Down The Memory Lane: Unforgettable net sessions with Rahul Dravid

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PC: twitter

It’s over three weeks since most of us are working from home. You’re bored, tired, irritated and stuck within the four walls of your home. With the constant distraction, it’s horribly difficult to focus.

If you login to social media, there are hundreds of challenges by friends, relatives, acquaintances and everyone possible. From posting photos from the past to solving some puzzles. That’s how the day begins for most of us and also ends! The phone keeps buzzing every minute flooding with messages and interactions like never before. It is very distracting for someone who has plenty on his plate.

Most of them are posting pictures from their last holidays, events, celebrations and every in between that. Looking at those posts, even I could recollect this interesting experience from my past.

In cricket, if you’re a good young bowler – a spinner or a pacer, you may get this unique opportunity to rub shoulders with international stars during conditioning camps or on the eve of an international game. Not the ball boys!

Dating back to November 2005 – an ODI against South Africa in Bengaluru, I had this chance to bowl to the Indian team batsmen during practice. Remember all eyes on everyone during training! If they think you’re good enough, players at times note down your phone number. And this is exactly what happened with a few of us!

Christmas vacation was two weeks away and our classes were almost wrapping-up for the year. I had completed the first half of the day and was too tired to attend the second half. Like usual, I planned to head home.

As I was heading towards our college parking, the mobile phone started ringing. It displayed, “Private Number”. First thought: It could be some customer care or maybe spam.

I picked up and the voice from the other end asked, “Is this Abhishek”. I said, “Yes”.

His response, “This is Rahul Dravid speaking.” For a moment, I was speechless. He continued, “I’m arranging a practice session today at 4 PM. If you are free, could you come and bowl at the nets?”

I was more than ready to go.

It was already quarter to 1 and my cricketing gear was at home. I rushed home, quickly gobbled up lunch and headed straight to M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.

When I landed at the National Cricket Academy, it was half past three and there was nobody around apart from security and officials.

I asked the security guard if Dravid had arrived. He said, “He doesn’t know.”

I felt it was a prank by one of my friends and adding to that another state cricketer turned up asking – What I was doing here. He giggled and said, “Someone pranked you very badly.”

After a few minutes, a heavily tinted black Hyundai SUV appeared from the back gate and it was Dravid’s car.

“Thank god it wasn’t a prank!”

Moments later, another three cricketer friends too turned up. We followed him to the main stadium’s practice pitches – which was being prepared by the marksman for the session.

Dravid just asked us to pick one the semi-new SG Test balls and quickly warm-up.

Our job was just to bowl really well and I felt most of us could generate decent pace on that dry deck. If I can recollect – most of us bowled in and around mid-120s to 130s for sure.

After a gruelling session that ended at sunset, we had not even got an inside/outside edge off his bat forget getting him out. In reality, the best in the business had failed to break his defence and only the best among the best have been successful so far. We were amateurs and the next three days, it was the same old story.

So it was a total of nine hours of a brilliant display of batting that made us toil hard. We tried everything possible in our books but Dravid patiently batted throughout all the sessions without making a single mistake.

On the final day, we asked him about these sessions and why only fast bowlers?

He said, “I’m preparing for the Pakistan tour in January and they have good fast bowlers.”

For us, it was a compliment that he recognized us as good fast bowlers. We were lucky to spend those hours bowling to the legend before that important tour.

In the three Test-match series, Dravid went on to score over 240 runs at an average of 80.33.

Note: The writer is a league cricketer and currently employed with a corporate firm.

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