Over the past two months I happened to live in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Work being for IPL this season I was excited for many reasons. More so, this being a new venue for me and secondly, the team which is based out of Jaipur is being captained by one of my two idols in cricket. Yes, Rahul Dravid.
Dravid retired from international cricket not so long ago this year. And what would you expect from a retired legend in IPL? More importantly, what would be Rahul expecting from himself?
He was replacing Shane Warne as the captain, who had made an impact with the team and was pivotal in Rajasthan Royals winning the inaugural IPL title in 2008. Expectations and comparisons were being made, but the Wall was composed as he openly talked about his expectations for the season. He wanted to win and more importantly, he wanted him and his team to perform well and keep getting better as the season progressed.
Sawai Mansingh Stadium, the venue for Rajasthan Royals proved to be a good one with the Royals winning their first three home matches. Ajinkya Rahane had found sublime touch and in the company of Rahul Dravid gave RR decent starts on a consistent basis.
Personally, this piece is more on Dravid. I have never seen him being more vocal and animated on the field. He wanted to lead by example and so he did; be it with the bat or on the field, he was always there. Even when they had a string of defeats he was very clear on accepting where they went wrong instead of looking for excuses. Such a quality in a person is indeed admirable and how can you wish such a guy to lose a game? It was really hard.
Hailing from Bangalore, I do admit having a soft corner for the Royal Challengers team. On the night when Rahane scored a hundred in front of a packed Chinnaswamy stadium, I felt I was supporting Dravid, the local lad than the local team. Trust me, it wasn’t easy but over the past two years working with the league has helped me overcome this fact. Though I am not a passionate fan of RCB anymore, I do like them to win the title someday and this year I had a feeling RR deserved it, more so for Dravid.
The one run loss in Delhi didn’t help the cause and I feel personally that did affect RR mentally. Something went amiss though the team displayed strong character, it was evident somewhere it did affect them. And so after playing 14 matches in the league, it all came down to the last two matches. One at Hyderabad against Deccan Chargers and the other against Mumbai Indians at home in Jaipur.
I was looking forward to the match against the Chargers and in a way thought it would be a walk in the park. Upsets are common in sports and today what was witnessed is just another example as to why living in present is the best approach in sports, no matter how much one plans. Royals lost and so did I for a while. I didn’t want to work on the last match seeing the sad faces of the RR management team. Play-offs were this close and yet the defeat today has made it look so far. They don’t deserve to be placed seventh on the table, but such has been this season that there was very little margin for any errors.
I am not sure if Rahul Dravid will be back next year. It is entirely up to him as he looks forward to his first real break from cricket post-retirement. He might have not won the title this year, but surely he ensured his team would be known as the well behaved team in IPL 5. Few more days to go and then our paths might not cross the way it has been in the last few weeks. But the memory shall be there — of the chats (though very little) we had, those pleasantries exchanged on a regular basis and just the way he went about playing cricket on the field; it was different, yet the flavour remained the same. It was just cooked differently.
The season is over for the RR team and I am not thinking beyond the 72nd match of IPL. That will be the last match for RR and they will be just playing for pride, a win to wrap up a missed opportunity season.
Out of many memories, this one would last for some time. My niece Meghna is three years old and over past one year has taken some interest to cricket. Not bad for a Swiss resident, and this time in Jaipur she finally managed to get herself a cricket bat. A proper GM bat especially designed for young-aged cricketers. With few hours left for her to fly back, I found Dravid quietly having dinner as I entered the restaurant. He was kind enough to sign the bat for the little girl and that bat wasn’t just any bat after that moment.
I am certain my niece had no idea what had just happened, but she will someday if at all she takes up cricket more seriously.
I have had some of the best times in Jaipur this year and fittingly did manage to find some time to know more of the city and got an opportunity to meet people and have an understanding of how they perceived this sport. And one among them was Dravid.
Till next time, Rahul…