IPL fever has gripped the nation again and I’m enjoying every second of the action that is unfolding in the 2nd edition. Yes, the move from India to SA was unfortunate (I was planning to go to a couple of matches here in Bangalore), however, the even contest between bat and ball that we are witnessing in SA has more than made up for the disappointment of not getting to watch the action from the stands.
Cricket, they say, is a gentleman’s game. Hard to believe when you see brats such as Harbhajan Singh, Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, and Shahid Afridi playing the game at the highest level. Mercifully, we also have some international players who are on the other side of the spectrum. Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Hussey, VVS Laxman, and Daniel Vettori. Players who know how to compete and play hard without being overbearing, in-your-face and boorish. Players who know how to handle the fame and adulation, players who conduct themselves with dignity, both on and off the field. And the player who sits at the top of this pile is Rahul Dravid. If I were to edit the Oxford Dictionary, I would write Rahul Dravid against the word Gentleman. His demeanour, body language, choice of words, even the shots he plays exude class and sophistication. The silken drives through cover, the delicate glides through third man, the wristy flicks through midwicket are a treat to the eyes. It seems as though the ball is being persuaded to go to the boundary rather than being smashed; as though the ball decides to go on its own accord, paying respect to the quality of the strokes being played.
However, in this year’s IPL we have seen a completely different side of him. Don’t get me wrong, he is still as much a gentleman as he has ever been; I’m referring to a range of strokes we didn’t know existed in his repertoire. The ferocious upper cut over backward point, the slice over covers, the shove (for lack of a better word, as it can’t be called a push) over extra cover, the ugly hoick over midwicket. It is difficult to believe that this is the same Dravid we have watched and loved for close to 15 years. If this were the year 1886, I would have claimed that RL Stevenson wrote ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ after watching Dravid in the IPL. He has been a real brute in this tournament with a strike rate of over 130.
The move to SA has been good for players like Dravid. He himself said in a post match interaction with the media that the seaming and bouncy wickets have given batsmen like him a chance to do well. Unlike the subcontinent, a batsman can’t just get his front leg out of the way and hit through the line. One has to possess a very good technique to do well here. Dravid possesses it and has prospered. As the light fades and the floodlights illuminate the ground, the Gentleman metamorphoses into a Brute and smashes the ball to all parts of the ground. What the heck, we love the Brute as much as we have loved the Gentleman.