I was in my early teens when I got hooked to cricket. My father has been a cricket freak all his life and I somehow never liked him watching cricket all the time. But a gentleman got me fall in love with the game, respect the game, enjoy the game, so much so that today, I watch all formats of the game of cricket like just another cricket frenzy Indian.
That gentleman was none other than Rahul Dravid. In my teens, I don't know if it was his game that grabbed my attention, or was it the gentleman that he was. Well, with a player as classic as Dravid, the list of things that grabbed one's attention may just be too long.
I started watching cricket regularly. Not just that, I remember having three scrap books, all dedicated to 'The Wall', 'Jammy' and 'Mr Dependable' and the man of some of the greatest moments of Team India. And my room looked like a Dravid room with posters of 'The Wall' on the wall. My friends called me 'love struck'. Well, it may have been the case, teenage love, as they may call it. May 4, 2003 was not one of my favourite dates.
I remember the time when 'Desert Rose' by Sting was my favourite song and I came across a Rahul Dravid interview in which he said he loved listening to Sting. I even called up and fortunately got through on a call-in music show, where I dedicated a song to Rahul Dravid. I started off as a crazy fan indeed.
But as I grew up, it wasn't just the gentleman that Dravid is, but his game too, was something that I starting cheering for. My favourite frames of Rahul Dravid's game include his double century against the 'difficult to beat' team Australia in Adelaide in 2003 and his double hundred in Pakistan. The period was the best period of Rahul Dravid's game and how I loved jumping at all those double centuries that came in that period.
And then there also came that 'hard time' in his career. But as strong as the man's mind has always been, he didn't look back and went on to making new records. I remember Rahul Dravid declaring the innings when Sachin Tendulkar was playing at 194 against Pakistan in 2006. Dravid got all sorts of criticism, but he knew he had made the right decision and he stuck to it.
The last series against Australia may not have been Rahul Dravid's perfect farewell innings, but that doesn't take away anything from the splendid career of the player. Today, it's more than just being 'love struck'. I respect the man who played with dignity. I respect the gentleman who never made the game of cricket ugly. I respect the player who gave some of the best innings for Team India. And thanks to this man, I enjoy the game of cricket, and I'm hooked to it! I know you'll always be the greatest cricketer for me as I had a drop of tear in my eye as well as a smile on my face watching you announce retirement.
Today as you retire from the game you have given your life to, I bow down to you and say - If only, I could watch you play all my life. You are and will be the greatest cricketer I have ever known! A class apart indeed!