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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The phases of Rahul Dravid

RAHUL DRAVID is a Fighter who doesnt give up!
For a period of about 2 years from December 2006 to November 2008, one of the greatest batsmen of the modern era had statistics that read thus:

Matches - 25, Innings - 47, Runs - 1317, Average - 30.63 with two centuries and seven fifties.

It was not the most pleasant time to be walking in the shoes of Rahul Dravid. A man who - up until mid-December 2006 - had a majestic career average of 58.75, had scored over 9000 runs and crossed 50 every 2.5 visits to the crease. He was suddenly transformed into a scratchy, stumbling has-been, who couldn't seem to middle the ball even if he was handed a gift-wrapped half-volley that was sliding down leg.

He fought back - he had to. Rahul Dravid may not look like the archetypal warrior, but it is inscribed in his genetic code that he will not give up a fight. Weak people give up easily when confronted with steep obstacles, strong people do not give up easily. Rahul Dravid does not give up, period.

When he came in today, he started with a boundary off the second ball he faced. And then the battle started. At one end Virender Sehwag was batting at a run-a-ball, at the other Dravid was struggling to score at a run-an-over. After that second-ball boundary, Dravid scored 13 painstaking runs off the next 102 balls he faced - a rate of 0.76 runs per over. Batting on 17 not out off 104 balls, Dravid had done the initial hard work, and then as has happened in the past, he found his groove. The shots that had gone to fielders found the gaps, the deliveries that had been watched or defended started finding the middle of the bat. He wrested back the control he had given to the New Zealand bowlers in the first half of his innings in style: 87 runs came off the next 123 deliveries he faced.

It captured the greatness of the man. There are not too many people in world cricket who would be prepared to grind out a period when runs are hard to come by with the confidence that when they did come, they would make up for the grinding.

The innings was almost a microcosm of Dravid's career as a whole in the way it was neatly broken into distinct phases. From the time he made his debut in 1996 to his battling century today, Dravid's career can be broken down into phases that reflect the extended highs and occasional lows of a remarkable career.

Before he played this innings, Dravid's career graph read thus:

Time SpanTestsInnings Not OutsRunsAverage100s50s
June 1996 Debut to March 199929484239554.43516
October 1999 to March 2000816042626.6310
November 2000 to December 20066711218622866.261730
December 2006 to November 200825474131730.6327
December 2008 to January 201010172102968.6045
January 2010 to October 201059120725.8801

His entry into Test cricket was marked by his immaculate technique and unflappable concentration that led to a natural accumulation of runs all over the world - in places as diverse as England, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies, Dravid scored runs by the bucketful. There followed a brief slump, with India's tour to Australia in 2000 being particularly tough for Dravid. Immediately after that South Africa came to India and beat the home side before cricket's first full-blown match-fixing scandal hit the game in the solar plexus.

The long break after that did wonders for Dravid, and when India next played, he was the finished article. There followed 6 years of batting mastery when he assumed the mantle of India's leading batsman while Sachin Tendulkar struggled with his own bout of bad form and injuries. After that came the first major slide. It started with India's tour of South Africa in late 2006 and continued till Australia toured India in late 2008. The series that is best remembered as the last one of Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble saw Dravid sink the lowest he had as a batsman. Not only did he not score runs, he never looked like scoring any runs.

From that low, there were only two options - walk away into the dying sunset like his mates Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly had done, or rise from the ashes. In the mind of a fighter though, the first option wouldn't have been a legit one, so rise from the ashes he did. From late 2008 and through 2009, the Dravid of old re-emerged, and it looked like he had put his bad patch behind him. However, he was felled by a Shahadat Hossain bouncer in Bangladesh in January this year, and after that he didn't seem the same batsman. In the series against Sri Lanka and Australia, he struggled. But as has been the pattern after bad series against Australia, Dravid has bounced back yet again.

Going over the break-up of his career stats, it is also apparent that there is a stark difference in the 'centuries' column during his periods of slump and his highs. Whether this innings marks the start of Dravid leaving behind his slump or is merely a blip, remains to be seen. However, if history is a pointer, it is encouraging to note that is has come after a not-so-stellar series against Australia and he has reached three figures.


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