Once upon a time, there was a cricket crazy girl. She loved all the indian cricketers due to reasons that some called patriotic and some jingoistic . Although she liked all Indian crickets, her favorite was Rahul Dravid. People made fun of her, because he was considered slow, boring, lacking in the flamboyance that was Sachin or Ganguly and sometime Laxman., but she was never swayed and defended him hotly, every time.
The reasons the girl liked him were many, he was a brilliant batsman(He was a natural, whether people believe it or not ), a good fielder, a team player. In addition, he was hard working, when he was dropped from the ODI team, unlike many other players who would have just concentrated on ODI, he evolved, learnt from past mistakes and came back as the mainstay for India in tests and ODIs.
The girl watched cricket in an era when the entire Indian batting would crumble like a card tower in the wind, only one player would stand like a "wall" between India and embarrassing defeats. Was it any wonder the girl idolized the player, a reticent guy named Rahul Sharad Dravid? Wait there is more, an incident that made sure, the girl would grow up and become busy with life, she would never forget and or stop idolizing him.
The girl after a lot of "jugad" managed to get into a practice session for a match during the Pepsi cup in 1999. She was lucky enough to get to stand right outside the dressing room, again with a lot of "jugad". All players from the Indian team, spoke a couple of sentences to the girl, signed her autograph book, clicked photos, etc. So did Dravid.
The practice got over and the team started back towards the bus in a file, police formed a human barrier, clearing a path to the team bus. The girl was lucky enough to be standing inside this path. Dravid came out carrying all his cricket equipment, so much of stuff that he was cradling pads and a bat in his hands. The girl didn't say a thing, she just wanted to shake hands with her idol, so out came her hand and she squeaked "Bye Rahul". Then she cringed, even if he wanted to shake hands with her, he didn't have a hand free to do so! But Rahul Dravid is not described as the nicest guy in cricket for nothing, He walked up to the closest policeman, requested him to hold on to his stuff for a min came back to the girl, shook her hand, wished her goodbye, thanked the policeman, collected his stuff and went on.
The girl has never forgotten him. Never stopped fighting with numerous nay say-ers about his greatness. Today that girl shed a tear(or many), she will never be fortunate enough to watch him play again. Every time India is 5/1, 8/2 or in trouble, she will turn around and thumb her nose at everyone who ever said a negative thing about him and say "Name the cricketer you would wish was walking in now?"
Farewell my real life hero, I was fortunate to follow cricket when you were a part of it. Thank you for the memories and the lessons. You will be missed every time Team India is in trouble.