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Friday, December 16, 2011

Sir Donald Bradman Oration by Rahul Dravid

‘The Nice Guy who finished First’ is one of his books -  this man had a rather disappointing start to his career after his debut in ODI against Sri Lanka in Singer Cup in Singapore after WC 1996 – he was promptly dropped.  In 1996 in the tour to England in the Second Test at Lords,  when Sanjay Manjrekar was injured, he got an opportunity alongwith Sourav Ganguly.  Ganguly made a century and he made 95.  Today he has more than 13000 test runs and 10889 ODI runs with 36/12 centuries respectively.
That is Rahul Sharad Dravid, nicknamed ‘the Wall’ for his impregnable defence.  He led the Indian Team between 2005 and 2007 and was Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2000.  He has taken most no. of catches in Test cricket. 
Now he joined an elite list consisting of   Richie Benaud, Greg Chappel, Ricky Ponting (amongst Cricketers) and then some other notable personalities.    It is touted as an  event which honours the career, contribution and memory of the world's greatest-ever cricketer - the Sir Donald Bradman Oration is a feature of the Australian cricket calendar and a celebration of the spirit of cricket.  The function provides a platform for a prominent national or international figure to reflect on Sir Donald's career, and on cricket's place in their own lives and the life of the nation. On 14th Dec 2011, this year’s  Sir Donald Bradman Oration  was  delivered by Rahul Dravid at the Australian War Memorial.

Last year, the 8th Sir Donald Bradman oration was presented by Academy, Grammy and Tony award winning lyricist, broadcaster, author and cricket fan Sir Tim Rice.   The Honorable John Howard delivered the inaugural oration in August 2000 in his capacity as Australian Prime Minister.   In Dec 2003, it was Sir Michael Parkison CBE, British media personality; in 2005 Richie Benaud, former Australian captain; in 2006 Alan Jones, radio personality and former Australia Rugby coach; in  Jan 2008 General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC; In Aug 2008  Ricky Ponting, Australia Captain and in 2009 it was Greg Chappell. 
Although his playing career ended more than half a century ago, Sir Donald Bradman remains Australian cricket's most revered and influential figure. His contribution as a player, a leader and an administrator transcended cultural and generational divides, and extended right across the international cricket community.  The Sir Donald Bradman Oration was established by Cricket Australia in 2000 as a means of marking that contribution, and recognising the role that cricket has played in shaping the Australian culture and way of life.  The oration permits a significant national and/or sporting identity the opportunity to recognise Sir Donald's unique and profound impact upon the sport on and off the field over a period of more than seven decades.
Here are some excerpts of Rahul Dravid’s speech at Bradman Oration :

Thank you for inviting me to deliver the Bradman Oration; the respect and the regard that came with the invitation to speak tonight, is deeply appreciated.  I realise a very distinguished list of gentlemen have preceded me in the ten years that the Bradman Oration has been held. I know that this Oration is held every year to appreciate the life and career of Sir Don Bradman, a great Australian and a great cricketer. I understand that I am supposed to speak about cricket and issues in the game - and I will.
Yet, but first before all else, I must say that I find myself humbled by the venue we find ourselves in. Even though there is neither a pitch in sight, nor stumps or bat and balls, as a cricketer, I feel I stand on very sacred ground tonight. When I was told that I would be speaking at the National War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly, the words 'war', 'battle', 'fight' are used to describe cricket matches.
………………………………………… The people of both our countries are often told that cricket is the one thing that brings Indians and Australians together. That cricket is our single common denominator.  India's first Test series as a free country was played against Australia in November 1947, three months after our independence. Yet the histories of our countries are linked together far more deeply than we think and further back in time than 1947.  We share something else other than cricket. Before they played the first Test match against each other, Indians and Australians fought wars together, on the same side. …………………….
It is however, incongruous, that I, an Indian, happen to be the first cricketer from outside Australia, invited to deliver the the Bradman Oration. ………………………………..But more seriously, Sir Don played just five Tests against India; that was in the first India-Australia series in 1947-48, which was to be his last season at home. He didn't even play in India, and remains the most venerated cricketer in India not to have played there.
We know that he set foot in India though, in May 1953, when on his way to England to report on the Ashes for an English newspaper, his plane stopped in Calcutta airport. There were said to be close to a 1000 people waiting to greet him; …….Before he retired from public life in his 80s, I do know that Bradman watched Sunil Gavaskar's generation play a series in Australia. I remember the excitement that went through Indian cricket when we heard the news that Bradman had seen Sachin Tendulkar bat on TV and thought he batted like him. It was more than mere approval, it was as if the great Don had finally, passed on his torch. Not to an Aussie or an Englishman or a West Indian. But to one of our own.
……………………………………Thanks to the IPL, Indians and Australians have even shared dressing rooms. Shane Watson's involvement in Rajasthan, Mike Hussey's role with Chennai to mention a few, are greatly appreciated back home. And even Shane Warne likes India now. I really enjoyed playing alongside him at Rajasthan last season and can confidently report to you that he is not eating imported baked beans any more.
………………………….. It is often said that cricketers are ambassadors for their country; when there's a match to be won, sometimes we think that is an unreasonable demand. After all, what would career diplomats do if the result of a Test series depended on them, say, walking? But, as ties between India and Australia have strengthened and our contests have become more frequent, we realise that as Indian players, we stand for a vast, varied, often unfathomable and endlessly fascinating country…………..In India, cricket is a buzzing, humming, living entity going through a most remarkable time, like no other in our cricketing history. In this last decade, the Indian team represents more than ever before, the country we come from - of people from vastly different cultures, who speak different languages, follow different religions, belong to all classes of society. I went around our dressing room to work out how many languages could be spoken in there and the number I have arrived at is: 15, including Shona and Afrikaans…………………..Let me tell you one of my favourite stories from my Under-19 days, when the India Under-19 team played a match against the New Zealand junior team. We had two bowlers in the team, one from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh - he spoke only Hindi, which is usually a link language for players from all over India, ahead even of English. It should have been all right, except the other bowler came from Kerala, in the deep south, and he spoke only the state's regional language, Malayalam. Now even that should have been okay as they were both bowlers and could bowl simultaneous spells…………………Neither man could understand a word of what the other was saying and they were batting together. This could only happen in Indian cricket. Except that these two guys came up with a 100-run partnership. Their common language was cricket and that worked out just fine.
……………………………….. A sport that was largely played and patronised by princes and businessmen in traditional urban centres, cities like Bombay, Bangalore, Chennai, Baroda, Hyderabad, Delhi - has begun to pull in cricketers from everywhere…………………………. For those of us who make it to the Indian team, cricket is not merely our livelihood, it is a gift we have been given. Without the game, we would just be average people leading average lives. As Indian cricketers, our sport has given us the chance do something worthwhile with our lives. How many people could say that?
…………………. I was surprised a few months ago to see the lack of crowds in an ODI series featuring India. By that I don't mean the lack of full houses, I think it was the sight of empty stands I found somewhat alarming…………………….. When I think about the Eden Gardens crowds this year, I wonder what the famous Calcutta Test of 2001 would have felt like with 50,000 people less watching us.  Australia and South Africa played an exciting and thrilling Test series recently and two great Test matches produced some fantastic performances from players of both teams, but were sadly played in front of sparse crowds.
……………….The India v England ODI series had no context, because the two countries had played each other in four Tests and five ODIs just a few weeks before. When India and West Indies played ODIs a month after that the grounds were full, but this time the matches were played in smaller venues that didn't host too much international cricket. Maybe our clues are all there and we must remain vigilant.
…………………………………Whatever the reasons are - maybe it is too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators - the fan has sent us a message and we must listen. This is not mere sentimentality. Empty stands do not make for good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings, the fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and advertisers looking elsewhere.  If that happens, it is hard to see television rights around cricket being as sought after as they have always been in the last 15 years. …………………………Even if it means giving up a little bit of freedom of movement and privacy. If it means undergoing dope tests, let us never say no. If it means undergoing lie-detector tests, let us understand the technology, what purpose it serves and accept it. Now lie-detectors are by no means perfect but they could actually help the innocent clear their names. Similarly, we should not object to having our finances scrutinised if that is what is required…………..Players should be ready to give up a little personal space and personal comfort for this game, which has given us so much. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
One of the biggest challenges that the game must respond to today, I believe, is charting out a clear road map for the three formats. We now realise that the sport's three formats cannot be played in equal numbers - that will only throw scheduling and the true development of players completely off gear.  There is a place for all three formats, though, we are the only sport I can think of which has three versions. Cricket must treasure this originality. These three versions require different skills, skills that have evolved, grown, changed over the last four decades, one impacting on the other. Test cricket is the gold standard, it is the form the players want to play. The 50-over game is the one that has kept cricket's revenues alive for more than three decades now. Twenty20 has come upon us and it is the format people, the fans want to see.
Cricket must find a middle path, it must scale down this mad merry-go-round that teams and players find themselves in: heading off for two-Test tours and seven-match ODI series with a few Twenty20s thrown in. Test cricket deserves to be protected, it is what the world's best know they will be judged by. ………………..Keeping Tests alive may mean different innovations in different countries - maybe taking it to smaller cities, playing it in grounds with smaller capacities like New Zealand has thought of doing, maybe reviving some old venues in the West Indies, like the old Recreation Ground in Antigua.
……………So I'll re-iterate what I've just said very quickly because balancing three formats is important:  Because the game is bigger than us all, we must think way ahead of how it stands today. Where do we want it to be in the year 2020? Or say in 2027, when it will be 150 years since the first Test match was played. If you think about it, cricket has been with us longer than the modern motor car, it existed before modern air travel took off.
………………….As the game's custodians, it is important we are not tempted by the short-term gains of the backward step. We can be remembered for being the generation that could take the giant stride.  Thank you for the invitation to address all of you tonight, and your attention.
It sounds a great piece of Oration indeed.   Well played Rahul at this pitch also !!
With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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