Why Rahul is Dravid
Date: 3/22/2012 5:08:00 PM
Rahul always made runs that stood for more than their face value. 13,288 runs is a colossal achievement, facing 31,258 balls in Tests even more so. It shows his struggle and determination backed by water-tight technique to overcome adversity. Sidvee points out in his blog as to what makes an ideal Rahul innings “ The pitch must be spiced up or crumbling or smattered with cracks. A crater would be ideal. Or even a sandpit. He must not be offered predictable bounce. It ‘s all too insulting.” So, it should be a minefield of a pitch and then we will see the real Rahul come forth . Invariably this happens overseas.
As a batsman, Rahul contributed where India used to be its weakest – playing overseas. For far too long , ever since it started playing Test Cricket , they have been poor travellers with abysmal away records in Test matches on bouncier, livelier and bowler friendly tracks. He hit his first hundred versus South Africa at the Wanderers against an attack with the combined menace of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Brian McMillan, Lance Klusener, Hansie Cronje and Paul Adams. That 148 and 81 in second innings came agonizingly close in India winning its first Test in South Africa. Bad light on Day 5 helped South Africa escape defeat. Ever since, Rahul has taken great pride in his overseas batting record. Innumerable times he has walked in to face the cherry when India would be one down for next to nothing on the board and countless times he has weathered the storm and anchored the innings amidst the more flamboyant stroke makers of the batting line-up.
When Rahul took guard, India could sense an air of stability to the proceedings. You could take the eyes off the score during lunch and the he would still be there after tea, holding on the innings, running the opposition down with his classical technique and immense concentration. He had that determined intensity about him, about which Matthew Hayden quipped “ All this going around is not aggression. If you want to see aggression on cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes.”
And yet that was on the field. Off the field, he was the assured, well read, articulate ambassador of the game. As Brett Lee, the jovial Aussie quick put it “ If you don’t get along with Dravid, you are struggling in life.”
Rahul is a man with a keen sense of history of the game. It is these qualities and the mountain of runs he scored at no.3 that he was called up to speak at the Bradman Oration in Adelaide in 2011, becoming the first non–Australian to do so. His astute oration every inch deserved the standing ovation he got after an address of 38 minutes that touched upon all the pressing issues that cricket faced and how he thought thing scan be improved. He clearly distinguished himself as a thinker of the game during this.
Success never came easy to him. There was a long phase in his early career when he just couldn’t convert 70s and 80s into hundreds. He kept at it, trying and perfecting the technique in his formative years till he made that leap from being good to great .It should come as no surprise that most of Rahul’s superlative innings with recall values are all played overseas.
His 190 and 103* in the same Test in Hamilton, 148 in Leeds,217 at Kenington Oval, 233 and 71* in Adelaide, 270 at Rawalpindi, 81 and 68 in Kingston Jamaica in 2006, 93 at Perth and 112 in Kingston again in 2011 and his 3 glorious ones against England in his last tour of the Old Blighty.
I especially remember the 146 at The Oval in the last test of the series as India were hurtling towards a 4-0 whitewash.
Rahul Dravid was forced to open the innings in the absence of a regular opener. He carried his bat for an unbeaten 146 against a potent pace attack. The whole of Oval rose to give him a rousing ovation. Ten minutes later as, he came out again to bat after England enforced the follow on, he got another standing ovation. The Oval crowd could not help but admire the man as he fell for 19 to a tired shot. Those three ovations were for three different things that Rahul displayed-The first ovation was for his exceptional skill, the second for his resilience and the last was out of genuine respect and heartfelt affection for him.
Rahul’s love affair with England began with his debut at Lords. Since then he has become the highest run scorer in the 99 World Cup held in England , had that exceptional summer of 2002, won a series as captain in England after 20 years and finally the last purple patch of his career in 2011. In between he revisited England to play a bit of county for Kent and MCC and turning up for ODI’s for Scotland.
The English respect a thorough gentleman and they can spot one with ease. Rahul is undoubtedly one. David Lloyd went on to pay him a compliment on air, when he walked off when he felt that he has nicked one from Stuart Broad;hence saving the umpire the blushes and controversy. Lloyd said “ Rahul is honest as the day is long” I am sure he was referring to the long winding English summer because the days in winters can be really short !
I never had the opportunity to watch a Test match with my dad. I never saw Rahul play in a stadium, although I came close once in Sharjah. He would be the player that any father would like to take his kid to and ask him to aspire to be like. For Rahul is a perfect role model. Even in his endorsement deals he brought that humane touch and a sense of calm and assurity. When asked about his nickname ‘The Wall’ he joked self-depreciatively that the media had set him up for puns , so that when he fails, they come up with lines like ‘another brick has fallen ‘ or ‘the foundations are weak’! He had it in him to take a lashing and crack a few jokes.
It is often forgotten how he was viciously chided as not cut out for the one-day format during 1997-98. Rahul’s is an exceptional example of how he mastered the ODI format, when critics and fickle fans never ceased point out his slow scoring rate. But he kept at it becoming remarkably successful in ODIs, excelling in the middle order with 82 fifties to his name. Just to cite his consistency, he went 120 matches without scoring a duck. He has kept wickets ,so that India could field a balanced team, opened when no one would out their hands up for it and captained with tenacity. Apart form all this, was his reputation as a catcher in slips with his world record tally of 210 catches in Tests. He takes the catches so smoothly, you can’t hear the voice of the ball hitting his hands.
Akash Chopra writes that he made look things simple. When everyone was being getting beaten all ends up, in a domestic game, there was Rahul , always taking a long stride forward to the balls that were pitched up, and then either playing with the sweetest spot of the bat or allowing it to go to the keeper. Chopra recollects “ Every now and then , one of us would ask the keeper if the ball has stopped moving. But the answer would always be that Rahul is making it look like that .”
We won’t miss him now. Not immediately atleast. We will see him play and captain Rajasthan Royals, taking over from Shane Warne. But we will miss him immensely the next time India is one down for nothing when playing overseas.For then, when the team is in trouble, there would be no Rahul to turn to. No one to bat for India, as if life depended on it. And that is why Rahul is Dravid. Like no other.