Passages to public conscience are low resistance for successful sportsmen. What we tend to forget though is that the path to such recognition is chock full with bloody sacrifices. In no-one’s case is this truer than that of Rahul Dravid who recently hung up his battle hardened boots. As he crosses his own finish line, there is a sense of pride that he shares not just with every Indian but with every cricket lover around the world. In a Test career that lasted 16 solid years, he never let us down. Not saying that he never failed, but in his own words he “..left no stone unturned”, and there is no more you can ask of a man. He has, and again in his own eloquence “played cricket for the right reasons” and in the right spirit. He is among the select few who have had the tranquility to look beyond the boundary and appreciate the social context of being an international cricketer, an Indian, an icon.
Dravid is the rarest of rare commodities, yet he is commonplace, and that is why his legacy must be preserved. He has been such a statesman that his sporting excellence, which is unparalleled only seems like a part of a greater whole. A prolific run getter for India, dependable team man, tenacious winner are adjectives you could conceivably associate with a few other Indian cricketers of the era; however there are two qualities that stand him apart, even from the most meritorious bunch:
- attitude towards failure and
- the excruciating normalcy of his conduct
As a young nation, we are collectively growing with a spirit of “it’s now or never”. The phrase often misused in bravado, albeit for acts of recklessness. When you study Dravid you realize that there is another implication – every day when you wake up you contribute to your chosen field, you put a bucket of sweat into it and if asked, speak with honesty, conviction and humility. If you fail you get up dust yourself, learn, and put in some more yards until you overcome. This graceful old fashioned persistence to succeed has rarely failed any, it also arouses such goodwill that if you die today, folks will remember you as a contributor not a rash consumer.
But why shouldn’t it be normal to be that way? Shouldn’t a young man’s core be built around these ideals? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not, too correct perhaps, it can’t be true. Humility as some say is overrated and there have been greater success stories with contrarians at helm. Arrogant and supremely talented, exuding almost supernatural abilities – Mohommad Ali, Michael Jordan, Maradona, Viv Richards are some examples that come to mind.
In a nation that worships its own fantastical heroes, Dravid has been an unlikely deity, going about his business efficiently, not escaping the public eye yet evading all the notorious publicity. It is in hindsight that Dravid’s appeal is magnified, a working man’s hero he stirs up the feeling “If he did it, we can to”. Every day at work, in colleges, schools Dravid’s story gives the average young person a chance to compete with dignity. The question though is, are there any takers? The facebooked life we live, it isn’t fashionable to be normal, and what is normal today is another matter of conjecture. To put Dravid’s personality in context, there have been great sportsmen across eras who have stuck to being proper human beings – Carl Lewis, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Jack Nicklaus, Tendulkar, Messi to name a few.
There is no doubt that Cricket is poorer with Rahul Dravid’s retirement. Everybody suspected it would happen sooner than later. In all his years of playing Test Cricket, one couldn’t blame Dravid of playing a reckless stroke to leave the team in jeopardy. Similarly Dravid even in his last cricketing hour made a responsible call. He played to win and as tough as it might be he’d rather watch India win from the stands than overdraw his cheque at the peril of Indian cricket. Living most of your adult life in the spotlight, no one would even notice, let alone raise a finger if he wished upon himself the grandeur of being carried around the field by teammates in his farewell game. Mind you, he deserved it more than anybody else after carrying the crowning jewels (the Gods, the princes, the yuvrajs) of the middle order on the arch of his back. As quotable quotes keep filling the airwaves one need not look any further than Dravid’s own to find all answers. He has once again set an example for those in his trade and professionals beyond it.
When you begin to reap more than you sow, it is time to go.
A generation that is growing up looking for shortcuts to a good life would do well to appreciate that there is no substitute to putting in the yards and there is no greater reward when you do so. During my education and into the corporate jungle I kept coming across another distasteful phrase “smart work”, which for reasons beyond my powers of reflection never appealed to me. Rahul Dravid has been an antithesis, an embodiment of good preparation and sincere hard work. It is important to also suggest that he wasn’t a laboring ass, he was smart enough to find out what he wanted to work hard at. If that is smart work, well, I suggest we call it something else.
From a commercial point of view though Rahul Dravid has not always been seen as an exciting entity, as he does not validate the belief systems that young people today imbibe. Virat Kohli does. Who are we as marketers to judge? What is right and what is Rohit Sharma is determined by my consumer and educating them is not my responsibility. It is for the government and the film industry to battle it out, i am but a helpless mirror, and i cant lie or change the reality that Bank of Baroda is the only brand willing to put monies behind Dravid.
I’d like to keep this part short:
- Reebok, Cross-fit : Rahul Dravid?
- Raymond, the complete man: Rahul Dravid?
- Tata (pretty much anything): Rahul Dravid?
- Old Spice (i dont know, is he still with Gillette?): Rahul Dravid?
If we as marketers are unable to utilize Dravid as a youth icon to our advantage, it is not paucity of ideas that we must attribute it to but our frivolous biases.
Dravid by no means is a finished book, but certainly the most significant chapter has now come to a close. I consider myself lucky and so must everyone who has grown up following Rahul Dravid’s career that we, if we chose to, had role models to look upto. Not just on the field, but even off it. It’s true about some people – when they speak, each word is worth its weight in gold and Rahul Dravid has been one of the most eloquent speakers Indian cricket has produced. Not just saying but most importantly doing the right thing came naturally to him. It was a peaceful, humbling experience listen to him react to the mundane and the provocative with equal measure of discreet and insight. And we can be assured that he would, with the same deliberation choose how he must contribute next, we can also be guaranteed that he will not leave a stone unturned.
Thank you Rahul Dravid, you are and will always be the perfect youth icon.