I doubt, I know a person who hates you. Over the years, I have met some of your most ardent fans and also people who may not be completely in your awe but still respect you to a great extent. It is hard to believe in a world like this where people are so candid and fearless about their opinions, they have refrained from passing even a slightly negative comment about you. It puts you in a class of your own, something that even the greatest masters of the game have failed to achieve.
You have gone through a tough time in recent months. While the sheer controversial nature of the incident that threw everything in a frenzy is enough to catch even the best of people off guard; I know, it must be completely debilitating for a man of your stature. You have lived your life by ideals that touch pinnacles of perfection, a feat that is impossible for ordinary people like us. To be embroiled in a controversy where you were not at fault must have been terribly shameful for you. I am sure you would like nothing more than to go back in time and stop things before they happened. I am sure you would like to erase every single bad memory of those disgraceful weeks. I am sure you would like to correct the thoughtless deeds of people who you once held near as your own. But you know you can’t. It is a kind of failure that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. No one will blame you, no one ever has. You have only got sympathy from people. But I know, sympathy is not what you want. You want to be at peace with yourself. Pity, peace is something that you have lost long ago in this chaotic world.
The success of your team in the recently concluded Champions League is indeed praiseworthy. Simply, getting back your team together on its feet and fighting back in the only way you know has been an achievement of mammoth proportions. But deep down in your heart, you know, you will continue to chide yourself about how you failed in your own eyes. It was for a brief moment but that one fraction of time was enough for you to finally accept that the world has changed drastically since the last time you took it at it’s face value. It is also a lesson for all of us, a painful one but nevertheless a more important one to assimilate.
I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be a ‘Rahul Dravid’. Just as how difficult it is to be a ‘Sachin Tendulkar’. That man has been a topic of global debate for a long time now. I doubt whether I know any other person who brings out such extreme reactions of love and hate at the same time. If there are millions out there who love Sachin, there are a million more who hate him with the same undisguised intensity. There is no middle ground. Those are his demons, very contrasting from yours. People’s opinions about him are generally clear and distinct, not confusing and random. This makes your demons more powerful and fearsome. You hardly give rise to anything negative around yourself, you are a widely respected person. The lack of balance makes you more susceptible to all the bad that is out there. Living a life with high moral standards such as yours, has made you more vulnerable to the outside world.
I know, a win in the final would have meant a lot to you. It had a purpose – to wipe out all the hurt that was generated in the last few months. I am sure everybody agrees, it was possible only for a man of your character and integrity to push your team to this extent. And in that right, you deserved the win more than Sachin.
Right from the first IPL season, Rajasthan has always been a team that defined sheer dedication and hard-work. Shane Warne did a wonderful job of creating a group of young and inexperienced but talented and dedicated lads. You were his worthy successor. Under your leadership, the team flourished even more so. You gave chances to unknown names and nurtured minds with hidden potential. You believed in people, others long ago gave up on. It was a difficult legacy to uphold but you did a remarkable job with it. To continue this tradition is not going to be an easy task for your successor.
Today’s cricketers are different than you and your peers. Humility and Honesty are not the cornerstones of their existence like yours. Their approach is more practical and straightforward. It is filled with raw passion and aggression. They get what they want in their own ways. But that is okay, cricket has evolved so much since your time that today’s battles begin on a different note.
I am glad though that I have been a witness to your era and it deeply saddens me that my kids won’t. They will know you through books, pictures, and videos as a distant figure but they will never experience you first-hand they way my generation did. I now know, what my parents would have felt when they tried in vain to explain us cricketers of their times. It is a natural process this – everything fades away. New heroes are born. Mighty in their own way, having evolved significantly different than those of yesteryears’. Change is the only constant thing of our life; the only thing that will continue to bind us long after we perish.
I am sure you will find ways to pay your debt back to the game – as a coach or a mentor… But, it still would not be the same. It will be like making a compromise. We have already lost you as a ‘player’ – a form that mesmerized us for nearly two decades. We will now try to deal with it in every way we can. We will re-live all the happy memories over and over again. But, in reality…….in reality, we will mourn this loss much later, long after the wound has healed.
With love, respect & admiration,
A fan-turned devotee