Tough Times Never Last, tough people do, The Rahul Dravid mould.

Tough Times Never Last, tough people do

- By Vedam Jaishankar

'The child is father of the man', wrote the poet William Wordsworth. The Rahul Dravid mould, likewise, was cast long before he evolved into the rock-solid Wall.

Sujith Somasundar who opened the batting for India in a couple of one-day internationals against South Africa and Australia in 1996, played a lot of cricket at every level with Rahul. He was Rahul's captain in the Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 Karnataka State teams. Rahul and he also made their first class debut in the same match, the Ranji Trophy knock-out tie against Maharashtra at Pune. Sujith, thus, is someone who grew alongside Rahul on the cricketing front.

Sujith vividly recalled the first time he saw Rahul: "I was already a regular trainee in this KSCA Summer Camp when suddenly in the middle of the camp a stylishly dressed boy in sparkling white clothes came to the nets. Even at that young age he had a presence.

Harbhajan Singh

"Actually it was very difficult to get into the KSCA Summer Camp. But here was this boy walking in mid-way through. I wondered, `who the hell is this joining in the middle of the camp.' A little later I saw him pad up and bat. He was very, very stylish in his approach to batting. He made an impression immediately just with his style."

Within a couple of years Sujith stated that he knew Rahul was destined to play big cricket. "Those days he used to be very nervous. He used to have sweaty palms. I believe he was so nervous became he wanted to do really well. He was so unbelievably intense in his approach to the game even in those days."

The Summer Coaching Camp was just the introduction to formal cricket that Rahul needed. In no time he was sucked into the game.

"The KSCA system took over from then on. I just had to play and ensure that I did well," explained Rahul.

His career was given a big leg-up when he was selected into the St Joseph's Boys School Junior (Under-14) team that year. It sharpened his desire to excel and made him totally focused.

"We all played the game, no doubt," said Fazal Khaleel, who has been with Rahul right through, from kindergarten to the Karnataka Ranji Trophy team. They were classmates at St Anthony's Junior School and moved to St Joseph's Boys School together. From there they progressed to St. Joseph's College of Commerce. Along the way they played the various age-groups cricket together. Rahul, though, broke into the Ranji Trophy team six years before Fazal. They continue to remain close friends.

"Rahul was amazingly focused. He sets goals for himself, spoke about it and went about achieving it with a determination that I have never seen. His commitment and involvement were always total, even in the young days. He could not understand how others could be anything but totally committed."

Reflecting on the early days in school cricket, Fazal drew attention to Rahul's passion and intensity for the game. "It was one of the first Cottonian Shield (Bishop Cotton School's Inter-School Under-14 cricket tournament for ICSE Schools of Bangalore) matches we were playing. Because of rains our match was shifted from the junior ground to the main ground. It was a great honour for us. We were allowed to use the main pavilion on the first floor at Bishop Cotton's Grounds and generally we all looked forward to the game.

"We took first strike. The openers had batted for a while before a couple of wickets fell. One of the openers was still batting when Rahul went in to bat at number four. Rahul played a glance to fine leg and took off for what seemed to be an easy single. But the non-striker would have none of it. He simply did not want to run. I remember Rahul had reached the non-striker's crease before being sent back. He hastily tried to return and was just a few inches short of the ground at the striker's end when run out.

"The non-striker's excuse was that he was too tired to run. Rahul burst into tears on the ground itself and kept wailing loudly throughout the day. He was inconsolable. He would be quiet. Suddenly he would remember the incident and wail all over again. And this went on throughout the day. He could not accept the waste of his wicket simply because the other batsman was too tired to run."

Extracted from Rahul Dravid A Biography by Vedam Jaishankar.