Monday, July 03, 2006

Saluting the Wall!!!

Over 9000 test runs with average fast approaching 60, a resume rich with over 100 tests having missed hardly a few based on fitness basis and a reputation of strength and immense concentration really hated by bowlers across the globe. This is what Rahul Dravid’s 10 year long career is turning out to be. After a nearly missed a hundred start on debut, for next few years he was seen as a stroke less wonder born to play in the longer format and completely miss fit for the pajama cricket.

But things have changed since then. Remember his epic innings at Adelaide to win India against world champions, or 270 at Rawalpindi when he got out reverse sweeping in search of quick runs even after being so close to a triple hundred, or a century in both innings match winning effort against Pakistan in India or a 180 supporting Laxman’s epic 281 to make on of the biggest turnarounds in the history of test cricket or the match winning performance in the recent Jamaica test or….the list goes on.

Once a Sri Lankan commented on his surety of line and length against Murali, “He plays everything with his bat, why the hell on earth he needs those pads?” or Danish Kaneria wondered on his skill of facing the Rawalpindi Express, “What disheartens a fast bowlers is when a batsman plays his fast rising delivery from behind where others play. This means the pace and bounce is not surprising enough for him.”

Surprisingly, he has always been the second best performers till the last few years. When he scored a mammoth 180 against Australia in Kolkata, Laxman’s 281 took the limelight. When he scored 148 on a cloudy day in Hedinglay, Tendulkar and Ganguly’s attacking centuries made us forget him and there have been many more cases like these. But he kept disheartening bowlers by his impeccable defense, non penetrable concentration and mostly in control and faultless shot selection and execution. In a way it has been good for him. The weight of billions expectation was weathered by Tendulkar’s and Ganguly’s where he kept improving his skills and concentration. And we hardly realized our increasing dependence on him. He was a failure in 2000 in Australia; we lost by 3-0. He failed against Australia in 2004-2005 in India; we lost by 2-1. He departed early in Karachi; we lost even after a first over hat-trick by Pathan.

I have not seen Sunil Gavaskar play, but Dravid seems to be the best batsman India has ever produced especially in tests. And we all accept it in silence although we still voice out Tendulkar’s name. But no one has won/saved us as many matches as Dravid has done in the last decade, are it any form of the game. Last win, was yet another feather in his cap.