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Friday, August 20, 2010

Top 5 Performances of Rahul Dravid

1)270 vs Pakistan, Rawalpindi 2004.

Series locked at 1-1 and the decider expected to be a tense, close fight. Pakistan dismissed for 224, but Sehwag dismissed first ball. Dravid joins makeshift opener Parthiv Patel the wicket-keeper. They survive a few anxious moments (Shoaib Akhtar with his tail up after all), and the first day ends with India 23-1. Next morning,Dravid's solidity calms things down and Patel begins to open up. Then, Patel is caught behind at 129 and Tendulkar too 1 run later. 130-3, match in the balance again. Laxman and Ganguly however get classy seventies, and Yuvraj an uncharacteristically slow forty, but it is Dravid who is the constant, who holds the whole show together. Landmark after landmark is crossed, and with the team score around 550, Dravid begins to go for quick runs. He is 8th out for 270 (over 12 hours at the crease, 495 balls, 34 fours, 1 six). India reaches 600 and comfortably wins by an innings with a day to spare.

2)233 and 72* vs Australia, Adelaide 2003.

Australia makes 556 and India is 85-4. In olden times, game over. But this is a new-age India led by Ganguly with Dravid as the jewel in his crown. And he shines like never before. First, with Laxman, reversing the famous Kolkata partnership of 2001, with Dravid taking the lead this time - they put on 303 (Laxman 148) in six hours. Then, with the wicket-keeper and the tail, who add 135 with him, till Dravid is last out for 233 (almost 10 hours of batting, 446 balls, 23 fours, 1 six). Australia collapse in the second innings, set India 230 to win. Then again, Dravid back at 48-1, anchors the innings and stays till the end with 72 (4 hours of batting, 170 balls, 7 fours). India wins by 4 wickets, and lead the Australians for the first time ever in their backyard.

3)180 vs Australia, Kolkata 2001.

In bad form, Dravid has lost his number 3 slot to Laxman, mid-match. In the second innings, India is following on 274 behind and now is 52-1 but it is Laxman who has gone out to bat. He is in great touch no doubt (as evidenced by his fluent 59 in India's first innings of 171) and it is a logically sound move, but it still hurts. Dravid watches in the dressing room as India lose Das and then Tendulkar cheaply (115-3) and then as Laxman and Ganguly flower for a while, till Ganguly is rattled by some 'mental disintegration" in the middle and then caught behind with India 232-4. Dravid walks out now (ironically in the same batting position Laxman had batted in the first innings) and joins the same man who has replaced him. The day ends at 245-4 (Laxman on a superb 109); most expect the match to be over the next day, Australia to continue their world-record winning streak of 16 Tests and thus win the series here itself. But the earth shifts on its axis. Next morning, Waugh's attacking field settings encourage a low-risk counter attack from the two, especially Laxman. By lunch, they add 122 more, Laxman on 171, Dravid 50. They both open up thereafter, feeding off each other by now. There are no mistakes (despite the knife edge possibility of a quick end to the match if either of them is dismissed) - they're both in a rarefied zone much to the frustration of McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz and Warne.Dravid reacheshis 100 (off 205 balls) and shows more emotion than he ever has, or ever would. By tea - 115 more - Laxman 227, Dravid 106. They're tired but the enormity of what they're doing is keeping them going. Five other bowlers are tried by a frustrated Waugh, in vain. By close of play, 98 more are added - India are 589-4, Laxman 275*, Dravid 155*. They have batted all day! Laxman gets out for 281 next morning and Dravid is finally run out for 180 going for quick runs. India set Australia 384. Squeezing even more poetry out of reality, the Indians dismiss the bizarrely aggressive Australians for 212 giving India her most famous and landmark victory.

4)148 vs England, Leeds 2002.

Overcast conditions, green tinged wicket. Ganguly wins the toss, decides to bat - frowns from the experts, glint in the collective English eye. India 15-1; Sehwag departs after struggling to make 8 in half an hour. Rahul Dravid joins Sanjay Bangar. The ball darting around, swinging viciously. Matter of time. Knowing smiles. The bowlers enjoying the shape to the slips, ooh that arc. Batsmen leaving the ball alone. Hoggard, Caddick, Tudor, Flintoff - bouncing, tempting, attacking off-stump. Play and miss. Uneven bounce. Keeping low - Dravid digging it out. Bouncing viciously - Dravid fending it off. Calm and patience. Picking up singles and occasional boundaries through the many gaps. Field gradually getting less attacking, pitch slowly but surely settling down. The spinner Giles coming on. No change of approach. Suddenly panic from the English. India has passed 150. For just one wicket - in these conditions? They should be 5 down, at least! Where did we screw up - think the English. Here's the next ball - think Dravid and Bangar. Finally, at 185, Bangar nicks one. Tendulkar comes in, Flintoff is on. Swaying away from the line, fending him off. Oohs and aahs. Giles bowls leg stump line to keep runs down. Dravid sends Hoggard's ball to the legside rope. Everyone in the dressing room stands up to clap. Dravid (100 in 220 balls; 14 fours) raises his bat. At stumps, Day 1, India 236-2, Dravid 110. Mission accomplished. Things would get much easier thereafter - Tendulkar would get 193, Ganguly 128. India with 628 would win by an innings. But Dravid's 148, which tamed the first day's conditions and carried on, would get the MoM award.

5)81 and 68 vs West Indies, Kingston 2006.
In two out of the three Tests, West Indies had narrowly escaped with a draw. And now, in the last Test, India had won the toss, decided to bat (against conventional wisdom in these conditions) and was 3-2 as Dravid the captain walked out (he'd occupied no. 4 right through this series since Tendulkar was absent). During the walk to the middle, did any thoughts of a jinx go through his head? Or at 58-4? Or 78-5? Surely at 91-6? The captain fought back with his most trusted ally, so what if he was a bowler. Dravid and Kumble took the score to 184 before Kumble fell (45) and 13 runs later Dravid nicked one to the keeper (81 in five and a half hours). 3 runs later India was all out. West Indies collapsed from 42-1 to 103 all out (Harbhajan Singh 5-13 in 4.3 overs). Dravid walked out to bat again at 6-2 (groan). 49-3 (bang). 76-5 (creak). The captain did it all over again. Partnerships with the lower order, taking the score to 154 before being castled (68 in 166 balls; 12 fours). Kumble got into the act then (6-78) and India won by 46 runs. India's first series victory in West Indies after 35 years. The captain did it almost single-handedly with the bat - in fact, Dravid occupied the batting crease longer than the entire West Indian team in both innings combined.


87 vs South Africa, Port Elizabeth 2001.

This was still the second match in a 3-test series when it took place. India 0-1 down, SA powered to 362 by Gibbs (196). India knocked out for 201 by Pollock (5-40). SA set India 395 to win in a day and half a session. India 0-1, Das gone, caught behind off Pollock. Dravid joins Deep Dasgupta (makeshift opener and wicket-keeper) and they survive 17 more tense overs before close of play (28-1). Next morning, they look the bowling attack consisting ofPollock, Hayward, Kallis, Ntini and Boje in the eye and begin grinding it down. At lunch, they are together. At tea, they still look secure. Dravid's dismissal at 171 (for 87; 241 balls; 12 fours) and Dasgupta's at 184 (for 63; 281 balls; 7 fours) is of little consequence. A crucial match has been saved the good, old-fashioned way - quite a rarity in the post-1990 era. Sadly, later the next match would be controversially deemed unofficial (due to the fracas between the Indians and Mike Denness - who had banned 3 Indian players for misbehaviour) and the series terminated here but the grit and sweat of Dravid and Dasgupta could not be forgotten.



Its holiday wiling

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