Resumption of Play

Rahul Dravid and Gautum Gambhir are in the tunnel, waiting for the resumption after Lunch, Day 4, Boxing Day Test.  They’re early and await the umpires to emerge from another tunnel further along the boundary.

 

India is 1/24, chasing 292 for victory.  Opener, Gambhir is on 6 runs; Dravid, 5.

 

Both men are encircled in that bubble of vulnerability, loneliness and potential all batsmen experience.  Dravid is intense, restless.  He whispers encouragement to his partner.  Gambhir has his helmet pulled low.  There is intent in his eyes, however, they’re also haunted.  He hasn’t scored a century in almost two years and has battled injury and illness.  Gambhir practises backfoot defence.  Dravid watches, comments, copies.

 

They hear a voice from behind – the umpires aren’t ready.  Their shoulders relax and they lean against the tunnel walls.   This is when I take the photo.  Dravid’s on the left.  I feel a sense of guilt from intruding on their private moment.  Around me are blonde children in Australian limited-over shirts and good looking, well-groomed Indians.  In designer clothes and sunglasses, they could be Bollywood stars.  The young women ogle and fantasise, while the males also take photos.  Used to the clamour, the batsmen ignore the attention.

 

Dravid is a servant to cricket.  Obsessive.  Absorbed.  Imagine him as a child: radio under the bed covers, listening to the commentary.  Or his mother calling him inside after dark as he practises the cover drive over and over.  Back, forward, foot to the pitch of the ball.  Elbow up.  Hit through the ball.  Again.  Born in Indore and educated at a Catholic boys’ school, he would have been afforded every chance to pursue his cricket dream, while undoubtedly driving teachers and classmates crazy with incessant statistics and opinion.  He and likeminded souls would have gravitated towards each other.

 

Dravid debuted at Lord’s in 1996 in umpire Dickie Bird’s final Test.  One cricket tragic replaced  another.  He scored 95, while Sourav Ganguly, also playing his maiden Test, scored a century.  Soon he was bestowed the title ‘The Wall’, for the high price he placed on his wicket.  Boxing Day was Dravid’s 161st Test, and his 13,000 plus runs rank him second only to Sachin Tendulkar.  The two have scored more runs in partnership than any other batsmen.  Dravid turns 39 in January and is Test cricket’s oldest player.

 

He recently delivered the annual Sir Donald Bradman Oration at the War Memorial in Canberra and spoke of the honour in following previous presenters, Ricky Ponting, Richie Benaud and Greg Chappell.  In speaking of the current issues facing international cricket, for example, the accommodating of all three forms of the game, Dravid reminded the audience of Sir Donald’s mantra of leaving the game better than you found it.  You sense he has these words on his mind whenever he takes the field.

 

As if he dare not drop his guard for long for fear of his defences being breached, Dravid snaps out of his relaxed mood and pushes off the wall.  He is suddenly impatient; nervous; feeling the weight of responsibility.  He holds his hands out wide as if asking Where are those umpires? His shoulders tense, he grips the bat handle tightly and rehearses his stance.  Tap, tap, tap on his front toe.  Like every edgy backyard, beach, village green, dusty park and stadium batsman before and after him.

 

Gambhir stares towards the bright vastness of the MCG, perhaps wondering what it holds for him today.  He’s played a quarter of the Tests his teammate has and continued scratchy form will see a cricket mad nation and its media close in on him.

 

Only a few minutes have passed yet Dravid can’t bear the torture any longer.  In frustration, he shakes his head and summons his partner out into the light.  He stops at the boundary rope and sees the umpires finally emerge with the Australians.  You can see his mind spinning. They’re late!  They’re late!  Imagine his locker: hospital clean with a special place for each piece of lovingly maintained equipment.  This is a man who irons his underwear.

 

Dravid waits for the umpires to cross the rope – he knows his place in cricket hierarchy and protocol.  He lowers into his stance again.  Tight grip.  Tap, tap, tap.  He breathes deeply, closing his eyes momentarily.

 

He says something to Gambhir, and strides purposefully to the wicket.

 

Gambhir squats three times, plays two forward pushes and follows.

 

The Swami Army explode in saffron, white and green jubilation.

 

In the second over after the resumption, Gambhir swats at a wide ball from Siddle.  The Australians celebrate and he trudges off into uncertainty.

 

For now, few notice as attention is trained on the Little Master, who emerges to resume his partnership with The Wall.

 

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Great work Mr Starkie.

    Dravid is a thoughtful cricketer. It’s no surprise he speaks well.

  2. Excellent !!

    I almost choked on my Wheaties this morning when I read a piece in
    the Australian which said there were now holes appearing in the Wall.
    Interesting, considering Dravid scratched out 68 despite the fact he was
    struggling a little in the first dig.

    It is worth noting that Dravid has scored 4 or 5 test centuries this year.
    Cracks in the wall? A little early for my liking.

  3. John Butler says:

    Smokie, before we get too excited with the predictions of Indian demise we should probably wait for Sydney.

    India has made an art form of starting tours badly.

  4. …and an art form of racking up huge scores there also.

    Didn’t Brett Lee go for 200+ in an innings?

  5. Nice work, Andrew…

  6. Beautiful piece. Thanks.
    Do you think the umpires were conspiring with the Australians to put the Indians on edge?

  7. Pamela Sherpa says:

    What a fascinating magic moment Andrew. Very good pic. It must be nerve wracking waiting to come in to bat.

  8. Nice work Andrew – really enjoyed the read. I admire Dravid but I must confess I find him a boring cricketer to watch. A cricket version of Saints footy. However he has something that some Australian batsmen would do well to replicate – he puts a high price on his wicket.

  9. Great pic. Could never have happened when Gangles was in charge…they loved niggling the aussies by being a bit late for everything. It was a deliberate and very funny ploy and, if you’ve travelled the sub-continent, appropriately Indian.

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