*A friend forwarded this blogpost to someone he knew at Rediff, and they mailed in asking if I would write for the sports section. I was incredulous, because they had the one and only Prem Panicker. I did scribble a couple of cricket pieces but became their F1 columnist.. and one thing, as they say, led to another.
The Mediocrity Of Being Out Of Range
Some people are just not destined for greatness.
There is a tremendous unbridgeable difference between the very good and the great. The Good, gripping all their vast reserves of natural talent and indomitable spirit, push forward, either impetuously or stoically, and grind on, doing absolutely everything it is humanly possible to do. Theirs is a quest it is hard to raise a finger toward, and nearly impossible to demand higher stakes from. They give their all, and we appreciate and applaud.
The Great, on the other hand, sometimes do not even cover all the above ground so comprehensively. Or, at least, visibly. What they bring to our everyday existences is sublime magic and jaw-slacking awe. And the realization that these are the people who live beyond the confines of normality, these are the supermen, albeit uncaped. And, as we understand this, we demand more. And more. And more. Relentless, unceasing. Nothing is ever good enough. At this, The Great smile, throw their heads back, and continue, stretching towards an ultimate perfection.
No matter what the achievement, The Great will be dissatisfied, incomplete. This is what spurs them on. Inevitably, they fail. And this final, unreal failure is what pulls the mantle of true excellence tighter, more permanently, around their shoulders. Lesser men would pale at the thought of living with it; greatness is not for us all.
Thankfully, a certain Mr. Dravid will never have to worry about this. He will forever remain entrenched in being very very Good indeed. As said, there is no doubting his talent, the man is a masterful technician. As cameras zoom in on his helmeted head and the sweat drips down by the gallon, even as he hits it through the covers for four, we are reminded of how hard he works. And how important he is to us, how valuable.
Today, India made history. We beat Pakistan by an innings, and more. In Pakistan. This is the stuff of absolute folklore. Rahul Dravid happened to be captain. What will he be remembered for? His stellar contribution of six runs in the Indian innings? His magnificence in building a fabulous, new-look, young Indian side? No. He will be remembered for carving a new chapter in ridiculous personal insecurity, the ingrate.
We all know what happened: Tendulkar 194*. The declaration was apparently made in favour of giving us the best possible chances for a win. Sachin turned to the pavilion, and was visibly stunned. After having played the cautious foil to a superb innings, he had just begun to cut loose, to treat the world to an exhibition of inimitable batting. He seemed uncharacteristically pained by the decision, and this was not because he missed out on a double ton: it was because he felt let down. Et Tu, Rahul?
It is also bad captaincy. Ponting, Haq, Waugh, Miandad, Dev – a prolific list of captains felt outraged. For a second, forget that we are talking about Sachin. If one of your main batsmen had a particularly disastrous 2003, and is working himself back to form, with an undismissed rampage of runs against the world’s most feared bowlers, you let him take his second double ton on the trot, dammit. By the way, I’m curious: how many Indian batsmen have scored successive 200s, Rahul? [“The team is bigger than the individual,” was constantly parroted around on the day. “In this case”, said Dean Jones, “It’s hardly an accurate description.”]
Sachin, of course, is totally unfazed. The Great hardly ever need to even bounce back. It was heartbreaking to see him at the press conference that evening, looking visibly stirred, disappointed, surprised. He will go on, unabated, scoring his runs. O’Four, a year which is yet to see him dismissed, looks like it might be another of the unforgettable ones. His innings has been martyred into legend, like Gavaskar’s last innings 96, and is all the more memorable just because he was denied the last six runs.
Called to the dias, the winning captain today seemed to forget his was an extremely temporary, stand-in role. Kapil wrote about how the win should be dedicated to what he referred to as Sachin’s supreme sacrifice. Hah. The injured original leader stood, his black t-shirt visibly distancing him from the boys in their whites, his boys, and looked on as Rahul collected the accolades, and did not even credit Saurav. His is an arrogant, egoist heart, and it must have bled. Rahul might have to face consequences when the Prince returns. He deserves it, and I daresay it might provoke many a grin.
What really gets me is that I have always liked Dravid. He’s a good batsman, but that’s that: consistency redeems the lack of strokeplay, the sheer ordinariness of his shots salvaged by the man’s gritty doggedness. This match showed us who he was, as opposed to what he can do, and it was a disappointing awakening. Respect flew out of the window. Mediocrity of being an also-ran is going to hound this man forever. Greatness is something he can only dream of, and I would advise him not to.
The man has collected several epithets in his time – The Wall, Jammy, Mr. Dependable, and even, very recently, God. Let me do the deed and add the definitive:
Rahul Dravid, twat.
Blogged on April 1, 2004.