporate World, driven as it were by the dictates of Commerce reflected in bottom-line and quarterly numbers, he would be soon forgotten. In the Cricketing World he will be remembered only by people such as yours truly, and others with the capacity for appreciating the finer aspects of good batsmanship, reliving those moments when he played on Cricket fields from Adelaide to Ahmedabad, unleashing exquisite cover drives and on drives on bowlers toiling away in the forlorn hope of finding a chink in that Dravidian defence.
For now, the country will bask in the glow of a Virat Kohli or a Rohit Sharma or even Dhoni. These people will corner all the ads that will be shown on TV, the fairness creams, the ceiling fans, batteries and so on. But remember that class always tells. When the choice was to be made for a sportsman from India for the Gillette ad to provide company to Roger Federer, Thierry Henry and Tiger Woods (before he was discredited!), the choice was not Tendulkar, but Dravid. Maybe he is not always the marketing man’s choice but he is the connoisseur’s preference. But connoisseurs are not the ones who fill the stadia, and so a Dhoni is a bigger draw with the lowest common denominator that passes for Cricket fan in the times of Match ka Mujrim! In that lies the cruel truth of why Dravid will never be the Corporate Model of Success.
On a personal note, Dravid holds a special place in my heart. In June 2001,I went to see my Dad at the end of a working day. My Dad who gave everyone a scare the previous day seemed perfectly well and was watching an ODI of India against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. Dravid hit a century and India won that match. While I was talking to my Dad, my boss called me at 8 PM, asking for some obscure figures that I had to compile in my office comp. No laptops, no internet everywhere those days. So I rushed to the office without even saying Bye properly to my Dad. My Dad, though, was completely absorbed in the strokeplay of Dravid unfolding on the small screen. When I returned home at around 10 PM all I could do was eat my dinner and go to sleep. At 2:30 AM a few hours later, I got a call from my cousin to inform me that my Dad was no more. I may not have been by my Dad’s side when he passed away but he died happy after having seen a wonderful century by Dravid and an India victory. To me this is just one more reason why Dravid was the Best Batsman in Indian Cricket.