When Rajasthan Royals skipper Shane Warne decided to hang up his cricket boots for good in 2011, the Franchise management team faced a big challenge. How to replace the irreplaceable? There aren’t many icons of the game around. There aren’t many players who strike fear in opponents’ hearts. And there aren’t many players who you can rely on to regularly deliver when the going gets tough. Luckily for them, Indian legend Rahul Dravid became available, and even luckier for them one of the greatest batsmen ever to have graced the game was keen to take on a new challenge in Royals colours.
In the long format of the game, Dravid had faced 31,258 balls, the highest number of balls faced by any player in Test cricket. He also spent 44,152 minutes at the crease, the highest time spent in the middle by any batsman in Test cricket. However, T20 cricket is a very different proposition to batting for days on end to win and save Test matches. How would “The Wall” fare opening the batting for the Royals in IPL 2012? No-one was surprised that he led impeccably from the front – scoring 462 runs with a highest score of 58 and a respectable strike rate of 112. He also mentored his fellow opener Ajinkya Rahane superbly, helping him become a class act in T20. The ‘Rah Rah’ opening partnership regularly got the team off to strong starts throughout the campaign.
In the following season Dravid scored even more runs, 471 at an average of 29, including important knocks against Pune Warriors, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Daredevils. He led the team to third spot in the table and qualification for the Champions League. He also successfully re-established Jaipur as a fortress for the Royals – that year they were undefeated at home with 13 wins across both IPL and CLT20. Rahul announced his retirement from T20 cricket after playing in the 2013 Champions League Tournament in Autumn 2013, where the Royals reached the Final and were unlucky to finish runners up. He went on to Mentor the team in following IPL’s, fully justifying the Royals management’s faith in him back in 2012. As well as being a class act on the field, he had been a loyal and respected statesman for the Rajasthan outfit off it, a truly regal Royal!