The Impregnable Fortress Calls It A Day

Posted: March 9, 2012 by binisajan in Cricket, India Cricket, Opinion

Bini Sathyan

‘If I wanted someone to bat for my life, it would be Rahul’ said one of Crickets finest batsman, Brian Lara.

There could be no better compliment to Dravid, the Wall of Indian cricket and no better expression on the style of play that Rahul Dravid adopted.

Always the silent warrior who never got his due. Fought pitched battles across the world and defended with his life. People call you ‘The Wall’. In fact, you were ‘The impregnable Fortress’ who held up one end all through your career. But the mighty blows that you took for more than a decade has worn you down and the cracks started showing. There should surely be a way to mend those cracks. But then, you have decided to let time pass you by. To us, you are one of the bravest warriors India has seen.

You were the savior that team mates and we fans looked upon to carry the team when it was all at sea. You were the silent warrior who kept the wolves at bay when the lambs were being slaughtered. You were the ray of hope when all else seemed lost. With a rock solid defence that the best in the game had no clue about breaching, you built a wall brick by brick that many a time held its fort and saved India from defeats and many times brought victory with some master strokes.

Rahul Dravid is one of the greats of the game who got late recognition. He went unnoticed whenever he played a valuable innings as fate would have it or call it bad luck, some one else would always steal the limelight.

In 1996, on debut, in the swinging pitches of England, when the Indian team was writing its famous collapse story, Dravid walked in and and almost made a century but then the innings was not so much noticed as the century crafted by the elegant co-debutante Ganguly. Even though Dravid and Ganguly made dream debuts and both of them went on to play many good innings together, Ganguly always had the luck to come out better. The 145 runs that he scored in the 1999 world cup match against Sri Lanka was also not praised much as Saurav Ganguly again pipped him when he made 183 in the same match. Even though there was a world record partnership there, it was the 183 that naturally caught everyone’s attention. Then in a test regarded as one of the most remarkable turnarounds by any country, Dravid started the resistance and went on to score 180 valuable runs but the test later came to be known as Laxman’s Test as the flamboyant Laxman played a gem of an innings which Wisden has rated as the second best innings ever played in cricket.

One of India's finest calls it a day

Dravid’s valuable contributions always came as partnerships which served the team’s cause but little did it contribute to individual glory. The two partnerships with Laxman in Tests and the partnerships with Ganguly and Sachin in ODIs are world records. He is involved in 80 century partnerships for India which is another world record. He may not be as elegant as Ganguly or as flamboyant as Laxman. He might not match the master stroke for stroke. But with a great technique and tons of determination he was a selfless fighter who went on climbing heights and created a space of his own. Most of his contributions to the team were overshadowed by the big trio’s achievements.

Dravid also was a team player who adapted very well to all forms of cricket and any conditions better than anyone else though rather slowly. When he was labeled as a misfit in ODIs for being a slow run-getter and faced the axe, he went onto score at a faster pace. There came a time when the team needed a keeper-cum-batsman to accommodate an extra batsman and Dravid was more than keen to play the role for the teams benefit. His fans thought it as an insult or a punishment but he took it all in his stride. Wonder whether any other star cricketer of India would have done that. But here was a great player who put team before self and was ready to play any role that would benefit the team and make sacrifices regardless of individual concerns.

And it was at this time that he produced some of his finest knocks in ODIs. The match that he scored 145 against Sri Lanka in the world cup was the first in which he kept wickets for India. This not being enough his batting position was constantly changed to find out where he fitted best. This landed the team management in more trouble as he excelled in any position he was thrown in. When he was tried as an opener he fitted in easily. Once when he came as a finisher, he had scored 50 runs from a mere 22 balls against New Zealand which is the 2nd fastest for an Indian in ODIs. I still remember a shot hit by him which looked like a square cut but went for six. And I don’t think there is someone more adaptable to the game than Rahul Dravid.

After the epic Test against Australia, he slowly started emerging from the shadows of the giants. He came on his own and achieved a near Bradmanesque feat when he hit 4 consecutive centuries in Tests in 2002 and also went on to score 5 double tons in all which was an Indian record before Sehwag overtook him recently. No one else in the world has scored Test centuries in all the Test playing nations. He has produced his best outside India in the hard and fast difficult pitches. Especially in England. He has another unique record of scoring 23% of the teams total runs in wins which came under a single captain, Saurav Ganguly. Now that makes one ponder whether it was Ganguly’s captaincy skills or Dravid’s silent contribution which made this team the most successful one. He went on to forge century partnerships with 18 different partners and partnered Sachin in 19 of his centuries.

A hard working, selfless cricketer, he was the rock on which the Indian team was built in the new millennium which saw India rise to the No. 1 status, slowly and steadily. And the beginning of the new decade which also saw the decline of India in Tests in harsh conditions, India looked to Rahul Dravid to stand up and deliver. And he delivered in style. In his favourite land, England, he was the lone man standing with three centuries. But the next battle in Australia was the defining moment which has led to his decision to retire from the game he loved most. He must be respected for the decision to bow out with grace.

The Aussie paceman Glen McGrath is believed to have said ‘if there was one Indian player who would get an automatic entry into an Australian team filled with stars, it would be Rahul Dravid’. That sums up the respect that he earned from the team known as the invincibles.

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