Good bye Rahul, says Dilip Tirkey

In 1995, a lanky young man, stick in hand, made his first foray on the international scene. A year later, another youngster, wielding the willow, did the same.

In a national sport and a national obsession, Dilip Tirkey and Rahul Dravid have had uncannily similar career graphs --- to the extent of earning the same sobriquet, 'The Wall'. While the former has retired from active play and graduated to becoming a national selector, the latter is on the verge of calling time on a career that, till six months back, was the ideal how-to-guide on a long haul in professional sport.

Tirkey, who has had only two brief interactions with Dravid in his 15-year-long career, and Dravid: two men who let their deeds on field speak for them, without courting controversy. "It's easy to pull down a player when he's not doing well, but scores whether in cricket or hockey are subjective. The problem is that for a player like Dravid, the bench has been set so high that anything below that seems a failure, even though it may still be miles ahead of anyone else," Tirkey says.

He may well have been talking about himself. For almost 12 years, Dilip hardly missed a match due to injury or poor fitness; for 15 years now, Dravid has never been accused of taking it easy on the fitness front. All his life, Tirkey remained the go-to man of Indian hockey, entrusted with the job of staying behind and guarding the defence even as others went on to score goals and become stars. For all his life, Dravid has been the silent worker, the vital cog in the Indian cricket wheel that held the team from collapsing even as others, brash and belligerent, bypassed him to instant stardom. Till he played, Dilip used to be the first to turn up for training and last to leave the field, sweat dripping all over. Even now, Dravid happens to be the first to turn up for nets and continues shadow batting long after others have quit. All his life, Dilip had to struggle with the larger-than-life persona of Dhanraj Pillay for recognition, and never cribbed; all his life Dravid has remained in the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar, and never repented his role.

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