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Friday, June 24, 2011

Rahul Dravid: Patience Personified

Vineeth S @ SportsKeeda
The Wall: Still going strong

If one has grown up watching cricket in the 90’s and 2000’s, then the Indian middle order quartet will have been missed when Sourav Ganguly retired in 2008. Three years on, the remaining three soldiers are still going strong, with dogged match winning performances. At 38 years of age, Rahul Dravid has now completed 15 years of international cricket. He is currently the oldest active cricketer in the game, and continues to come up with staggering performances. On the day he scored his 32nd Test century against West Indies, here is a look back at his mantra for success, and some of his most memorable Test knocks.
Clearly, the USP of his batting is his patience. He is prepared for the hard grind and sets himself for the long haul every time he has the willow in his hand. He had the best technique among Indian batsmen in his prime, better than even Sachin Tendulkar. He also has an amazing away Test record , which almost mirrors his home Tests record. It did not seem to matter whether the wicket was a fast, bouncy one like Perth or a seaming, grass laden Trent Bridge wicket or a dust bowl in Mumbai, runs flowed off his bat irrespective. When he started out, occupation of the crease was his forte and runs would be accumulated slowly. Over time, and playing limited overs cricket, he brought in innovations in his game and got his runs at a fair clip. Over the last couple of years, with age catching up and not being in the best of form, he has gone back to his accumulation mode, which has begun to serve him well again.
Nicknamed the wall, he would block one end completely so that bowlers would get so exasperated and try getting the batsman at the other end. Also, one cannot remember him having problems against a particular type of bowler and this could be attributed to his impeccable technique. Minor flaws did creep into his game a couple of years ago, but he worked hard at the nets and overcame the flaw. Batting long hours never seemed a problem, and as demonstrated against the Windies now, he has still got it. Captaincy did not seem to affect his batting one bit , in fact the added responsibility added as a boost. His 112 in more than 6 hours at Jamaica in 2011 is not the first instance of batting long periods.  Here’s a look back at some of his defining performance in the five day format.
148 at Johannesburg Vs South Africa, 1997
It was his first Test century and came in his 9th Test match. India had a tough tour till then losing both Tests by huge margins. A patient century by Rahul Dravid against a pace battery of Donald, Mcmillan, Pollock and Klusener gave India a platform from which they could control the Test match.He occupied the crease for over 9 hours. He also scored a quick 81 in the second innings to force a declaration.However, rain put paid to India’s hopes of winning their first ever Test match in South Africa as the match was drawn with India needing just two wickets.
177 in Ahmedabad and 144 in Kanpur Vs SriLanka, 2009
India were in trouble in the first Test of the series losing 4 wickets for 32 runs. A Dravid masterclass in terms of style and quality of strokes took India past 400. He backed it up with another century in the next Test as runs flowed from his bat after a rather long lean patch. It was his second wind and helped India to an innings and series win. These two innings displayed that he could score at fairly quick rate as well as his strike rates on both occasions was above 60. A combined total of 11 hours were spent in the middle.
136 at Mohali Vs England ,2008
A rather long lean patch brought in a lot of criticism and his place in the Test side was questioned.A poor series against Australia and no centuries for 11 Tests finally ended with a dogged century against England at Mohali. The tenacity in Rahul Dravid came to the fore as he bit and fought his way to a century against an impressive attack consisiting of Anderson, Broad, Flintoff and Swann. Almost 8 hours were spent at the wicket and went a long way in silencing his critics.
81 and 68 vs West Indies at Jamaica, 2006
A masterclass in batsmanship by the then captain,and with the series up for grabs, he played a lone hand in both innings and was one of only three batsmen to get a half century in the Test. India made a combined total of 371 runs in their two innings as Dravid alone accounted for 149 of those, on a minefield of a wicket. It helped India win a series in the Caribbean after 35 odd years. A combined total of 10 hours at the wicket yielded two of his most memorable innings, outside of his century innings.
115 at Trent Bridge and 148 at Headingley vs England 2002
In his prime, Rahul Dravid was unstoppable during this tour as he reeled off three centuries on the trot, including a double century at the Oval. However, his 115 at Trent Bridge helped India save the Test and stay in the series , an effort lasting 338 mins. The next one was even more remarkable as he negotiated a tricky first day under overcast skies to conjure up a century and set up an Indian win. He restricted his strokeplay and built a platform to help a middle order assualt by Tendulkar and Ganguly.
270 at Rawalpindi Vs Pakistan 2004
With the series tied at 1-1 each, Rahul Dravid batted for a mind boggling 740 minutes for his career best 270. This is his longest innings till date and was instrumental in setting up a series win in Pakistan after 20 odd years. It is rated as one of his best innings for the sheer duration of his innings and coming in an away Test match.
180 at Kolkata Vs Australia, 2001
This innings had to feature in the list as his partnership with VVS Laxman is part of cricketing folklore. India were following on and were 1-0 down in the series before Dravid and Laxman decided to alter the script. Laxman was elevated to the No 3 slot and Dravid was pushed down to No 6 for the second innings.. He batted for 446 mins and his partnership with Laxman was worth 376. India remarkably went on to win the match and the series.
233 and 72* at Adelaide Vs Australia ,2004
After being pounded by Ricky Ponting, India were wobbling at 85-4 chasing Australia’s 557. Dravid’s old mate VVS Laxman joined him in the middle and the two put on another 300 run partnership. His 233 in the first essay helped India to 523, while his 72* guided India to a tricky target of 233 in the fourth innings. A combined total of close to 14 hours at the crease brought India one of the most cherished wins in recent memory and established Dravid as a legend of the game.


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