Believe it or not, it is not easy to write an eulogy. I know because I have written a few. Why is it so hard to write praises about someone after he or she walks into the sunset? I don't know the answer to that question and I doubt that I ever will. But difficult or not, it is impossible not to pick up the pen when a person whom you admire greatly decides to hang up his or her boots. A part of your mind won't rest until you have paid your tributes, however insignificant they may be. And Tweets, despite being the cute little things they are, just aren't sufficient.
You can try telling your mind that it is a waste of your time, or that what you have to say is simply not important enough; yet, sooner or later, you are forced to give up in order to live in peace. So here I am, joining countless restless minds to pay my tributes to a man who represents everything that is great about the game of cricket, Rahul Dravid.
There are two ways to look at the legacy of Rahul Dravid. One of them is to look at the impressive statistics of his career, compare it with the impressive statistics of other legends of the game and argue what place he occupies among the brightest stars of cricket. There is nothing wrong with that approach, though I am not taking it. There are countless articles for that and for anyone looking for them, I would suggest a visit to Cricinfo.
The other way is to look at the impact and contribution of Rahul Dravid on cricket in general and Indian cricket in particular. No one can argue with the fact that the last 12 years have been great for Indian cricket and Dravid has contributed to it as much as anybody else, if not more. He has, beside Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, been a part of perhaps the most fabled middle order of the game. That middle order, along with Anil Kumble, has shaped the Indian cricket team into a formidable outfit and pulled it out of the doom of match fixing. Dravid has been one of the reasons for India's improved performance in overseas conditions. He will be an indispensable character in the script of the rise of Indian cricket.
But to say that it has been a journey without obstacles would be a lie. He had to struggle a lot to cement his place in the limited overs format of the game. He had to take the additional burden of wicket keeping to ensure his place in the team. In a testament of his greatness, he accepts that the experience behind the wickets improved his stroke play. The constant desire to improve is a requisite for greatness and he possessed it in abundance. His fitness was always superhuman, and the number of times he saved the team from total annihilation is impossible to count. He was a superhero in every sense of the word.
To say that he, along with Sachin, has been the greatest test batsman this country has produced will not be an overstatement. Some people like to compare these two extraordinary batsmen with each other and say which one is superior. I don't approve of this comparison. For me, each of these two has been a perfect foil for the other and, without them working together along with Ganguly for its betterment, Indian cricket would not have reached the place where it is today.
One big regret Dravid and his fans will always have is perhaps the short tenure of his captaincy. It was a tragedy that in his long career in a generally great period of Indian cricket, he got captaincy at a time when Indian cricket was rocked by the Greg Chappell invasion. I wonder what he would have achieved as a captain if he had a great mentor like Gary Kirsten to help him. But to his credit, he helped India bounce back from the disaster of World Cup 2007 and ended his tenure with a series win in England.
Despite all of his excellent contributions to the Indian cricket throughout his career, it wouldn't be wrong to say that he rarely receives the appreciation he deserves from the masses and the pundits. It is not exactly a surprise, as we as a nation are more enamored with style rather than with substance. The fact that he wasn't as successful in limited overs game as some of his teammates might also have hindered his popularity. But to every true fan of the game in the country, he was as priceless as Sachin and will always remain so.
So, now that he has retired, what lies ahead for Dravid? He is a true student of the game, so it wouldn't be surprising if he becomes a coach in the future. We can just hope that he continues to involve himself in the game and helps to take it forward. And, I pray that when the epilogue of this great era of Indian cricket is written, he is remembered as the hero who was always there to save it. Our very own Superman!