A Critique of Rahul Dravid’s Bradman Oration

Rahul Dravid delivered the 10th Annual Sir Donald Bradman oration at Canberra on Wednesday (Click here for the entire text and video of the speech). It was a great speech to be read (and not heard) but he is trained to be a professional cricketer and not an orator, so that is all right by me.

It was a moving speech, lasting a little more than 37 minutes. The speech can be broadly divided in to four parts. In the opening segment, Dravid eloquently acknowledged the venue itself (The National War Memorial) and how trivial it made the whole sport of cricket to be. He tied the history of Australia and (pre-independent) India and their cricket teams. In the second part, he paid his respects to  “A great Australian, A great cricketer” Sir Don, painting an excellent picture of the Don from the Indian point of view. He described the India v Australia, 2001 series – easily the best test series he had been part of – in the context of Bradman’s passing two days before the start of that series.

Dravid tried to dispel some of the commonly held (and sometimes wrong) stereotypical notions about cricket in India, the Indian fans, players and the riches, in the third segment. His anecdotes poetically let the audience know that Indian team is a unique collection of individuals from different backgrounds who have travelled their own distinct road to get there and each of them has a different story to tell.

So far, so good. In fact, it was positively uplifting and if, as a listener/reader you caught yourself getting swept in the emotions of it all, I wouldn’t blame you. If in fact Dravid had penned this speech, he should seriously consider a career as a writer after his cricketing career is over. The speech had depth of thought, self-deprecating humor, pride and most of all, a trait that we have come to associate with Dravid, humility.  There were some real gems.

He said, talking of The National War Memorial, “This building, however, recognises the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, fight – for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished.” When paraphrasing Bradman on the expectations of a cricketer, “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.” Speaking about the confluence of the multitude of languages, culture and backgrounds in the Indian dressing rooms that he has been part of, he said, “In a world growing more insular, that is a precious quality to acquire, because it stays for life and helps you understand people better, understand the significance of the other.” In his own way, he delivered a joke with a punch line, thus: “And even Shane Warne likes India now. I really enjoyed played alongside him at Rajasthan last season and can confidently report to you that he is not eating imported baked beans any more. In fact, looking at him, it seems, he is not eating anything.”

In the closing segment, Dravid discussed the current state of affairs in cricket and the future, and sounded out that the warning signs are there for all to see – reduction in the numbers coming through the turnstiles all over the world, from Kolkata to Johannesburg – and urged cricket to treat its fans right and “not take them for granted”. He made suggestions of perhaps limiting ODIs to ICC tournaments instead of abolishing them completely and provided endorsement to MCC cricket committee’s (of which he is a member) day-night test trials.

While talking about the scourge of betting and doping in the sport, Dravid said, “As players, the one way we can stay ahead for the game, is if we 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 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 … If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

This really sticks in my craw. I know Dravid idolized Steve Waugh (and was asked to even write the foreword to Waugh’s autobiography) but he didn’t have follow in Waugh’s footsteps regarding the use of polygraph to prove a player’s innocence. Dravid himself admits that lie-detector test tool is not perfect, yet he feels comfortable to put the players through it. What if a player who is actually innocent is found to be not telling the truth by this imperfect tool? Are we willing to sacrifice the life and career of a player, if not many, for this need to prove to the public that the game is played by polygraph-approved players?

Dravid advocates to his fellow players that they should be ready to give up a little bit of freedom and privacy. Why is he putting the burden on the players rather than the official gatekeepers of the sport – ICC and ACSU who are actually getting paid in the millions to do just that? I don’t really have to remind you of Benjamin Franklin’s quote about willing to make compromises to personal liberties for the sake of a little safety, do I?

Of course, he did add the  “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” line. That certainly should put everyone else at ease, especially the innocent ones. When a player of Dravid’s standing and stature makes such ridiculous statements, what chance do the younger players have if they disagree with it, but to tow the line? We have heard the original proposal from Waugh. Now we have had the endorsement from Dravid. I wonder how long it will be before ICC makes polygraph tests mandatory?

For a man who was delivering a well-crafted, poignant speech, this drop in standard felt, in my opinion, very out of place. Even though it wasn’t the most brilliantly delivered speech, the content of it – for the large part – was from the top drawer. I only wish he hadn’t pontificated on the polygraph topic and asked the players to give up a bit of their freedom and privacy, but oh well… Even Sir Don faltered a bit when he was at the threshold of perfection and ended with 99.94.

  • http://twitter.com/GrimmFaced Ravi Bhat

    It seems entirely plausible that Rahul might know what he was suggesting when he was speaking about the polygraph. But I bow down your infinite wisdom and experience in facing up to a billion people’s expectations and adoration, and knowing that a country’s hopes will collapse if we ever found that our cricket was tainted. I only hope Rahul can live up to your expectations the next time around.

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Ravi – Thanks for the comment. What in your opinion makes Dravid expert on polygraph tests? Last time I checked, he was still a cricketer. Here is a little bit of info on the validity of Polygraph tests. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygraph#Validity Please check out the admissibility of such tests in different nations as well and perhaps the U.S. Supreme court ruling on polygraph test evidence.

      My contention is that using an imperfect tool may put the career of an innocent player in jeopardy, and that in my opinion, is not on, even if it is for “the good of the game”.

  • http://twitter.com/nbalajhi N Balajhi

    What aspect of Lie detector is not perfect? Is it that one can cheat a Lie detector and get away with a lie or Lie detector can mistake a truth to be a lie? If both or only the second, then yes lie detector test is not the way forward. If it is only the first and that a smart guy can cheat the lie detector, then it is fine. This is why I guess Dravid’s mentioned it to be not perfect.

    Those who are clean, will pass out clean. Many dirty men will get caught barring the few who manage to pass through the lie detector. May be ICC can make it voluntary (which will of course become morally compelling) to start with.

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Balajhi – Here is the information on the validity of Polygraph tests. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygraph#Validity As to the answer to your question, both situations arise: An innocent guy is shown to be lying as well as a liar is shown to have beaten the technology.

      • http://twitter.com/nbalajhi N Balajhi

        Thanks for the link CC. All along believed only the smart can cheat the machine and the machine won’t trap you. Basic instinct effect I guess :)

        Interesting to note that Dravid overlooked this aspect that innocents may fail the test. Surely a Steve Waugh effect.

        • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

          Balajhi – There is a general feeling that Dravid is a thoughtful person, which is why this really stumped me. I don’t know whether he felt emboldened to make that statement because Steve Waugh – his idol – had done it before but this is a slippery slope. All we need is a couple more big names say it and we’ll have ICC jumping all over and pretend as if polygraphy are the ultimate truth machine that will stop the betting scandals on their tracks.

  • http://twitter.com/cricketingview Kartikeya Date

    You are a very generous man Subash. Here’s what I think about these oration things http://cricketingview.blogspot.com/2011/12/on-cricketers-and-orations.html

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Kartikeya,

      I cannot write like you. I am limited in my abilities. The whole point of this post is to provide a critique of his speech, which means, provide an honest review of the 37 minute oration. I have given credit to Dravid all the right notes he hit, including trying to dispel the stereotypical notion held by many of Indian cricketers, Indian cricket fans, and Indian cricket. I wanted to shed light on the fact that even though, by and large, it was a wonderful sounding speech, the last portion of it was unnecessary and if he deemed necessary, then it hasn’t been thought out well. My hope is that Dravid didn’t really get to think about the ramifications of recommending the players to subject to a tool that is not foolproof to prove their innocence. If indeed he had thought of it, and spent time on it, and yet came to this conclusion, my estimation of him as a knowledgeable, thoughtful person (and this has nothing to do with his cricketing abilities of course) will then, have to take a hit.

  • http://twitter.com/tifosiguy Tifosi Guy

    Subash

    As I see it, the players need to be willing and show that they don’t mind losing a bit of their freedom/privacy vis a vis the ICC/ACSU. If after that the ICC/ACSU don’t do anything, then you have a point.

    I’d rather see the players making a stand and forcing the administrators to take steps. Sitting back thus far hasn’t done much has it ?

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Dilip — Define “a little bit of their freedom/privacy”. A proper definition of that is required before one can say what the ICC/ACSU is asking of the players is reasonable or not.

      Why put the onus on the players? Isn’t it the duty of ICC/ACSU as administrators to safeguard the sport without infringing on the rights and liberties of the players? At any rate, even if you wanna institute some sort of testing, such as doping tests – it will make sense to employ those that are foolproof. The damage to a player’s reputation and career in case of false positives is much greater than we care to admit. My beef especially with the lie-detector tests is that there is no consensus on its validity, there have been instances of false positives (regardless of the fact that people can actually beat the system) which means an innocent player can be found guilty, and his career, livelihood taken away. That is not on, in my book.

      You shouldn’t be doing stuff just so that you are seen doing something. You need to be doing the right things. ICC has shown the propensity to jump in to things without actually evaluating the effects of things such as DRS. What is there to stop them – if certain leading lights of the cricket world make suggestions in the public forum to the employment of faulty technological tools to interrogate a player’s innocence – from jumping on that bandwagon?

  • http://twitter.com/amarjitkapur Amarjit Kapur

    “all right by me?” seems like he has got much needed seal of approval. Just who you think you are?

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Sigh. That has been my life’s goal to find out exactly who I am. I’ll be sure to let you know if and when that happens.

  • Abhinav Nigam

    Dravid is perhaps suggesting polygraph test as an investigative tool rather than definitive evidence, just like it is used by most law enforcement agencies around the world. It might not be 100% correct, but it can tell you that there’s a possibility that the recipient is hiding something. And the reputation of the said player is only tainted if the results are made public, which need not be the case during an investigation.

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Abhinav,

      Thanks for you comment. The polygraph tests are not accurate, and are not trusted by law enforcement agencies and is not admissible as evidence in a court of law. It has been shown to implicate people to be lying when they were not. How can this sort of tool which can accuse an innocent person of not telling the truth be trusted?

  • Akhil

    First of all congratulations for a “Nice article” and also for the points you found in the speech as an critic

    I agree about the fact that Dravid has delivered a safe and politically correct speech instead of an aggressive one. There are few points I would like to highlight

    1. Dravid has never been an outspoken Player and that is the way he has succeeded so far. This speech was a mere reflection of his personality than anything else.
    2. When you are outside your country and are representing your country, you must not defame your own people, instead publicize the possitive aspects of your country, that is waht Dravid did exactly.
    3. In the sports not always showing aggression will lead you to good results.
    4. Much hype and hoopla about him promoting Lie Detector is to blow the matter out-of-proportion. He already pinpointed that these systems are not foolproof.
    5. For me the best and the point that should be taken more seriously is to respect a fan. His observation in the speech about the fact that it all starts from a fan sitting in the stadium should be noted more than anything else.

    6. Mr. Rahul Dravid was invited to deliver the speech, so he has to do that in his own way. In any case he is not going make we all happy. Let’s respect his point of view as we all want ours to be respected…. :-)

    • http://thecricketcouch.com The Cricket Couch

      Akhil,

      Thank you for your comment. The points you raise are quite valid. I understand the fact that Dravid isn’t the typically outspoken individual. However, when he makes opinions in a public forum, it is open to dissection. The fact that he himself said it (lie detector test) is not a perfect tool should have made him not recommend it as a solution… that’s my biggest sticking point. As I have mentioned throughout the post, it was a great speech, for the large part and I have credited him for crafting such a thoughtful text. However, it still needs to be pointed out that he made reference to (and recommended) a system that is not correct and can actually lead to false implication of an innocent individual.

  • Virenp98

    The point to keep in mind is that it wasn’t an opinion article by Dravid as they appear in daily newspapers. It’s once in a lifetime speech where he had to cover most things and though you and I may not agree on lie detector or compromising player’s independence, it’s his speech and really what you call a drop in standard of the speech is purely because we’ve come to expect too much from him. May be it’s just something he really thinks would help cricket like you think it wouldn’t!

  • Chrisps01

    That’s an interesting, dispassionate assessment of Dravid’s speech. Reading the text, I found it an impressive, generous and diplomatic speech. He rose to the occasion and I’m guessing it was a fairly novel experience for him.

    On the contentious issue of polygraph tests, I doubt we’ll ever see them implemented and would be uncomfortable if they were introduced. Dravid’s reference to the technology didn’t grate with me as it did you. I was impressed that he was calling for players to take responsibility, rather than blame the authorities. I would have been even more impressed if he had criticised those who think betting on in-game trivia is the way to enjoy a match of cricket.

    Great response to the ‘who do you think you are’ comment.

    Declaration Game (chrispscricket.wordpress.com)

  • Guest

    You, sir are the real critic……..

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