My obsession with Rahul Dravid began somewhere in the mid 1990s when this young cricketer was busy scoring 94 on his test debut at the mecca of cricket. Ever since I have started understanding the gentleman’s game, the magical forward defense has been tattooed in my mind…..This was an unprecedented feeling for a teenager who had never admired an actor, a sportsperson or for that matter any known celebrity. The glitz and glamour of stardom never fascinated me. NO wonder; I instantly fell in love with the unsung hero of Indian cricket. Someone who has always been remembered as the cricketer on the other side of Sachin, Ganguly, Lakshman.
I have had the honour and privilege of knowing my hero with and without his superhero mask on. It’s been such a magnificent journey from idealising him from afar and scrapping about him to standing at a bar counter discusshing “the business of sports” with him as if he was just another guy I met at the bar.
On his birthday, I can’t help myself but to embark on a journey of reminiscing my encounter with “The Wall”!
Where it all started
The first time I met Rahul, was 17 years back. He was coming to Jodhpur and I was determined to see him play come what may. I practically threw a tantrum, which was very unlike me, and somehow convinced my parents to let me go with a family friend’s son to see him. (shout out to Ronny Bhaiya )
Back then, I had these scrapbooks which housed practically every newspaper and magazine article written about him. And obviously, the Dravid fanatic I was, I had lugged them with me to Jodhpur. Mr dependable scored a classic 50 that day and saved the game. I was ecstatic..Couldn’t be happier…( But there was sooo much in store for me that day)
All stars seem to have aligned that day. Post the match, along with A thousand others,I waited in the hotel lobby where the crickets were staying to get a closer glimpse of Rahul. While we waited, a hotel employee started looking through my scrapbook. Moved by my passion and obsession for Rahul DRavid, the hotel management decided to give me the opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to meet the man himself.
Filled with jubilation, excitement and a lot of nervous energy, I was escorted to his room. We knocked, the door opened and like one of those Yash Chopra movie scenes, I had magically developed focus vision. At the far end of the room, I saw him sitting on a desk reading a book. And all I could see was him, everything around him became Blur. Such a blur, that only post leaving, I realised the person who open the door was Javagal Srinath. And with My eyes fixated on rahul, I had walked past srinath, practically brushing my shoulder against Srinath, with absolutely no realization who he was. The only realisation in my brain was that Rahul dravid was at arm’s length. That day a demure 7th grader, not only saw her Hero play but saw the man underneath that superhero mask who enquired about her academic, sports and coming handball nationals.
The Coke Side of Life
During my Coca Cola stint, I was working on a project on Limca Book of Records. And guess what, that same year ‘The Man of The Year’ for Limca Book of Records was no other than Rahul Dravid…(and no. . I had no hand in this.) This time not only did I get to see him, talk to him but also had the privilege of interacting with him on a professional front.
Getting used to it
I had completely immersed myself in sports marketing during my tenure at ESPN Star Sports. I worked on ICC World Cup, Champions League and cricketing properties. Many a times I found myself breathing the same air ideal. Going to his matches became a constant feature. Getting a photo app at events had become customary.
The best birthday ever
Nothing till date has been able to top my 22nd birthday! Thank you Gautam bhimani for making this dream come true. I got to hear my heros voice on my very own phone. This was followed by a personally signed biography by the man himself. Till today Gautam along with many other of my friends wish me on 11th Jan (Rahul’s birthdate) rather than 16th Jan ( my birthday).
Catch me if you can
I would like to believe that I mapped my career path to follow Rahul dravid. But it was a mere coincidence. Someone up there had planned it for me. I followed him everywhere he went-Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals.. I even moved to Bangalore- his home turf. In my career, I have had the privilege to work with various sports personalities and Bollywood actors , but somehow ,,,every time I have worked with Rahul I have been tongue tied. I still stumble and mix my words every time.
With every interaction, my respect for the true gentleman of Indian cricket has just increased. His every action, his every word remains imprinted in my mind. He continues to be an underlying inspiration in my life. Multiple years, multiple interactions in multiple capacities but my heart still skips a beat just at the sight of this epitome of poise.