Rahul Dravid's Speech at Don Bradman Oration

Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid stole the hearts of everyone, including Cricket Fans, Cricketers, Critics and people all over the world with his impressive speech at the annual Sir Donald Bradman Oration in Australia.

Rahul Dravid's Speech at Don Bradman Oration

Thank you for inviting me to deliver the Bradman Oration. The respect and regard that came with the invitation to speak to night is deeply appreciated. I realise a very distinguish list of gentlemen if preceeded me in the 10  years of the Bradman Oration has been held.

I know that this oration has been held every year to appreciate the life and career of Sir Don Bradman, a great Australian and a great cricketer. And the stand I'm supposed to speak about cricket and issues in the game and I will.

At first before all else, I must say I felt myself humbled by the venue we find ourselves in. Even thought there is neither a pitch in sight nor stumps, bat and balls as a cricketer I feel I stand on very sacred ground tonight. When I was told I would be speaking at the Australian War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly the words war, battle and fight are used to describe cricket matches.

Yes, we cricketers devote a better part of our adult lives being prepared to perform for our countries to persist and compete as intensely as we can and more. This building, however, recognizes the men and women who lived out the words war, battle, fight for real and gave it all for their country. Their lives left incomplete, future extinguished. The people of both our countries are often told that Cricket is one thing that 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, 3 months after out Independence. Yet the histories of our countries, a link together far more deeply than we think and further back in time in 1947. We share something else other than cricket. Before they played their first test match against eachother, Indians and Australians fought wars together on the same side. In Gallipoli, we are along with thousands of Australians who were 1,300 Indians also lost their lives. In world War 2, there were Indian and Australian soldiers in El Alamein-North Africa, in serial Abanon campaign, in Burma in the battle of Singapore. Before we were competitors, Indians and Australians were comrades. So it is only appropriate, we are here this evening  in the Australian War Memorial. We are along with celebrating cricket and cricketers, we remember the unknown soldiers of both Nations.

About Don Bradman

It is however, incongruous, that I, an Indian, happen to be the first cricketer from outside Australia, invited to deliver the the Bradman Oration. I don't say that only because Sir Don once scored a hundred before lunch at Lord's and my 100 at Lord's this year took almost an entire day. But more seriously Sir Don played just five tests against India, that was in the first India-Australia series in 1947-48, which is to be his last season at home. He didn't play in India, and remains the most venerated cricketer in India not to have played there.

We know that he set his 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. As you know, he was a very private person and so got into an army jeep and rushed into a barricaded building, annoyed with the airline for having breached confidentiality. That was all Indians of the time saw of Bradman who remains a mythical figure.

For one generation of fans in my country, those who grew up in the 1930s, when India was still under British rule, Bradman represented a cricketing excellence that belonged to somewhere outside England. To a country taking its first steps in Test cricket, that meant something. His success against England at that time was thought of as our personal success. He was striking one for all of us ruled by the common enemy. Or as your country has so poetically called them, the Poms.

There are two stories that I thought I should bring to your notice. On June 28, 1930, the day Bradman scored 254 at Lord's against England, was also the day Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested by the police. Nehru was, at the time, one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement and later, independent India's first Prime Minister. The coincidence of the two events, was noted by a young boy KN Prabhu, who was both nationalist, cricket fan and later became independent India's foremost cricket writer.

In the 30s, as Nehru went in and out of jail, Bradman went after the England bowling and, for KN Prabhu, became a kind of avenging angel. There's another story I've heard about the day in 1933, when the news reached India that Bradman's record for the highest Test score of 334 had been broken by Wally Hammond. As much as we love our records, they say some Indian fans at the time were not exactly happy. Now, there's a tale that a few even wanted to wear black bands to mourn the fact that this precious record that belonged to Australia - and by extension, us - had gone back. To an Englishman. We will never know if this is true, if black bands were ever worn, but as journalists sometimes tell me, why let facts get in the way of a good story.

My own link with Bradman was much like that of most other Indians - through history books, some old video footage and his wise words. About leaving the game better than you found it. About playing it positively, as Bradman, then a selector, told Richie Benaud before the 1960-61 West Indies tour of Australia. Of sending a right message out from cricket to its public. Of players being temporary trustees of a great game.

While there may be very little similarity in our records or our strike-rates or our fielding - and I can say this only today in front of all of you - I am actually pleased that I share something very important with Sir Don. He was, primarily, like me, a No.3 batsman. It is a tough, tough job.
We're the ones who make life easier for the kings of batting, the middle order that follows us. Bradman did that with a bit more success and style than I did. He dominated bowling attacks and put bums on seats, if I bat for any length of time I am more likely to bore people to sleep. Still, it is nice to have batted for a long time in a position, whose benchmark is, in fact, the benchmark for batsmanship itself.

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.

One of the things, Bradman said has stayed in my mind. That the finest of athletes had, along with skill, a few more essential qualities: to conduct their life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and modesty. All this he believed, were totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination and competitiveness. Maybe those words should be put up in cricket dressing rooms all over the world.

As all of you know, Don Bradman passed away on February 25, 2001, two days before the India v Australia series was to begin in Mumbai.

Whenever an important figure in cricket leaves us, cricket's global community pauses in the midst of contests and debates, to remember what he represented of us, what he stood for, and Bradman was the pinnacle. The standard against which all Test batsmen must take guard.

The series that followed two days after Bradman's death later went on to become what many believe was one of the greatest in cricket. It is a series, I'd like to believe, he would have enjoyed following.

A fierce contest between bat and ball went down to the final session of the final day of the final Test. Between an Australian team who had risen to their most imposing powers and a young Indian team determined to rewrite some chapters of its own history.

The 2001 series contained high-quality cricket from both sides and had a deep impact on the careers of those who played a part in it. The Australians were near unbeatable in the first half of the new decade, both home and away. As others floundered against them, India became the only team that competed with them on even terms.

About coming up India-Australia's Border-Gavaskar Series

India kept answering questions put to them by the Australians and asking a few themselves. The quality demanded of those contests, sometimes acrimonious, sometimes uplifting, made us, the Indian team, grow and rise. As individuals, we were asked to play to the absolute outer limits of our capabilities and we often extended them.

Now, whenever India and Australia meet, there is expectation and anticipation - and as we get into the next two months of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, players on both sides will want to deliver their best.

When we toured in 2007-08, I thought it was going to be my last tour of Australia. The Australians thought it was going to be the last time they would be seeing Sachin Tendulkar on their shores. He received warm standing ovations from wonderful crowds all around the country.

Well, like a few, creaking Terminators, we are back. Older, wiser and I hope improved.
The Australian public will want to stand up to send Sachin off all over again this time. But I must warn you, given how he's been playing these days, there are no guarantees about final goodbyes.

In all seriousness, though, the cricket world is going to stop and watch Australia and India. It is Australia's first chance to defend their supremacy at home following defeat in the 2010 Ashes and a drawn series against New Zealand. It is India's opportunity to prove that the defeat to England in the summer was an aberration that we will bounce back from.

If both teams look back to their last 2007-08 series in Australia, they will know that they should have done things a little differently in the Sydney Test. But I think both sides have moved on from there. We've played each other twice in India already and relations between the two teams are much better than they have been as far as I can remember.

His observation on the present day cricket

Thanks to the IPL, Indians and Australians have shared dressing rooms. Shane Watsons involvement in Rajasthan, Mike Hussey's role in Chennai - to mention a few are deeply appreciated back home. And even Shane Warne likes India now, I really enjoyed playing along side him in last season for Rajasthan Royals. And I confidently report to you, he is not eating imported baked beans any more. Actually, infact looking at him the other day it seems he is not eating anything - he said in a lighter vein.

At the moment, to much of the outside world, Indian cricket represents only two things - money and power. Yes, that aspect of Indian cricket is a part of the whole, but it is not the complete picture. As a player, as a proud and privileged member of the Indian cricket team, I want to say that, this one-dimensional, often cliched image relentlessly repeated is not what Indian cricket is really all about.

I cannot take all of you into the towns and villages our players come from, and introduce you to their families, teachers, coaches, mentors and teammates who made them international cricketers. I cannot take all of you here to India to show you the belief, struggle, effort and sacrifice from hundreds of people that runs through our game.

Greatness of Indian Cricket

As I stand here today, it is important for me to bring Indian cricket and its own remarkable story to you. I believe it is very necessary that cricketing nations try to find out about each other, try to understand each other and the different role cricket plays in different countries, because ours is, eventually, a very small world.

Indiain 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 Akrikaans.

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 alright, 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.

Yet in one game, they happened to come together at the crease. In the dressing room, we were in splits, wondering how they were going to manage the business of a partnership, calling for runs or sharing the strike. 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.

The everyday richness of Indian cricket lies right there, not in the news you hear about million-dollar deals and television rights. When I look back over the 25 years I've spent in cricket, I realise two things. First, rather alarmingly, that I am the oldest man in the game, older to even Sachin by three months. More importantly, I realise that Indian cricket actually reflects our country's own growth story during this time. Cricket is so much a part of our national fabric that as India - its economy, society and popular culture - transformed itself, so did our most-loved sport.

About his teammates and the impact of TV on Indian Cricket

Television rights generated around Indian cricket, are much talked about. Let me tell you what the television - around those much sought-after rights - has done to our game.

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.

As the earnings from Indian cricket have grown in the past 2 decades, mainly through television, the BCCI has spread revenues to various pockets in the country and improved where we play. The field is now spread wider than it ever has been, the ground covered by Indian cricket, has shifted.

Twenty seven teams compete in our national championship, the Ranji Trophy. Last season Rajasthan, a state best known for its palaces, fortresses and tourism won the Ranji Trophy title for the first time in its history. The national one-day championship also had a first-time winner in the newly formed state of Jharkand, where our captain MS Dhoni comes from.

The growth and scale of cricket on our television was the engine of this population shift. Like Bradman was the boy from Bowral, a stream of Indian cricketers now come from what you could call India's outback.

Zaheer Khan belongs to the Maharashtra heartland, from a town that didn't have even one proper turf wicket. He could have been an instrumentation engineer but was drawn to cricket through TV and modelled his bowling by practicing in front of the mirror on his cupboard at home, and first bowled with a proper cricket ball at the age of 17.

One day out of nowhere, a boy from a village in Gujarat turned up as India's fastest bowler. After Munaf Patel made his debut for India, the road from the nearest railway station to his village had to be improved because journalists and TV crews from the cities kept landing up there.

We are delighted that Umesh Yadav didn't become a police men like he was planning and turned to cricket instead. He is the first cricketer from the central Indian first class team of Vidarbha to play Test cricket. Virender Sehwag and this shouldn't surprise anyone belongs to the wild west just outside Delhi. He had to be enrolled in a college which had a good cricket program and travelled 84 kms everyday by bus to get to practice and matches. Every player in this room wearing a India blazer has a story like this.

Lack of crowds in Stadiums

Spectators are the heart and sole of Indian cricket. The lack of crowds may not directly impact on revenues  or how important the sport is to Indians. But, we do need to accept there is definitely been a change in temperature over I think the last two years. Whatever the reasons are, may be it’s too much cricket or too little by way of comfort for spectators. The fan has sent us the message and we must listen. Let us not be so satisfied with the present, with deals and finances in hand, that we get blind sited. Everything that has given cricket is far an influence in the world of sports started from the fan in the stadium. They deserve our respect and let us not take them for granted.

His suggestions to the Cricketers

As players, one way we could stay ahead for the game is if you are willing to be monitored and regulated closely. Even if it means giving up a little bit of freedom of movement and privacy. If it means undergoing Dope Test, let us never say no. If it means undergoing lie-detector test, let us understand the technology what purpose it serves and accept it. Now, lie-detector are by no means perfect. But, they could actually help the innocent clear their names. Similarly, we shouldn't accept our finances scrutinised, that is what is required. When the first anti-corruption measures were put into place, we didn't want, a little bit - About being accredited and depositing our cell phones with the manager. But, now we must treat it like we do in Airport, because we know it is for our own good and our own security. Players shoud be ready to give up a little bit of personal space and personal comfort for this game, which has gven us so much. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Importance of Test Cricket

Cricket must find a middle path. It must scale down this man mary go down but teams and players find themselves in. Heading off for 2 test toes and 7 match ODI series and a few T20 thrown in. Test cricket deserves to be protected. It is what the world's best known they will be judged by. Where I come from, Nation versus Nation is what got people interested in cricket in the first place.  As the game's custodians, it is important we are not tempted by the short term games of the backward step. We can remember for being the generation that took the giant stride. Thank you for the invitation to address all of you and your attention.
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