By Gulraj Bedi:
“Sachin is the God of cricket, Ganguly, the God on the offside; Laxman, the God of the 4th innings. But, when all the doors are closed, even the Gods stood behind the wall.”
One would often read/hear the above lines on the internet, on the television during commentaries, in casual cricket related conversations and more.
June 20, 1996, London: England had put a total of 344 on the board after losing all its wickets in the first innings of the second test match. India was struggling at 202/5 on a track that had a tinge of green. They still managed to trail England’s first innings with a total of 344 by 142 runs. And then came a 22-year-old. He was young and confident. His inexperience didn’t show on his face. When Rahul Dravid started to bat, it was as if he was taking a leisurely stroll in the garden. The likes of Alan Mullally, Dominic Cork and Chris Lewis had suddenly turned from being formidable bowlers into extremely ordinary ones.
With an impressive array of classical textbook strokes, right from the orthodox pulls and hooks to the wristy flicks symbolising lazy elegance, Rahul Dravid had each and every stroke in his armoury. A cover drive shot played by Dravid would get the ball to race towards the boundary. It was a delight to watch what appeared to be poetry in motion.
Many of you may disagree with me, but I firmly believe that an ideal Dravid knock required a challenging batting strip. If it were a featherbed track (A batsmen-friendly pitch with little life for the bowlers), with the ball coming nicely onto the willow, then I would want to see a Jayawardene play. If it were the world’s best bowling line-up comprising of all-time greats like Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, then I’d like to see someone like Sachin Tendulkar play. But if the pitch resembled a minefield with countless cracks, Dravid was the man to play and shine on it.
Dravid, by far, has been one of the classiest batsmen to have walked on earth. Armed with a calm attitude and excellent techniques, he began to take giant strides in the mid-’90s. He batted with a composure that was equivalent to that of a hermit. With over 13,000 runs in Test Cricket and almost 11,000 runs in the ODI format are enough to indicate how great a player he has been.
He had an average of over 50 in test cricket, that says a lot about how much the Bangalore lad loved to stay at the crease for longer durations. Apart from his flawless batting, Dravid was also a brilliant fielder in the slips. He surpassed Mark Waugh to become the most successful slip catcher in the history of the game.
Some of his best performances include a 270 against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in 2004, a match-winning 180 against the Aussies at the Eden Gardens in 2001; a patient 217 against England at The Oval in London in 2003 and a splendid 233 against Australia in 2003-4 at the Adelaide Oval.
Dravid, for most of his career, was considered to be Sachin’s shadow. But he was also considered by many, to be far more accomplished than Tendulkar because of this ability to absorb tremendous amounts of pressure and still be on the top of his game.
Well, that is how Rahul Dravid was, if someone told him that he had played well, he would return the comment just as genuinely. It was extremely disheartening to see a career like that end.