In his return to the national team in the coach avatar, the adulation of him seems to have only magnified.
As the morning nip gave way to midday sun, the stadium slipped into a siesta. The tired policemen stumbled onto their chairs, the groundsmen sprawled onto the grass beside the fence, and scattered officials broke for lunch. Outside the stadium, the ceaseless procession of traffic faded out. Then, as if woken by a sudden alarm, they scrambled onto their feet, gave up what they were doing, and rushed to the nearest vantage point.
That was just the time Rahul Dravid walked out onto the ground for India’s practice session, and everybody wanted to have an eyeful of Dravid. Flicking out their smartphone, they photographed him in a mad tizzy. Some craned their neck and body to manufacture an ambitious selfie, all the while chorusing “Dravid, Dravid…” so loud that their echoes filled the stadium.
In his return to the national team in the coach avatar, the adulation of him seems to have only magnified. For the next half an hour or so, they seldom took their eyes off him. An urgency marking his brisk strides, he sprinted to the practice turf, pressed the surface with his shoes, and proceeded to the batting end and shadow-batted a forward defensive, as though he could read the mind of the assembled audience.
He repeated the same routine in each of the three nets, before rushing to the centre square, where the pitch to be used for the game was neatly wrapped in green tarpaulin. Carefully, the groundsmen unwrapped the pitch. Dravid crouched for a closer glance or two and then quickly returned to the batting nets, where again he was greeted vociferously by the rapturous gathering. Even the grisly middle-aged policemen with twirly moustaches had turned fan-boys.
Some time later, their fervent wish seemed answered. Dravid picked up the bat and put on a pair of gloves. Only that he was not going to bat in the conventional sense, but give the slips-men catching practice. Even then he struggled to locate the edge, some internalised habits never die, and the intended edges flew more like late-cuts, too fast for some of them.
He found a solution to produce more genuine edges. He asked the thrower to bowl wider and he moved a yard away from his original perch. The intention being playing as much as away from the body. Again, he would be drawn to play the ball as close to the body as possible. Old habits, as they say, die hard. Or in his case not die at all.
Slips session over, he relocated his perch to the business end, the main nets, closer to the fanboys, whose smartphone cameras again flickered in a mad tizzy. He stood like a rock—well, a wall—monkishly observing the players, his hands on hips and occasionally walking up to them for, seemingly, an input or perhaps a casual observation.
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