Indiranagar, where the Dravids live, is a decidedly up-market res

Dravid, the Rock of Gibraltar

- By Vedam Jaishankar

Indiranagar, where the Dravids live, is a decidedly up-market residential locality in Bangalore. It was not so in the 1970s and early 80s when the city did not extend beyond Ulsoor in the east. A few kilometers after the Ulsoor residential layout was the HAL Airport (one of Bangalore's Defence airports, doubling up also for civilian flights), reckoned at that time to be outside city limits. Indiranagar, wedged between Ulsoor and the airport was looked upon only as an extension of Ulsoor. However, the excellent quality of the road that connected the city to the airport and passed beside Indiranagar drove a lot of residents and corporates to seek property in the area. Gradually, it became one of the most sought-after addresses in the City.

Thus the Indiranagar of today is a bustling bee-hive of activity. Residential bungalows, multi-storied flats and modern commercial complexes co-exist cheek by jowl. Multinational software firms, glitzy shopping malls, trendy restaurants, happening-pubs, bars, posh clubs and super-specialty hospitals have mushroomed in what was previously an exclusive residential area.

Of course, when Rahul Dravid was in his pre-teens, most of these commercial activities were non-existent. There were very few bungalows or houses and the area was marked by numerous huge vacant spaces. The Dravids themselves lived on the same street as erstwhile Test star EAS Prasanna, arguably one of the greatest off spinners of all time, and Sadanand Vishwanath, undoubtedly one of India's most gifted wicket-keepers.

`Sadanand, in those days lived just two doors away. His younger brother Santosh Bhavani and I virtually grew up together and played a lot of cricket in the vast open spaces that dominated Indiranagar those days,'' Rahul recalled.

Most of the cricket the young boys in the locality played was confined to the tennis ball variety. Matches were staged against teams from other streets. ``Occasionally, we used to play cork ball cricket matches with the winners taking home pencils or small shields or such trophies. There were times when we used to roll out some small, used coir mats on a near flat surface to try and play with cricket ball. Of course there was no pitch as such,'' he recounted with a smile.

Rahul himself was a short, skinny boy and saw cricket as just one more sport. "I loved team games. I was not particularly fascinated by cricket in the initial stages. In fact I used to play a lot of hockey. The important thing though was that I enjoyed being with other young boys and hence looked forward to team sport in any form. Of course a whole lot of kids in the area played cricket rather than anything else and I joined in the fun. The matches against the other teams in the neighbouring streets or locality brought forth a lot of competitiveness."

By today's standards, Rahul could be termed a late starter to formal cricket. These days, parents are keen to push six and seven-year olds into coaching camps. The young boys are forced into formal coaching with ambitious parents transporting them from house to camp, from camp to school and again from school to camp each day. Parents spend an enormous sum of money and time on these kids in the hope that they could vicariously live their lives through them.

For Rahul, though, things were very different. ``I played just for fun those days. I became engrossed in the game a lot later. I had no formal coaching whatsoever till I was 13 years of age.

''My father used to play a bit of recreational badminton with PS Vishwanath (former Karnataka State Ranji Trophy player and a qualified Netaji Institute of Sport coach who went on to become a vice president of KSCA) and casually mentioned that I was keen on cricket. Those days KSCA used to run a summer coaching camp at the stadium for young boys. PS Vishwanath was in charge of the camp. The camp was already well under way when he asked my dad to bring me along.''

It was then, at the age of 12, that Rahul took part in formal 'nets' and received coaching. He had joined the summer camp late that year. But now knew that there was this coaching camp to look forward to the next summer.

'Thus the following summer I enrolled in advance. PS Vishwanath, chief coach, who did the allocation of trainees to the various nets, sent me to Keki Tarapore (another former State player and NIS coach). From then on the KSCA system took over,'' said Rahul.