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Guest Column: Void in the temple of cricket

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Guest Column: Void in the temple of cricket

Last week, God decided that he was relocating. He will no longer be available on the green turf anymore. He will no longer be giving heartaches to the fastest and the flight masters. Neither will he be allowing bowlers to show pumping adrenalin, after getting him off the greens and back into the pavilion.

It was also a few days ago that another great – The Wall –  decided to call it a day after his last match against the Mumbai Indians at the Kotla grounds.

The Wall and The God
Between them, the duo has more runs than India as a team has made in the first three decades after getting Independence. No small feat.

Seldom has a sport seen two giants of such stature call it a day almost together. So, we have the No. 3 and No. 4 slots staring at us expectantly. No small shoes to fill in for sure. These two slots are the most coveted and are often referred to as the middle order, the backbone of the team.

Both had conflicting playing styles. Sachin Tendulkar, when he started off, was flamboyant and a dare devil. He launched himself with three sixes off the legendary Abdul Qadir in Pakistan in 1989. He loved taking chances and his belief in himself was supreme when he flicked the likes of Glen McGraw. He gave every Indian a feeling of winning a war when he carted Shoiab Akhtar over third man in the 2003 World Cup. However, he was never the same player after this game. He became reserved, more conscious and started taking lesser risks. In other words, less exciting, even if his contributions to the team did not decrease.

Dravid, on the other hand, has been the same elegant, silken, light-footed batsman throughout his two decades in international cricket. His wicket always gave the greatest joy to any bowler. s

Brand Stature: Now and in times to come
If you ask me, Dravid would have more stories, more memories before anything is written on his tombstone. So, I would put my money on Dravid. Simply based on share in India’s victories, dignity on and off the field, never letting the influencer peer group surround him and gag him, and lastly, to stay away from the corporate and political honchos. If one were to quantify one’s achievement, then I would rate the most number of century partnerships as a big one – I am told, is significantly higher than God’s. Another great trait is Dravid’s selflessness that comes into play. He seems to have never chased wealth or fame, but has had respect as the key goals.

Curiosity vs Maturity
Both have operated on the extreme ends of the emotional quadrant.  The greatness of Sachin comes from the child like exuberance, which brings out the inquisitive curiosity in adults. On the other extreme, Dravid with his thinking depth, impeccable oratory and behaviour makes a teenager feel like a man. A man responsible enough to manage and control all. Conflicting identities, but both have a distinct signature of their own.

Lending to brands
Sachin would have evoked life into many brands for reasons well known to all. Few realised along the way that they owed their existence to the Little Master. To give an example, categories such as cement, real estate and inverters have little to do with any of the traits possessed by the maestro, but nevertheless the marriage worked more for the brand than for the endorser.

On the other hand, in Dravid’s case they were few, but the few were very much in the same personality sync. The jam company and the bank. The former was where his father worked and it earned him the nickname ‘Jammy’. Meanwhile, Bank of Baroda, a nationalised bank, was true to his dependability. It is during this time that the Bank came up with the only memorable campaign – ‘Do not be in line. Be Online’. It worked. The point is the relevance of these endorsements, and Dravid has been careful in choosing which brands he is associated with. He has had the guts to say ‘No’ when irrelevant requests came his way.

So who is more precious?
Depends on who is evaluating. If it were for the advertisers, till now it would be the Little Master; if it were for the political system, it would be him again; and if it were for the corporate honcho, then it’s Sachin again. But if it were for the future, there would be more doors opening up for the gentleman from Karnataka.  Listen to his legendary talk on the last ‘Bradman Memorial Lecture’ and you will understand how this man can teach the marketer to look at market in gap, how to define insight to a planner, and how to delight audiences with humour and impeccable delivery. To put it simply, when Sachin talks many hear him; but when Dravid speaks, all listen with rapt attention.

So, whereas Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has his place in the Sun for eternity, it is Rahul Dravid who will always be the underdog, the silent achiever who will always exceed expectations set for him.

History has taught us that the underdog seldom loses. Remember the legendary Hrishikesh Mukerjee film ‘Namak Haram, where Amitabh Bachchan triumphed over a phenomenon called Rajesh Khanna. Few realised it at the heat of the moment, but it was a disruptive moment in the history of Hindi films. We might have just witnessed another momentous one – in cricket this time.

The author is CEO of Melon Media.


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