Harsha Bhogale: ” When I’m done with my profession, I wish I could go with the reputation that Rahul Dravid earned”
THE WALL IS IN THE HALL!
Rahul Dravid, perhaps one of the most underrated and unsung heroes of world cricket, was recently inducted to the ‘ICC Hall of Fame’ along with the veteran Australian skipper, Ricky Ponting and England eve Claire Taylor. Conferred to the legends of the sport, generally 4-5 years after their retirement, the award is considered to be the acme of cricketing fraternity. 5th Indian to be inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’, Rahul Dravid served Indian cricket for 16 long and fruitful years (1996-2012). Contributing a major part in rebuilding Indian cricket post 1999’s match-fixing scandal, Dravid brought the required calm and stability amidst India’s batting. His peaceful approach to any situation and his adaptability to the needs of his team went unmatched throughout his cricketing career. Alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, Dravid laid the foundation to India’s bright future.
Born to a Marathi family in Madhya Pradesh, Dravid was brought up in Bangalore post his father’s transfer. Imbibed with love and passion for cricket right from childhood, he started his career with the school team and excelled greatly. He was selected for Karnataka’s Under-15, Under 17 and Under 19 squads and within years he was there representing his state at the highest level, The Ranji and Duleep trophies. The perfectionist in Dravid constantly strived for excellence, be it in sports or academics. For a 23-year old commerce graduate determined to complete an MBA, the national call-up in 1996 was a dream come true. Dravid’s consistency and technique caught the selectors’ attention and earned accolades. Post Indian crowd’s unfortunate loss to Sri Lanka in 1996 World Cup, Dravid had managed to sneak into the middle order in the tri-series with the champions and Pakistan in Singapore.
Steve Waugh: “Try to take his wicket in first 15 mins,if you can’t only try to get the remaining wickets!”
Though India, including Dravid, failed to live up to their expectations, Dravid’s first class performances made his selection in India’s 1996 England tour inevitable. Sharing an enthralling test debut at Lords with fellow debutante Sourav Ganguly (who went on to score a century), he made an impressive 95 countering the swing and battling hard in the English conditions. Little did anyone know, this talented lad from Karnataka would stand tall when the tides overturned and would sail Indian ship to safety when threatened.
Dravid’s stature grew with every match and his skills developed with every passing series. An impressive Caribbean tour to follow his maiden hundred in South Africa,1997 ensured him a place in the red-ball squad. He ended up as the leading run-getter in 1996-97 Test season and in the year coming by, he notched up a record of 6 consecutive Test fifties to his name. The form continued as Dravid emerged at the top again in the 1998/99 Test season. He steered India home in crunch situations, he took responsibilities on his shoulders when everyone else faltered and he raised high to lay down India’s middle order worries in Tests. Dravid however, failed to carry his form into white-ball cricket. Taking time to settle in, his game could not keep up with the pace of the game. Despite a solitary hundred against Pakistan in 1997, Dravid did not feature much in Indian scorecard. It took him his first World Cup, again in the lands where he made his test debut, to announce his arrival in shorter formats in style.
India failed to make cut to the semi-finals of the World Cup but Dravid cruised to the top with a mammoth 461 @65.85 with an astonishing strike rate of 86. His hundreds against Kenya and Sri Lanka to go along with worthy half centuries against England & Pakistan made his capabilities known to everyone across the cricketing globe. In a format where Dravid was also flaked with criticism, he finely illustrated the desired replies with the bat. In process, Dravid also went on to be crowned as CEAT Cricketer of the World Cup and broke multiple partnership and individual records.
The purple patch was shining and evident but the breaks were certainly inevitable. When India toured Australia in 1999-2000, the team could not put up a strong front. Dravid by then had also made a mark as a wicketkeeper after injuries to India’s preferred stumpers forced him don the gloves. This somehow helped keep his place in the squad. The hard work, the sincere efforts and the firm belief to improve, brought back his glory again in years to follow. Starting with the Coca-Cola Championship in 2001, Dravid had no looking back and amassed bountiful runs and cherished plenty victorious memories. A brief county stint with Kent also helped him develop his game sense and made him mature.
Against the same Australian line-up that haunted him in 1999, Dravid showcased what was perhaps regarded as the turnover of the century when he staged the historic match-winning 375 run stand with VVS Laxman following on at the Eden Gardens. The centuries, the significant contributions, the silent wicketkeeping successes and pleasing Indian wins all continued steadily as India in years to come brought back what it had lost to evil practices. Indian cricket post the 2003 world cup rose to great heights and Dravid was a part of the team which witnessed many glorious moments and which brought its supporters pure joy.
Matthew Hayden: “If you ever wanna see aggression on a cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes!”
One of the most noteworthy cricket series in Dravid’s lopsided second half of the career was the tour of England in 2011. He always loved English weather and batting conditions. When the whole of India failed, Dracid would silently stand out and see them through. The whole series was a debacle as India did not manage to register even a single win except for Rahul Sharad Dravid who scored as many as 26% of country’s total runs in that series. He also carried his bat with a valiant 146* at the Oval emphasizing that he still had the will and the ability to go the distance.
He never had a Golden Duck in his 287 test innings, he barely dropped a catch in the slips (has a record 210 catches in Tests) and he always won fierce 1v1 battles. Dependable, confident, highly focused, determined, tempered, aggressive and yet extraordinarily calm under pressure, Rahul Dravid was an exemplary talent. One of those rarest batsmen whom bowlers feared the most, one of those who stuck a heavy price to his wicket and one of those who led from the front and yet supported the rest as firm as ‘THE WALL’. More than 10,000 runs in both ODI as well as Test Cricket, as many as 48 blistering centuries and thousands of heartening memories, THE WALL ALWAYS STOOD TALL! And well, with playing a support as India’s overseas consultant and Under-19 coach, Dravid still continues to serve Indian cricket to the fullest. You can always take a cricketer out of cricket but never cricket out of a cricketer. He’s driven Indian cricket ably for so long, he’s attained the unassailable greatness a batsman would dream off and yet he’s the same humble and spirited human you would love listening to. RAHUL DRAVID, you are an INSPIRATION!!
Rahul Dravid: “ I’ve failed at times, but I’ve never stopped trying!”