Chance of a lifetime
When young Rahul Dravid met his Sri Lankan heroes
By S.R. Pathiravithana
Seven year-old Anand was playing cricket with his friend Rahul in their back yard and what annoyed Anand the most was that he could never get his friend out in a hurry. One day Anand had news for his friend. He said " Rahul! my father's friends are Sri Lankan cricketers and they will be coming to his place today and my father said that I could join him and I asked him if you also could join us and he said yes, isn't it great?", and they were on their way to R. Ram's place.

Twenty years ago Ram was in Hotel management, but, his first love was and still is cricket. In 1976 Ram was the manager of an Indian Xl which toured Sri Lanka for the christening of the new Bloomfield ground which was relocated at Reid Avenue from its original Campbell Park. The tour was organised through the friendship between former Indian captain Ajit Wadekar and the doyen of Bloomfield C and AC Shelly Wickremasinghe.

Ram made the most of it. During this tour he made friends with most of the Sri Lankan cricketers whom he met and has kept that friendship going up to now. But, this particular episode took place when Sri Lanka toured Sri Lanka as an official Test playing nation under the leadership of Bandula Warnapura in 1981.

When they had a break from cricket while playing their game in Bangalore Warnapura and some of his teammates went to see their friend Ram to his residence. Taking this chance Anand brought his friend Rahul along with him and they did not forget to bring their autograph books along with them. The two kids had a whale of a time. They not only talked to the hero's, but also posed for some pictures with them. From this point onwards the two kids never missed the trip to uncle Ram's house whenever the Sri Lankan cricketers visited him.

Time went by and Anand found better things to do in life and forgot about his childhood friend for while until he found out that now Rahul was a member of the state Ranji trophy team. This he told Ram who was his friend now and one day they went to see this Rahul Dravid playing in a game. What follwed that is known history.

Recently former Sri Lankan vice-captain Roy Dias who was a graceful batsman as good as Dravid now is took time off from his coaching stint in Nepal and was visiting Bangalore. During this visit Roy did not forget to visit his old friend Ram. At Ram's place Roy met Ram friend Rahul and soon they were walking down memory lane as with the pictures of Rahul standing besides Roy and company way back in 1981.

Looking at the pictures Roy said "It may have been a great thing for you Rahul at that time, but, today I do not mind standing with you and posing for a photograph".

Bandula Warnapura who accompanied his old friend Ram to The Sunday Times office could not remember this incident in particular but, looking at the pictures he said "At that time we did not know he was going to be the man he is now. It shows that this boy was keen and interested in the game from a very young age and that dedication has brought him this far'.


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