Sunday night was a manic night for cricket lovers in the country as two of India’s very best played their last Champion’s League match. While for the ‘Master-Blaster’, Sachin Tendulkar, this would be his last in a blue shirt (he will continue to play test series), for ‘the wall’, Rahul Dravid, it was his last ever outing on the 22-yard pitch.
The two of them entered the Champion’s League T20 final with a staggering 91,569 runs between them across three formats -- One Day International (ODI), T20 and test cricket. With a partnership of 6,920 runs and 20 century stands, the combination of the two created a historic partnership in the game, one that is likely to remain untouched for years to come. Not to forget the 331 runs that Dravid and Tendulkar scored, the highest partnership in an ODI.
Besides forming a formidable team together, Dravid and Tendulkar have been rock solid with the rest of the team as well. Fans will remember the spectacular show Dravid and VVS Laxman put on in 2001 at the test match against Australia. What was a horrible score turned around when the duo came out -- Dravid picked up 180 runs while Laxman swept up 281 -- and ultimately clinched a victory.
As for Tendulkar, he was the first cricketer, and one of two, to touch a double century in an ODI; India was playing against South Africa at Gwalior in 2010.
The instances are numerable and their success, both individually and together, transcends numbers. Besides being stalwart players, they have also become inspirations to generations of cricket lovers.
The two sportsmen last played together in Indian colours in a test match at Adelaide in January 2012. While the match ended with a humiliating 4-0 defeat, it was an end to a very illustrious partnership, carved delicately over the span of two decades.
For a team that did well, it was perhaps only natural that the two played two very different games. While Tendulkar was known for his aggressive yet flamboyant and sublime stroke play, Dravid was more traditional, gritty and incredibly classy. If trying to stop Tendulkar from scoring when he was in form was impossible, getting through the defence of Dravid was an insurmountable task. What best described ‘jammy’ Dravid though was the sense of calm he brought to not just his team, but also to the audience whenever he stepped out. Playing at number three for most part of his career, he had rendered a sense of security that no other cricketer was able to.
However, despite many highlights to his career as an individual player, Dravid has ended up on the losing side of his last international match in all three formats. On Sunday night as well, Dravid, the captain of Rajasthan Royals, lost to the Mumbai Indians. He has never won a world cup, a champion’s trophy, an IPL trophy or a Champion’s League T20. But, needless to say, he will go down as one of the greatest legends of Indian cricket.
As for Tendulkar, he will continue to play test cricket, but his move away from limited-overs cricket was worst felt when he was welcomed back into the dug-out by his Mumbai teammates with a guard of honour; a salute by your peers is perhaps the best mark of respect anyone can ask for.
The two classy players now leave the mantle to a younger and more fearsome and formidable India, under the charge of Mahendra Singh Dhoni with players like Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. As these young guns stride the cricket pitch with more confidence and ambition, it does make one wonder if there can ever be a replacement for the elegance and grace provided by the likes of Sachin and Dravid.
Can India produce such cricketers who can not only thrive during the good times but also be there to pick up the pieces during the bad?