Rahul at School

- By Vedam Jaishankar

Rahul's schooling was at St Anthony's till the third standard and from then on at the St Joseph's Boys School. Now St. Joseph's is a big name for education in Bangalore. Some of the finest products in various fields are Josephites. The St Joseph's Boys School and the St Joseph's Indian High School, both run by the Jesuits Society, have an impeccable reputation. The St .Joseph's College of Commerce (SJCC) and the St. Joseph's College of Arts and Science (now merged as one into St Joseph's College) are the premium educational institutions.

St Joseph's Boys School (SJBS), where Rahul studied, is situated on Museum Road. It shares a small ground on campus with St Joseph's Arts and Science College (SJA&Sc). Of course both institutions have their own grounds elsewhere, SJBS at Mahatma Gandhi Road (a short distance away from Museum Road) and (SJA&Sc) at the nearby St Joseph's Hostel (which it shares with SJCC) on Richmond Road.

Sabeer Bhatia, founder of Hotmail and the late Mark Mascarenhas of WorldTel were both products of SJBS. Sadanand Vishwanath too did his schooling till the 9th standard in SJBS. Thus when Rahul joined, he was simply walking in the footsteps of many an illustrious product of this outstanding institution.

"I played for both the juniors and seniors team at SJBS. But funnily cricket was not a major sport in school then. The inter-school cricket competition for ICSE schools was conducted by our rivals Bishop Cotton School. So we were not too bothered about it. Our school hosted the inter-school hockey tournament. Thus hockey was a very big sport for us. Winning at hockey was everything," Rahul pointed out.

Luckily for Indian cricket though, the ICSE schools had a very structured format for sports. Unlike the majority of the schools which followed the SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) pattern and thus had their academic year from June to May, the ICSE schools had the calendar year as the academic year (they too have since fallen into the June-to-May pattern).

The ICSE schools were just a handful in number, but this allowed them to plan and coordinate their curriculum better.

Thus there were definite seasons for football, hockey and cricket. The cricket season came after the football and hockey seasons. This was fortuitous for it allowed Rahul to also play cricket.

"I played four years of hockey for the school as centre half and later right half. We practiced very hard as we wanted to win our own championship. We had a very good team. I played alongside Sandeep Somesh and Anil Aldrin (who represented India in two Olympics). I really the enjoyed the concept of team sports and hockey was right up my alley," recalled Dravid.

It was around this time that cricket in SJBS got a shot in the arm with the presence of Fr. Freddy Menezes, sports secretary and Fr.Dennis Coelho, the principal. Fr Coelho had earlier served a stint as principal at St Joseph's Indian High School where cricket was a major sport. Test cricketers Syed Kirmani, Roger Binny, Raghuram Bhat, Sadanand Vishwanath, scores of State players including Jeshwanth, Abhiram and a whole lot of other cricketers had been educated in that school and Fr. Coelho thus was exposed to the game 's demands and popularity.

"Fr. Freddy was big on cricket. He was enthusiastically backed by Fr Coelho. They insisted that we could win the Cottonian Shield too. They decided that we would give it our best shot. This resulted in serious nets in cricket even during the hockey season," revealed Rahul.

Former Ranji Trophy player Najam Hussain was roped in as the coach. "He coached us for two years followed by one year by Keki Tarapore. Suddenly, for me everything cricket was falling into place. The summer camp (mid-March to May end) at KSCA was followed by daily evening nets at the school grounds from the start of the academic year in June. The school nets were different from the KSCA camp, for I now had the opportunity of playing with boys of my age. I started to really enjoy myself. Further, I was making a lot of runs in the Cottonian Shield and this further pepped me up."

By the time Rahul moved to the tenth standard, Tarapore had taken over as coach of SJBS. He was a former student himself and had had plenty of experience coaching youngsters. He coached SJIHS for the BT Ramiah Shield (for SSLC and HSC schools) and SJBS for the Cottonian Shield.

Tarapore was also closely associated with Bangalore United Cricket Club, one of the premier league teams of Karnataka. Tarapore used to be a sort of talent scout for BUCC and over the years he had roped in a number of talented youngsters to the team. Kirmani, Binny, Sadanand Vishwanath, Raghuram Bhat, Abhiram, Carlton Saldanha , et al were some of the players he had roped in for the club. The president of the club was Dr Captain K. Thimmappaih who was also the president of KSCA. Thimmappaih had the distinction of scoring the maiden first class century for the state. He was vastly experienced as player, manager and administrator. He knew a good player when he saw one and was never shy of backing talent.

Tarapore, on whom Thimmapaih depended for recruiting youngsters to his club, recognizing the talent in Rahul, asked him to join BUCC.

"He told me that I could come to nets whenever possible. Now this was great stuff for me. The club practiced at KSCA in the morning and the school had its nets at the Webbs ground in the evening.

"Of course it was very tough for me. I lived in Indiranagar and from there went to KSCA in the morning for nets. Immediately after nets I used to rush to school (a couple of kilometers away). School, those days started at 8.30 a.m. In the evening, after school, I had to rush to the Webbs ground (a couple of kilometers from the school) to be in time for the school nets. My parents were both working and it was very tough on them to get me ready in time each morning, pack my breakfast, lunch and tea. They could not drop or pick me up and so it really meant ceaseless rushing from one place to another," revealed Rahul.

Tough as those early days were, it also drilled a sort of regimentation and discipline in Rahul's schooling years. Of course, being an excellent student he had to devote attention on studies too.

"I was not very strong or big those days and this constant rushing about from one place to another for cricket nets and matches used to leave me exhausted. I think the fact that I found it enjoyable to be in a team sport kept me going. I was also getting a lot of runs and this goaded me into trying all the harder," said Rahul.

It was during his formative years and in school cricket that a challenge cropped up that would rear its head again and again right through his career: To wicket-keep or not to wicket-keep.

Extracted from Rahul Dravid - a biography by Vedam Jaishankar.