“Sachin is the god of cricket, Ganguly, the god on the offside; Laxman is undoubtedly the god of the 4th innings. But,when the doors of the temple were closed, even the gods stood behind the wall”.
20TH June, 1996, London: It was an overcast day at the Lord’s cricket ground in England. England had piled on 344 all out in the 1stinnings of the second test match. In reply, India was struggling at 202/5 on a track which had a tinge of green. India still trailed England’s 1st innings total of 344 by 142 runs. And then from the ruins, came out a 22 year old lad. He looked like a fertile piece of land, so young, yet so confident, so inexperienced, yet so firm. While he was batting, it was looking like he is having a leisurely stroll in the garden. The likes of Allan Mullally , Dominic Cork and Chris Lewis had suddenly turned into ordinary bowlers from largely formidable ones.
The wide array of classical textbook strokes, right from the orthodox pulls and hooks to the wristy flicks symbolizing lazy elegance, Rahul Dravid had each and every stroke in his armoury. A Dravid cover Drive that went racing towards the cover boundary was a sheer delight to watch and appeared as though “poetry was in motion”.
Many of you may disagree with me but I am a strong believer that an ideal Dravid knock required a terribly challenging batting strip. If the Track is a featherbed with the ball coming nicely onto the willow then I’ll go with someone like Jayawardene. If I have the world’s best bowling line up comprising of all time greats like Brett lee, Glenn Mcgrath and Jason Gillespie then I’ll go with someone like Sachin Tendulkar. But, if the batting strip resembles a minefield with countless cracks here and there, then I’ll certainly go with Dravid.
Sachin was a genius in his own way but Rahul Dravid was an artist as he crafted his strokes with perfection. Once he got in, he used to wreck havoc on the bowlers and made them look helpless. Once, when the Indian team was on an Australian tour way back in 2003-04, the then Aussie skipper Steve Waugh had said: “We’ll try to get Dravid out in the first 15 minutes, if we don’t, then we’ll only look to get the other batsmen out.”
In modern day cricket, we see the players abusing each other, passing comments, playing mind games. Just like the Aussies do. Someone like Ricky Ponting was quite well known to use this tactic of playing mind games in order to put pressure on the opposition. Well, to be very frank I don’t consider all these tactics a sign of aggression. They are, in fact nothing but signs of nervousness. If you really want to see aggressions then look into Dravid’s eyes.
Dravid, by far, was one of the classiest batsmen to have walked on earth. Armed with excellent technique and calmness, he began to take giant strides in the mid 1990’s. He batted with a composure equivalent to that of a hermit. Over 13,000 run in test cricket accompanied by almost 11,000 runs in the ODI format are enough to prove his worth. An average of over 50 in test cricket is enough to prove that this lad from Bangalore loved to stay on the crease for longer durations. Apart from his flawless batting, Dravid was also a brilliant fielder in the slip cordon. He surpassed Mark Waugh to become the most successful slip catcher in the history of the game.
A career best 270 Against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in 2004, A match winning 180 against the Aussies at the Eden Gardens in 2001, a patient 217 against England at the Kennington Oval in London in 2003 and a splendid 233 against Australia in 2003-04 at the Adelaide oval are considered to be some of his finest and the most acclaimed innings.
Dravid, for most part of his career was considered to be Sachin’s Shadow. But was also considered by many to be far more accomplished and sound than Sachin Tendulkar because of his ability to absorb and soak the entire pressure on his own.
Well, that is how Rahul Dravid was, you told him he played well and he would reply someone else played well too. I’m not sure he’s a human being because human beings can’t be so selfless……
It was extremely sad and disheartening to see that a career full of elegant strokeplay, class and poise had ended with a wild slog, but that was, once again just what the team needed.