I hate comparisons, but this is one comparison I couldn't stop myself from doing. Both are absolute champions in their own right, and each one of them has a space of his own.
If Tendulkar has amassed 30,000 international test match runs, one can only admire the man and draw inspiration from his stupendous longevity and continuous run of achievements. Contrast that with Rahul Dravid (my senior in college!), and I just cannot stop feeling that had Rahul been playing in an era that was so non-Sachin, he would have reached the iconic status himself. This is not to demean the genius of Sachin; but, it is just to put in perspective that the contribution of Rahul Dravid has just been overshadowed by the Sachin Tendulkar era.
Look at it this way, for all the centuries that Sachin has hit, I can remember a Rahul Dravid's ton in each of those situations. You name it - in adverse conditions of New Zealand in Hamilton; in seaming conditions in Headingley; in tough conditions in Adelaide (a 233!); or in the heavy-weight and war-like game in Pakistan (a 270!). Of course, how will I ever forget that legendary 180 by Rahul at the Eden Gardens, against Australia (just as the world wrote justifiable accolades about that magical genius called VVS Laxman & his 281!). I even remember Rahul hitting a commanding 86 in 52 balls in one of the one-day games in Hyderabad that took the game away from the opposition.
He has done even more than may get noticed. The great Dravid has done wicket-keeping in ODIs, and then balanced that off with a top order batting slot. What does he have to show - more than 10,000 runs in ODIs, to go along with his 11,174+ runs (fourth place in the Test batting league of most runs scored). That is no mean feat. 28 Test hundreds - just one shy away from equalling 29 of Bradman. If that is not great, what else is?!
What is possibly Rahul's greatest personality trait, is that tough ability of not comparing himself with anyone; least of all Tendulkar. That is so tough to do in this sort of a competitive world & Rahul has held his own by doing just that. When the world was praising Sachin for all his achievements & a handful few writing about Rahul's epilogue in the last 2 years, the great Bangalorean did not submit to them. Nor did he react. He did what he knows best - going back to the basics, going back to the local cricket league (Ranji Trophy), going back to his roots, ironing out his game & coming back to Test cricket. What did he do on his return in the series against Sri Lanka ?Well, he did what he knows best i.e. let his bat do the talking - he scored a sublime 177 in Ahmedabad and an even better 144 in Kanpur.
The same critics who were writing his epilogue now talk about his contribution to Indian cricket and how it was important for Rahul to be there at the crease when India were reeling at 30/4 in Ahmedabad. That, is what is called a blue-chip cricketer. And Rahul is certainly a blue-chip that never hit the headlines, but kept contributing as a heavyweight of the Indian cricketing index!
Hats off to you, champion! You are a true inspiration to me - I cannot quite recall the number of times I have thought of a Sachin in various crises in my life; but when the crises has been extreme, I have never looked beyond you Rahul, for inspiration. You are a champion, a genuine champion! And don't let the fact that you played in a Sachin-era bog you down - you have your own individual identity that fans like me notice, admire, and truly get inspired from.