India were on a high. Number one test team, World Champions, everything was going their way. It wasn’t long before they had a very rude awakening though. They went to England, confident that they could emulate their feat of two years ago and keep the number one rankings.
As we all know, that didn’t happen. India were utterly crushed, 4-0. Doesn’t sound like it can get much worse, but it does when you look closer. Only once did India ever look like winning a match, and that was thanks to one man. This man was on his fourth and final tour of England. This man was dropped for the World Cup despite having over 10,000 ODI runs to his name. This man did everything that his team needed him to do. That man, is Rahul Dravid.
Dravid is often compared to Sachin Tendulkar because both of their achievements are quite similar, being the only two Indians to 10,000 runs in both tests and ODIs.But they were quite different. Dravid did not have Tendulkar’s immense talent. That is clearly evident from how they play.
Tendulkar had those lovely flowing drives that you could spend all day watching, Dravid didn’t have that. But what he did have was immense concentration, which served him well over 15 years, be it on the crease or in the slips. Dravid is the most decorated slip fielder in history, with 210 dismissals in the field to his name, the highest of the three men with 200 or more catches when not playing as a keeper.
Yes, Dravid could keep too. He wasn’t great by any standards, but the fact that he agreed to keep shows his utility and love for the team, he’d do a lot for his country. Dravid opened on a few occasions as well, and stood in as captain for a two year stint with moderate success.
Why is Dravid remembered so fondly? Because of his great utility to the team and the fact that he has more runs and more matches than any Indian bar Tendulkar. When he made his debut at Lords in 1996, he narrowly missed out on joining SouravGanguly on the debut hundred’s list, getting out for 95. The coming years would be kind to him, and by the turn of the millennium, he was a mainstay in the line up.
Perhaps his finest hour was in 2001, against Australia at Kolkata, where he made 180, half of that magnificent partnership which kept Australia in the field for a day and a half which overturned a deficit of 274 to do what had only been done twice before, win after following on. Maybe it was in 2002, at Leeds, where he weathered an early storm to compile and excellent 148 as England charged in early in favorable conditions.
He weathered the storm and then some, laying the basis for a final total 628 as the England bowlers lost their rhythm late in the day that carried to the next day, leading taking India to a rare win in England. Maybe it was in 2003, at Adelaide, where he batted and batted for over 800 minutes across both innings, including a monumental 233 in the first, which was the start of a come-from-behind win for India as they came back to win a famous victory, their first in Australia for 23 years, despite conceding 556 in the first innings.
Perhaps it was in 2004, where his immense concentration and focus again shone through as he batted over 12 hours for 270, to seal India’s first ever series win in Pakistan. Perhaps it was in 2011, when he pushed India into their only winning position on a long and arduous tour of England at Nottingham, making 117 batting as an opener, instead of at his favored number 3 position, repelling England’s bowlers on a helpful bowling track by playing as late as possible, and stuck around for 235 balls, putting India into a winning position, before the lower order capsized in the worst possible fashion and the bowlers promptly conceded over 500 runs.
Dravid was a hard worker, and it’s evident that he wanted to do everything he could to prepare for tough tours, like playing a few Ranji games ahead of the England tour in 2011, as he hadn’t played since before the World Cup. Since he was dropped for the World Cup, he knew that he needed to make runs in domestic cricket to go to England. He did, making three hundreds in three games to assure a spot to England.
Once there, Dravid was a class apart from the rest of his side. 461 runs, including the only 3 hundreds for India, as his side were crushed four times in succession. He then went to Australia, for another tough overseas tour. He only made 1 fifty from 8 innings there as India were crushed again, but few would’ve been calling for his head. He announced that he was retiring after that series.
“What?” came the collective gasps, “Why’s he retiring? There’s no need to?” Turns out, he did it so that the youngsters to come could have an easier start to their careers. It was the first of the retirements for India’s “Fab Four”, with VVS Laxman also announcing his retirement shortly after the Australia tour, VirenderSehwag being dropped for good in early 2013 and Sachin Tendulkar retiring at the end of 2013.
Since the beginning of the end for the group (the tour of England), up until Sachin’s retirement, Dravid’s record is much better than the other three’s, with an average of over 50 (compared to 35, 30 and 32 for Laxman, Sehwag and Tendulkar respectively). There’s that feeling that he went too soon but he left willingly for the good of his country. There’s no shame in that.