Rahul Dravid with the winners of a promotional contest at a city hotel on Thursday, on the eve of Rajasthan Royals’s match against KKR. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh
Every time Rahul Dravid steps into the Eden Gardens, he stops for a moment and looks at the huge photograph of him and V.V.S. Laxman walking out after that historic 376-run partnership against Australia in 2001, hung atop the Dr BC Roy Clubhouse entrance.
“Eden will always be special to me. I got my first first-class hundred here, got a hundred in each innings here apart from the 180 in the Australia Test. I have some of my fondest memories on this ground. I have scored more runs here than at Chinnaswamy (his home ground) in Bangalore. I always enjoy the passion and support of the fans here,” he tells Metro on Thursday, on the sidelines of a promotional event for the sports-inspired lifestyle brand Maxxport that he endorses.
He will not be upset if the same Eden cheers at the fall of his wicket on Friday when his team Rajasthan Royals (RR) faces Kolkata Knight Riders. “People celebrate for their teams. I think one should respect that.”
So sporting is he about it that when Aditya Bajaj, one of the three winners of a contest organised by Maxxport in Calcutta, declares that he is supporting RR, Dravid persuades him to switch loyalties. “You should not say that,” he tells the 12-year-old. “You are from Calcutta. You should support KKR and then Rajasthan Royals.”
He is not surprised on being told that Eden made merry when Sachin Tendulkar got out here on his 40th birthday. Rather, he breaks out in laughter on being reminded how through his Test career, he had to suffer celebrations in stadiums across the country on getting out as that made Tendulkar go out to bat. “I was actually happy at that. Even if I scored zero I always left the ground to a roar of applause. It was a good situation to be in,” he grins.
The Bangalore boy, now captaining the Rajasthan team, says he was privileged to get “a great response” when he walked out for the toss in his hometown.
“But when I got out they celebrated for their team. I accept the fact that the fans wanted Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to win.”
Dravid is unhappy at the treatment meted out to RCB captain Virat Kohli when he was playing in Mumbai.
“What happened with Virat was unfortunate. While you want to see the crowd root for their own players, there is no place for abuse on the cricket field, be it for Indian or for foreign players. You should support your home team, but you should know where to draw the line,” he says.
Good enough to guess why his team never falls below the top two ranks in the Fair Play rankings. But he insists that he has set his sights elsewhere in IPL-6. “Oh, please! We won the Fair Play trophy last year. Let us win some other award this time,” he says.
The Wall, known for his Test savvy, feels that today’s players need to adapt themselves to all three formats of the game. He himself has, scoring at a brisker pace than ever in his career.
“My first coach Keki Tarapore passed away well before T20 was thought of. I think he would have been turning in his grave if he had seen all this. He was a traditional coach and believed in playing the ball along the ground. But I am grateful to him for having taught me the basics. That is allowing me to play all formats,” he says.
And then Jammy is getting old. He admits that advancing years are taking a toll, though not on his on-field performance. “At 40, idhar udhar bhagna is a bit of a challenge. I am lucky I am not the sort to enjoy partying or going out,” he says.
His family — wife Vijeta, sons Samit and Anvay — is with him on this Calcutta trip. “They are waiting,” he says, getting up. The father of two is Mr Dependable at home as well.