If you ask an Indian cricket fan from who their favourite player was from the 1990s or 2000s, the most common answer would be Sachin Tendulkar. Such was the impact he had on the fans. Others would say Ganguly, who went on to captain India to some great heights. But for me, the answer is, and always will be Rahul Dravid. The man they call the wall etched his own history in a side filled with stars. This in itself is no mean feat in the cricket-crazy subcontinent, but to do it in a side that had Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Ganguly and VVS Laxman speaks volumes about Dravid’s character and talent.
Being overshadowed by one of these many stars was not new to Dravid. In the same game in which Ganguly announced himself to the world with a century on debut, Dravid fell painfully short of the same mark, going out on 95. What more, he was only afforded this opportunity because another star, Manjrekar missed out due to an ankle injury. All that aside, it was easy to see why he would be one of the shining lights for Indian cricket. An even temperament, sound technique, and flowing strokeplay – these were some of the main features of his batting. But what stood out most in almost all of his innings was his tenacity and stubborn resistance. Like a dog with a bone, Dravid refused to give up even when his team did. It is easy to see why he is nicknamed The Wall. He has 13288 runs to his name at 52.31, which is just staggering for a player who played 164 test matches over 16 years. If you want to look at conversion rate, he had the tendency to churn out big scores regularly, with 36 centuries and 63 fifties under his belt. Dravid was also a great slips fielder, and has taken 210 catches in his long test career.
ODI Debut & A Formidable Dravid
Before his test career started though, Dravid had made a less than successful ODI debut in 1996. He had plenty of critics in his early years, who especially took aim at his low strike rate in ODIs. He developed into a formidable batsman in the ODI arena as well, and his strike rate rose as the years progressed. One can never forget the way he casually dismantled the South African attack in Kingsmead in 1997, en route to 84 off 94 balls. Dravid almost won the game for India off his own bat but was failed by his teammates. There were quite a few memorable knocks in both his test and ODI careers, but none will be more fondly remembered than his innings against Australia in Eden Gardens in 2001. After folding in the first test, and falling flat in the first innings of the second test, the Indians were asked to follow on. Unsurprisingly, Dravid decided to dig in for a fight and joined hands with VVS Laxman for a marathon 376-run partnership. Dravid scored 180 off 353 balls and ably supported VVS in his 452-ball 281, once again being slightly overshadowed by another star.
But being selfless has always been Dravid’s way. When the team needs him, he is there. When India needed a backup wicketkeeper, he kept wickets. When India needed someone to open in tough conditions, he opened the innings. When they needed someone to dig in at number 3, he did it and braved some great bowling attacks in the process. Harsha Bhogle once said that if you said to Dravid that he played well, he would say someone else played well too, that is how selfless he was. That sums up the consummate team man that Dravid has always been. It is not a surprise that someone like him is now in charge of India A, grooming the nation’s budding talent. For me, Dravid will always define the resurgence of Indian batting. Sachin had his destructive style and strokeplay, Ganguly had his flair, but in Dravid, India had a technically sound, astute and selfless cricketer who would put the team needs ahead of his own, always.
What are your best memories of Rahul Dravid playing for India? Let us know in the comments below.