Thursday, February 24, 2011

RAHUL DRAVID

It's hard to plot Rahul Dravid on the graph of cricketing greats. There has rarely been a historic Indian win without a vital contribution from 'The Wall', yet, playing in the Tendulkar era, his achievements have been eclipsed by the blinding presence of the 'Little Master'.

One of three prominent Karnataka cricketers to make their mark in the 90s, along with Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, Dravid seemed like he was born out of a batting text book with a strikingly "copybook" technique. In an age where batsmen were innovating and tweaking the norm as the game evolved, Dravid stuck by the methods that he was blooded with.

His earliest Test impact of note following a 95 on debut was against South Africa in 1997, when he backed his maiden century (148) with a half-century to lead India to a rare away draw. A series of impressive knocks helped cement the foundation of 'The Wall'. A lack of flamboyance was his lone limitation during his formative years. Whilst effective in Tests, it often frustrated fans in limited overs. A metamorphosis took place during the 1999 World Cup, beyond which Dravid's batting became a marvellous sight to behold in all forms of the game. By 2002, he successfully shed his defensive style and no longer seemed shadowed by the famed Tendulkar-Ganguly opening duo. Since then, the Number 3 batsman carved his own niche as India's batting anchor. Now, a decade and a half later, he is the only Indian batsman, barring Tendulkar, to have never been dropped from the Test side since his debut.

Following the match-fixing controversy, he was appointed deputy to captain Sourav Ganguly and the added responsibility egged Dravid to greater consistency. He notably played a vital supporting role to VVS Laxman in India's historic defeat of an all-conquering Australia in 2001. By 2004, he had scored centuries against every Test-playing nation. Captaincy duty soon arrived but the spotlight repulsed him. It also affected his ODI form and after a poor 2007 World Cup he relinquished the armband to focus on his batting. Consequently, he was dropped from ODIs and left out in the cold for 2 years.

Still, his position in the classic format remained untouched, unquestioned. Few could match his Test achievements, which remained consistent as ever, vindicating him even when people around were losing faith. But Rahul Dravid battles on tirelessly, the epitome of an unsung hero in the annals of world cricket.


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