DateLine: 7th July 2006
This is one wall that just keeps getting bigger and tougher. Rahul Dravid keeps getting better and better. With him the writer has to be careful before saying that he is at the zenith of his powers. Just as one feels that he has achieved everything, that he can’t possibly perform more outstanding feats the Indian captain comes up with the kind of dream showing that sees him climb higher in the pantheon of really great players. His place in the Indian Hall of Fame is already assured. But with the passing of every year his position in that hallowed list goes higher and higher. As Greg Chappell put it in a handsome and glowing tribute at the end of the Test series in the West Indies: ``History will show that he is one of the best players for anyone, forget India, anywhere, anytime. He makes runs anywhere and does it consistently.’’
It is difficult to argue against Chappell’s viewpoint that Dravid has ceased to be an Indian great and that he is a world great. One telling statistic will confirm this. Leaving Don Bradman aside (and one must always leave him out of any discussion for obvious reasons) Dravid at the end of the West Indian tour has the highest average for any batsman with an aggregate of over 5000 runs in Test history. His superb showing in the Caribbean where he ran up a tally of 496 runs at an average of 82.66 took his career average to 58.75. This put him above Ken Barrington (6806 runs from 82 Tests at an average of 58.67) and Walter Hammond (7249 runs from 85 Tests at an average of 58.45). Dravid has 9049 runs from 104 Tests and the consistent manner of his run getting suggests that an average of 60 is not far off. That would be an incredible achievement even by Dravid’s lofty standards.
Dravid is arguably the most invaluable and selfless batsman in the history of Indian cricket. Whether opting to open the batting in the interests of the team, in going in at No 3 or No 6 depending on the situation, in willing to keep wickets to restore the team’s balance in the shorter version of the game he has shown he is a team man to the core. He has readily altered his approach so that even a supreme technician like him could prove to be successful in slam-bang cricket. Of course his record is second to none – and that cliché is not lightly used here - in the number of times he has saved India from defeat or piloted them to victory. The facts and figures have been recorded for posterity and the statistics that have always meant something for Dravid underscore his exalted position in Indian cricket – nay world cricket. The sobriquet `The Wall’ is pointedly accurate as it simply but aptly conveys the image of a man who does not sell his wicket cheaply. Left to him, he would not like to sell his wicket at all.
Dravid has playing the crisis man role for over ten years now. It did however take him some time to reach the level of greatness. In his first 22 Tests he had only one century and was averaging 48. During the 1998-99 season however he gave the distinct impression that he would soon join the ranks of the greats by getting four hundreds – including a century in each innings in New Zealand - and his career average topped the half century mark. However following a disastrous tour of Australia in 1999-2000 the average dipped to 47 and questions were being asked whether Dravid was over rated. That was the last time such doubts were raised. In the new millennium Dravid has gone from strength to strength, his technical excellence taking on new dimensions. Big scores, centuries and double centuries have been notched up in grand profusion, the century ratio which was one in 22 Tests at the beginning is now one in 4-1/2 and his average has gone up every season till its all time high at the present time.
It was obvious at the end of his first tour of England in 1996 that Dravid was a long-term prospect. But even the most optimistic Indian cricket fan could not have bargained for the giant strides that he has made over the last decade during which he has come to be recognized as among the world’s best batsmen. Selection to the ICC World XI last year was confirmation of this. The figures associated with Dravid are of the eye rubbing variety. But besides the statistics two other factors have attracted even more notice. One is his batting approach based on a classically orthodox style complete with chiseled strokes, perfect defence, unruffled temperament, monk-like concentration, utmost dedication and fierce determination. The other is his ability to shape an Indian victory or when the situation is hopeless to steer the team to safety. Take any match from Kolkata 2001 to Headingley 2002, from Adelaide 2003 to Rawalpindi 2004 and you will find Dravid in the vanguard of innumerable Indian triumphs, Kingston 2006 being the latest addition.
Dravid is a cricketer who blends an old-world classicism with a new-age professionalism. Very unusually for an Indian batsman he has a better average overseas. This figure is 65 compared to 51 at home. During one purple phase in 2002 he had four centuries in successive innings – one short of Everton Weekes’ famous record set in India in 1949. In the space of 15 Tests during 2002-2004 he scored four double hundreds. Impressive as the statistics are, they cannot represent the extent of his importance to the Indian batting or the beauty of his superbly crafted batsmanship. Add to all his batting achievements his latest triumph as a captain and you have one of the most amazing success stories in Indian cricket. Verily the sky is the limit for Dravid.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)