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Rahul Dravid’s Exceptionalism

13 March 2012

6:09 PM

13 March 2012

6:09 PM

I wrote about the great man here, but cricket-minded readers should also scamper to Cricinfo to read Ed Smith’s reflection on his former Kent team-mate. This is the telling passage:

In the q&a that followed his speech [at a charity dinner], one answer got close to the core of his personality. What motivated him still, after all these years and so many runs? Dravid said that as a schoolboy, he remembered many kids who had at least as much desire to play professional cricket as he did – they attended every camp and net session, no matter what the cost or the difficulty of getting there. But you could tell – from just one ball bowled or one shot played – that they simply didn’t have the talent to make it. He knew he was different. "I was given a talent to play cricket," Dravid explained. "I don’t know why I was given it. But I was. I owe it to all those who wish it had been them to give of my best, every day."

What a brilliant inversion of the usual myth told by professional sportsmen: that they had unexceptional talent and made it to the top only because they worked harder. Dravid spoke the truth. Yes, he worked hard. But the hard work was driven by the desire to give full expression to a God-given talent.

Emphasis added. Smith could have gone further: this isn’t just the "inversion of the usual myth told by professional sportsmen", it is, more importantly, unusually modest and even selfless. It is an anecdote recognising both the impassable boundary between fans and players and the fact that many, perhaps most, fans are would-be players cheated of their destiny by the universe’s regrettable misallocation of talent.

Few days are as poignant as that upon which a boy realises that he’s never going to play cricket or rugby or football at the level his dreams deem appropriate.

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