Off The Cuff
Harmony - Celebrate Age|March 2018

THIS GENTLEMAN’S GAME: A great cricketer and greater human being, Rahul Dravid could well be the last of a rare breed.

Raju Mukherji

I first met Rahul Dravid in Mumbai in 2005-06 at the inaugural edition of BCCI’s interstate T20 tournament, named after the memory of one of India’s master batsmen, Syed Mushtaq Ali. The match was at Wankhede Stadium and one of the teams happened to be Karnataka.

The day before the match at the pre-match meeting, where the teams meet the umpires and match referee, Karnataka was represented by their new captain Yere Gowda, as original captain Dravid was not certain to play. At the time he was leading India and the national team had just returned from a foreign tour. So, Karnataka manager Sudhakar Rao informed us that Dravid may not be able to arrive on time for the match.

Next morning before the toss, while the umpires and I, as match referee, were inspecting the pitch, we saw Dravid walking towards the pitch. As he came near, he exchanged pleasantries and was about to step on the pitch itself. I quickly blurted out, “Are you leading the team in this match?” He shook his head and said, “No.” I smiled and added, “Probably you have forgotten that as a playing member, you are not supposed to walk on the pitch. Only the captain has the prerogative.” Instantly he stopped and said, “I am sorry. Thanks for reminding me.” I replied, “Cannot blame you, Rahul. As the India captain you have got used to walking on the pitch before the match. Anyway, no harm done. Thanks.”

Suddenly the huge frame of Venkatesh Prasad appeared. He thought I was having a confrontation with Dravid. He raised his voice at me: “Do you realise you are arguing with the India captain?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the Indian captain cut him short, “Ref is correct. As an ordinary player I am not allowed on the pitch.”

This is the real Rahul Dravid. A man of courage and character. Courageous enough to accept that he was about to make a mistake. He had no qualms in saying so in front of the curator, umpires and others who were near us. And he revealed exemplary character to silence his colleague for being wrong.

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